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Spanish Steps

Washington, DC

Featured in What's Out There Weekend DC

Constructed in 1911 at the height of the City Beautiful movement in Washington, DC, the Decatur Terrace Steps and Fountain were a project of the District of Columbia Municipal Office of Public Works and Grounds. Constructed on a steep slope in the Kalorama neighborhood, the steps were intended to provide a pedestrian link between S Street and Decatur Place on a route thought too steep for vehicles. It is the only Washington public park that occupies a street.

Designed by architect Robert E. Cook, the broad concrete staircase has four different levels. It is widest at its low, southern terminus near Decatur Place, with narrow bands of steps that flank wider central steps. A shallow brick terrace transitions to the second tier of stairs, which are bordered by planting beds. At the top of these stairs, an oval-shaped basin and lion-head fountain reside on a more generous brick terrace. This space connects to the upper terrace and S Street with two graceful sets of stairs that curve around the fountain to meet at a broad brick terrace and balustrade. The entire area is lined with a mix of magnolias, eastern red cedars, oaks, and other flowering trees.

Due to severe erosion and a car collision that destroyed the original stone balustrade and fountain, this unique public landscape was restored and rehabilitated in 1999. The steps are listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing feature in the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District, designated in 1989.

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