The Carlin Springs

Located at the bottom of the park road (at the north end of South Jefferson Street), across the short bridge crossing the “run off gully,” are two bricked – around springs. These springs are the Carlin Springs. There is a large metal sign on a post signifying the springs’ presence.

1887 map of Glencarlyn showing the location of the Carlin Springs Pavillion at center.

In 1872, there were two pavilions located in this area; one on this side of the short bridge for dancing and the other across the bridge by the springs used for eating. This was a spot for Washingtonians, Alexandrians and other folks to come and enjoy the cool evenings in “the country” and have dancing and refreshments before boarding the train to go back home (the train track has now been converted to the bike path). In 1893 these pavilions were torn down because “….they harbor tramps, are dangerous to unprotected ladies and repulsive to persons of refined taste seeking quiet homes, and because they are in bad condition.”

The springs were a constant cool source of refreshment. The children of the neighborhood enjoyed the springs. As Miriam Masi Scull said in “Glencarlyn Remembered: The First 100 Years,” “We drank water out of those springs all the time. It was just super.”

Backus girls at the spring.

The Carlin Spring (there are two springs side by side in the park) were not the only springs in the Glencarlyn neighborhood. On the south side of the neighborhood there is a spring which originates at the bottom of the hill behind the Backus’ house, about 100’ from the front of the Long Branch Nature Center. This has been a source of cool water for as long as Carlin Springs have been here. I remember as a child, catching a nice fish in the Potomac and pleading with my parents to bring it home and release it in the spring. The fish lasted several days until a passing raccoon had a hearty meal of it.

Another spring is located at the south end of Kensington street called the Moses Ball Spring and provides a steady stream of water into the Long Branch stream. There is a small bridge you have to cross when you travel in from Carlin Springs Road to the nature center. This is where the water goes under the road.

Springs are not to be dismissed easily. When Henry Jarboe sold his acreage behind his house (what now is the cul de sac at the end of 5th Street South), the property had a spring under it. The developer took fill dirt and filled in the ravine (where the spring seeped out of the hill).  This occurred in the 1960’s. It took many years, but finally the spring and the fill dirt slowly parted from the rest of the development and caused a foot wide crack to open and sever the water lines to the houses at the base of the cul de sac (this happened in the late 1980’s). The situation was solved and there have been no problems since that time.

Some residents have had a “spring” appear in their basement. Again, the gift of Carlin Springs is not always seen as a blessing.

The abundant water supply under our neighborhood has kept the foliage that surrounds our village verdant during the hottest summers and a true source of cooling shade for all of us to enjoy.

This article was written by David Backus and printed in the Glencarlyn Civic Association newsletter, “The Village View.”