Floods were practically a way of life in Bladensburg until the late 1950s, when an intensive flood control project was completed. Noted attorney and author William Wirt, who was born in Bladensburg in 1772, makes mention of the floods at Bladensburg in his unfinished autobiography. Wirt wrote:
The house nearest the Eastern Branch [Anacostia River] was occupied by old Mr. Martin - I know not why. The Eastern Branch is subject to heavy freshets [floodwaters], which have flowed up to Mr. Martin's house and sometimes overflowed the whole village. One of the surprising spectacles to me in those days was this old man wading up to his waist, during a freshet, and harpooning a sturgeon.
In the twentieth century, some of the more memorable floods occurred in 1933, 1942, and 1954, when the roads in Bladensburg were covered by as much as eight feet of water. Relief came in 1954 with the start of the Anacostia River Flood Control and Navigation Project. This ambitious $11.4 million public works project involved the combined efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Prince George's County Government, and the Maryland State Roads Commission.
The Anacostia River Flood Control and Navigation Project included straightening sections of the river and dredging its channel to a depth of six feet at mean low tide, as well as constructing levees on both sides of the river, ranging from 3-18 feet in height and up to 188 feet in width. Drainage channels and pumping stations were also built, and the new bridges and highways were constructed. The successful completion of the project was heralded by the dedication and opening in 1959 of the new "Prince George's Marina," more commonly called the Bladensburg Marina.
Text with lower-left photo: Floodwaters in Bladensburg on Annapolis Road
Text with upper-middle photo: William Wirt
Text with upper-right photo: With four feet of floodwater and still rising, this is an area of Bladensburg near the Peace Cross in November 1950.
Text with middle-right photo: Horses outpower the automobile in floodwaters of October 1942.
Text with lower-right photo: Proposed changes in October 1953 for the Anacostia River Flood Control and Navigation Project