George Washington

Fort Hunt Park, Virginia by Todd Henson

A view of Battery Mount Vernon at Fort Hunt Park along the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia.

Fort Hunt Park is located near Mount Vernon, along the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, on land once owned by George Washington as part of his River Farm plantation. It is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is a national park. Though primarily a recreational park, with sports fields, playgrounds and areas for picnics or cookouts, it is also of historic significance.

Fort Hunt was completed in 1897, just in time for the Spanish-American War. It was built as part of the Endicott Coastal Defense System, proposed by Secretary of War William C. Endicott, to upgrade the country’s coastal defenses. Being located on the Potomac River, Fort Hunt, along with Fort Washington, across the river in Maryland, were tasked with protecting Washington, D.C. from naval assault.

Though completed before the start of the Spanish-American War, Fort Hunt never actually saw any action during that war. As technology advanced, the coastal defense system provided by installations like Fort Hunt were no longer needed, so its guns were dismantled and sent off to support World War I operations. But the fort continued to be used by the military until the 1930s, when it was converted into a Civilian Conservation Corp camp.

In 1933, Fort Hunt became Fort Hunt Park, part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a national park. However, with the onset of World War II, Fort Hunt was temporarily turned back over to the military and used for top secret military intelligence operations. This lasted four years, after which it returned to its status as national park land.

Today you can visit and walk along some of the remains of the military fortifications of Fort Hunt. There are four batteries still located in the park, as well as the Battery Commander’s Station.

Battery Sater

Battery Sater, Fort Hunt Park, Virginia

Battery Sater was completed in 1904 and supported three 3-inch rapid-fire guns with a range of 4.5 miles. It was the last of the four gun batteries completed, and also served as a command center for mines placed in the Potomac River between Fort Hunt and Fort Washington.

One section of Battery Sater from the ground level.

Looking out at Battery Sater from the top level.

A leaf filled walkway of Battery Sater.

A look inside one of the closed off rooms of Battery Sater.

I enjoyed photographing Battery Sater. It was one of the two batteries, along with Battery Mount Vernon, that supported three guns, making it second largest of the structures. There were lots of interesting little nooks and crannies to see while walking its walls. I even tried using the high ISO features of my camera to see into the dark of some of it’s closed off rooms.

Battery Porter

Looking up at Battery Porter, Fort Hunt Park, Virginia

Battery Porter was completed in 1902 and supported one 5-inch rapid-fire gun with a range of 7 miles. This gun was intended to draw enemy ships into range of the larger and more powerful guns of Battery Mount Vernon.

Battery Porter is fairly small, as it supported a single gun, so I didn’t create many photographs of this location.

Battery Robinson

Battery Robinson was completed in 1901 and, similar to Battery Porter, supported one 5-inch rapid-fire gun.

I didn’t make it to Battery Robinson this trip. I think I overlooked it when entering the park. I’ll have to return one day and create some photographs of it.

Battery Mount Vernon

Battery Mount Vernon, Fort Hunt Park, Virginia

Battery Mount Vernon was the first and the largest of the batteries at Fort Hunt. It was completed in 1898 and supported three 8-inch breech loading disappearing guns with a range of 8 miles. They were called disappearing guns because their recoil energy was used to lower them down below the protective walls. When they were reloaded they would be raised back above the walls to fire.

Looking down the length of Battery Mount Vernon, one of the batteries to the left.

Looking out at a battery of Battery Mount Vernon.

Turning away from the battery, towards the rest of the fort.

Looking out of Battery Mount Vernon to the rest of Fort Hunt Park.

Gated off rooms at the lower level of Battery Mount Vernon. Nothing can escape graffiti these days.

Battery Mount Vernon was the most interesting to photograph, as it was the largest and most complex of the structures. You can’t go inside any of these structures (they were closed off to protect the public from the asbestos and other chemicals in use at the time), but it has a lot of interesting elements along the outside. I created a few more artistic photographs of Battery Mount Vernon, including An Eye to the Battery, Facing Down the Tower, and Stepping From the Dark.

Battery Commander’s Station

The Battery Commander’s Station is the tower to the right. Battery Mount Vernon is on the left.

The Battery Commander’s Station was a tower used to observe the Potomac River and direct fire at oncoming ships. It could also be used to signal Fort Washington across the river in Maryland.


This was my first trip to Fort Hunt Park. It is a small park and easy to see in a short span of time. Of course, with the photographic opportunities of the batteries it would also be easy to spend many hours here. I hope to return during different seasons to see how the scenery around the batteries change. Perhaps I’ll update this page in the future with any new photographs I create.

I wouldn’t necessarily plan a long trip just to visit Fort Hunt Park. But if you’re in the area, or interested in history, it’s well worth the visit if time permits. It is easy to get to, right off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. If you visit leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the park and its old fortifications.


Washington's Birthday / President's Day by Todd Henson

Low angle view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool during the blue hour before sunrise.

Washington’s Birthday, also often called President’s Day, is a United States holiday recognizing George Washington, the first President of the United States, and the man who led this country through the Revolutionary War. He is considered the Father of the Country. The holiday is celebrated the third Monday of February. This year that falls on February 20th, though George Washington was actually born on February 22nd, 1732. This year, then, would be his 285th birthday.

Vertical photo of the Washington Monument and a clear blue sky.

The day is considered President’s Day by many states, some to also honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, and known as the Savior of the Country for his part in bringing an end to the Civil War and starting the healing and reconstruction that followed. He was born on February 12th, 1809. This year would be his 208th birthday.

To celebrate these birthdays I’m sharing a selection of photographs of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which were built to honor these two United States Presidents.

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk located on the National Mall. If you draw lines from The White House and the US Capitol the Washington Monument resides at their intersection. It is very easy to locate from anywhere nearby. When it was completed in 1884 it was the tallest building in the world.

The Lincoln Memorial is located at the west end of the National Mall. It is a distinctive rectangular building with vertical columns all around it, and a statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln inside, visible from between the front columns. This memorial was completed in 1922.

Lincoln Memorial before sunrise.

With the completion of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, the east/west vista of the National Mall nearly was complete. The Reflecting Pool would be finished shortly thereafter and the visual connection between the Father of the Country and the Savior of the Country would be fulfilled.
— National Park Service

Black & white photo of the statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial.

All but one of the photos in this post was created before sunrise on a cloudy day. This kept the background of Lincoln’s statue dark, as no light was leaking in from outside. And the two photos of the lit Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool were creating during the blue hour, just before the sun begins to rise. You can see in these photos why it's called the blue hour.

One Capitol Morning: National World War II Memorial, bottom portion of Washington Monument, and US Capitol, all lined up with flags waving. (5 image HDR)

In the photo above I only showed the lower portion of the Washington Monument, but also included the US Capitol building in the distance and the National World War II Memorial in the foreground. There was enough wind to keep the flags extended, which adds a really nice touch. And the warm glow of color in the sky shows it was just before sunrise. You can see some early morning joggers and walkers on some of the paths. I used a telephoto lens at 200mm to compose the image, compressing the distance, allowing everything to appear closer together than it really is. I used an aperture of f/22 to assure everything was in focus, from the closer WWII Memorial to the distant Capitol building. The photo is actually a high dynamic range (HDR) image built from 5 separate photos with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 to 1/60 of a second. The slower shutter speeds in some of the images is what causes the little bit of motion blur in some of the flags and people. I created the 5 exposures and processed them into an HDR to allow for a decent exposure on the buildings and memorials and to capture what color was left in the sky.

The vertical photo of the Washington Monument was created a little later in the morning, after the sun had fully risen, on a different day when the sky was clear of all clouds. I find it interesting to compare the flags in this image with that of the Washington Monument, US Capitol, and WWII Memorial. In the other image the wind was strongly in a single direction, with all the flags fairly uniformly displayed. Whereas, the vertical image of the Washington Monument shows flags in a number of different directions from a more inconsistent wind. Little things like this can greatly affect how a finished image will look, so always stay aware of the weather and the changing environment.

Another view of the lit Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool during the blue hour. This photo was created a few minutes after the one at the top of the post, notice the sky has lightened a bit.

The photo above, Dawn Reflections Of The Washington Monument, can be purchased as wall art or on a variety of products.

For those who want to visit the Washington Monument, note that the inside of it is closed until spring 2019 to allow the National Park Service to modernize the elevator.