The photo accompanying today's column, taken in 1931, answers the question posed a week ago. It shows what then was the Million Dollar Bridge, now the William Howard Taft Bridge, that carries Connecticut Avenue 1,341 feet across the Rock Creek valley.
Perched on the hillside beyond is the then-new Shoreham Hotel. In the middle distance is the Wardman Park Hotel, later the Sheraton-Park and recently rebuilt and rechristened the Sheraton Washington.
The first reader to identify the Million Dollar Bridge was Matthew Rowell of Rockville. The second was John A. (Jack) Nevius, a lifelong Washingtonian who served as the second appointive chairman of the D.C. City Council in the Nixon and Ford administrations.
Nevius recalls that, as a pupil at the Maret School in the Kalorama district from 1926 to 1931, he often saw ex-president Taft, a mountain of a man, taking a morning walk across the bridge that now bears his name. Taft at the time was the nation's chief justice. The District Commissioners gave the bridge Taft's name in 1931, after his death.
The Million Dollar Bridge got its original informal name because, in the days when a dollar was worth a dollar, it was the first span in the city to cost that much. The original cost estimate when it was authorized by Congress was $846,331, but it topped $1 million because Congress strung the appropriations out over several years.