Brookland History Lives! Dr. Charles Drew Bridge

Charles Drew stamp Brookland NE Washington DC
Dr. Drew was honored with a US Postage stamp in 1981

I recently found out that the bridge I have been referring to as the “Michigan Avenue Bridge” is actually called the Charles Richard Drew Memorial Bridge.  A DC native and surgeon, Dr. Drew was the first African-American to graduate from Columbia University’s medical school with a Doctor of Medical Science degree. Most notably, Drew pioneered techniques for preserving blood plasma that saved countless lives during World War II. I spoke with long-time area resident Ralph Bucksell, who vividly remembers when the bridge was dedicated in Dr. Drew’s name. He told me about the bridge’s marker so I decided to check it out. I took the photo below of the marker. It is mounted at the west end of the bridge across the street from Catholic U. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t recommend checking it for yourself unless you enjoy playing in traffic. It is very easy to miss, and is situated facing traffic. So your moment of private reflection better be limited to the seconds it takes for the light to change, and be prepared to speed-read. As I left the bridge and headed home, I pondered a few things. Why didn’t they at least place the marker facing the pedestrian walkway on the other side of the bridge? Why isn’t the bridge’s true name more widely used? What can be done  to bring more awareness to the bridge’s true name? With the millions being poured into the Catholic U development, just steps away from the marker, wouldn’t it be great to overhaul the whole concept? I, for one, will be referring to it as the Drew Bridge from here on forward. The marker says the following:

Named in honor of
Dr. Charles Richard Drew, 1904-1950
esteemed citizen
of the
District of Columbia
athlete, scholar, surgeon, and
scientist whose discoveries in
blood preservation saved
thousands of lives.

4 thoughts on “Brookland History Lives! Dr. Charles Drew Bridge”

  1. Very nice post about the bridge named for the grandfather of one of my good friends Peter Jarvis (sadly he’s now deceased). Former DC Council Chairperson Charlene Drew Jarvis is Dr. Drew’s daughter.

    Pete and I spent many a night drinking a few Heinekens in the shadow of the Drew Bridge at Colonel Brooks Tavern.

  2. Nice post about Dr. Drew. Thanks. Before it was named in his honor, the bridge was simply known as the Michigan Avenue viaduct. It was built in 1937 to remove the second to last grade crossing in the city. There had been a number of accidents and a few deaths at that crossing, and it was considered a major danger. The last grade crossing in the city was just a few blocks north, where Bates road crossed the tracks. In 1939, they decided to move the crossing to Taylor St and built a viaduct there. Bates Road is largely gone. A bit still exists on the west side of the tracks, but on the east side it was absorbed into Varnum Street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *