1932: The Official Debut of a Highway in the Washington, D.C., Area

November 15, 1932

A major milestone for a pioneering highway in northern Virginia with took place with the inaugural ceremony for the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, which had been built by the Bureau of Public Roads of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. The new route, stretching from the first president’s home of Mount Vernon to the south end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge that crosses over the Potomac River and into Washington, D.C., was the first parkway constructed and maintained by the federal government.   

The Mount Vernon Memorial Highway was actually opened to traffic on January 16, 1932, but the formal dedication of it was not held for another 10 months. “In the short time that the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway has been open to the public it has become famous,” asserted the Washington Post on the day of the dedication. “It affords one of the most enchanting drives in America.”

The dedication specifically occurred just outside the gates of Mount Vernon, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Arthur M. Hyde using the occasion to officially declare the highway completed. Hundreds of people were on hand for the ceremony, and they included attendees of the 18th annual convention of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) being held at the time in the nation’s capital.

The October 1932 issue of AASHO’s American Highways magazine featured an article extolling the wonders and promise of the new route. This article proclaimed, “The Mount Vernon Memorial Highway illustrates the delightful results that may be enjoyed when the various details of design and construction are controlled and assembled into a harmonious whole so that there is nothing of a jarring note or of objectionable character to be found in its 15 miles [8.1 kilometers] of length.” The highway remains in service today as a portion of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

(The above photo featuring an aerial view of the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway was taken in 1935.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Additional information on the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is available at https://historicsites.dcpreservation.org/items/show/395

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