Fort Hunt Park, a local attraction and unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway within the National Park Service, is almost a best-kept secret. It has an extensive and varied history that stretches back to the era of Native Americans. Its role in our history also reaches from pre-Revolutionary War times to World War II. Converted to a large scenic park, it offers many opportunities for family fun and leisure.
The Park is along the Potomac River, just north of George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon. In 1760, Washington bought 1,806 acres known as Clifton’s Neck, which he added to his property. After Washington died, the property passed to other owners’ possession.
The Endicott Board recommended in 1890 that the property should be converted to a fort across the Potomac River from the federal installation at Fort Washington. When completed, the fort had four coastal batteries – Mount Vernon, Robinson, Porter and Sauter. In 1899, the post was named Fort Hunt after Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt, who served as chief of artillery of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. The fort never saw any combat, and its artillery was shipped to Europe during World War I.
From 1831-33, the first African-American ROTC unit in the country trained and drilled at the post. During the “Bonus Marches” in the early 1930s, the post served as a staging area, hospital and camp for veterans. The post was a primary installation for the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, before World War II. Camp NP-6 was established Oct. 17, 1933, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England visited NP-6 on June 9, 1939.
The CCC liquidated the camp in March 1942, and the post was converted to a top-secret, World War II, military intelligence site to detain and interrogate high-value Nazi prisoners of war. The site was henceforth known as P.O. Box 1142. Information derived from the 3,451 prisoners processed at the installation was invaluable to the war effort.
A second program was the ultra-secret, MIS-X escape and evasion program. Working with selected manufacturers, MIS-X developed escape kits that were shipped to prisoners under the guise of humanitarian packages.
The third program was the Military Intelligence Research Section, which enabled translators to scour captured documents.
After the war, the property was returned to the NPS in 1948. Four picnic pavilions were built and other recreational facilities were added. Fort Hunt Park was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It continues to be a popular picnic and recreational facility in the National Capital Region.
The Friends of Fort Hunt Park, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the park’s many resources and interpreting its rich history; and the National Park Service celebrate Armed Forces Day, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Fort Hunt Park.
Activities include a free lunch, family-friendly games and activities; historic tours and VA medical and wellness activities.
Event information is available from Dorothy Canter, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 240-743-9247.
Fort Hunt Park is at 8999 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria, Va., 22308.