A Grand avenue Revival:
Massachusetts Avenue landscape History & Design Guide

by Deborah Shapley

Restore Mass Ave, 2014

Restore Mass Ave, 2014

Restore Mass Ave, my nonprofit project trying to “re-green” Embassy Row by planting trees, needed a clear public vision. Our city had almost zero guidance what to plant where in public spaces.  This was true in historic districts like Massachusetts Avenue NW, where I live, walk and bike and the architecture is conserved by preservation laws.

So I created this brief history and guide for our group’s potential allies: it lays out how coordinated plantings can enhance the public’s experience of this designated “grand avenue” – actually one of Washington’s busiest commuter routes.  

My text showed the relevance of the grand avenue landscapes that DC planners and engineers created after the Civil War on Massachusetts Avenue and others. The guide shows steps - allees of large trees, continuous green views, “designed woods” that weave nature into the built environment - that can address sissues of urban crowding, pollution and transportation in Washington, as its population plumps towards one million.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation supported design of the print and online versions, recognizing that more attention must be paid to the landscape envelope of historic architecture and streets.