Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham seems hellbent on naming a small Columbia Heights park after President Barack Obama.

That would require ditching the property’s current name: 14th and Girard Park. Prosaic, certainly, but a name’s a name, and tossing away a historic moniker to honor the latest hot thing is not a good precedent to set.

So what is the provenance of the name Girard?

Reader and local historian Scott W. Langill writes in, having done a spot of research:

I found a 1941 Washington Post article that reported that Harvard, Girard, and Kenyon streets were named for universities at a time when nearby University Place was the site of George Washington University. The earliest reference I could find in the Washington Post to “Girard Street” was in 1880….So evidently Girard Street/Park is indirectly named for Stephen Girard.

Girard College, as it happens, isn’t a postsecondary institution, but a primary and secondary institution in Philadelphia serving kids from poor single-parent families. Girard the man was an early 19th-century financier who died the richest man in America, but gave nearly all his fortune away after death. Also, Wikipedia notes, Girard was influential in moving more governmental functions from his hometown of Philly down to Washington.

Worthy of a park naming, no?

Public domain photo of Stephen Girard, hosted at Wikipedia

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