Sledding near Dutch Emb.

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My friend Steve Mields, age 12 perhaps, flies over bump at Cal Hill. (See video)

With snow bearing down this evening, ready to whack New England starting early tomorrow morning, thoughts naturally turn to sledding down hills while young. Or, rather, memories of same. My friends and I used to sled at Cal Hill, behind the Dutch embassy in the District of Columbia. Cal Hill, which apparently nobody knew about but us, was a very long and very steep hill with a stone building on top where, I don’t recall but am informed, hot chocolate could be had, and woods at the bottom, requiring sledders to brake hard or abandon ship.

The land was apparently owned by the Dumbarton College for Women then, whose staff never chased us away. Today it is apparently owned by the Divinity School of Howard University.

Sledding at Cal Hill was, in a word, divine. It was memorialized on 8mm film by me one late afternoon, or so it seems in my clip, which runs a bit over one minute. [Trigger warning: violent falls off sleds, stray voice in background discussing baseball, film quality execrable.] Well, some people consider grainy footage to be tantamount to historic, or at least old. However grainy, or rather perhaps blurry, this footage might be considered fun.

See Steve Mields flying down the hill and hitting our hastily built snow ramp. Will he crash? Will he abandon ship? Will he make it over? Chills and thrills aplenty in this clip. If you cannot go out and sled down a snowy hill tomorrow, this may be the best opportunity you will have to recall what it was like. Enjoy!

And by the way, in case lightning strikes and I do go out sledding tomorrow – I have a 9-year-old boy, after all – anybody know the best sledding in in Providence?

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to Sledding near Dutch Emb.

  1. William S. Kling says:

    Unfortunately, the greatest sledding in RI has been lost, as Moses Brown has had to modify their campus for institutional purposes. After they built the football field in the mid-60’s, there was a bunny-slope, an intermediate, and an expert (deathwish) slope. Nor’easters created mounds of snow at the area at the SE corner of campus (the pit). Many accidents, many aerials, good slopes for sleds, toboggans, and dishes (WHOOOO!oops)


  2. When he was alive, Michael Metcalf used to ski down Angell Street, but I’ve never heard of anyone sledding down Angell, though perhaps elsewhere heading west down College Hill is more likely if the snow is deep enough that the plows don’t get there right away. I love no place in Providence more than the Temple to Music, but I’ll bet the State House might be a rival if its slopes are not too terraced for good sledding.


  3. Eric Daum says:

    Roger Williams Park near the Temple to Music was where I always went sledding as a kid!


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