Before I work on the history of the Tenleytown-Tobago area, I am going to recap some of what I have done. I think of my blog as a gradually developing document that occasionally requires summary and revision. So, I am going to go back over the content in simpler terms, to make it accessible. I will be crossposting three of these summaries at GGW.
Loyal readers of цarьchitect probably know that I hate the official name of the neighborhood I grew up in, North Cleveland Park “Wakefield.” Hopefully, that name will finally die. But my grouchiness about this coincided with an interest in the way that architects determine, delineate, and represent the concept of place. The goal of renaming an insignificant neighborhood in DC did dovetail nicely with my less modest plans to overturn planning and real estate practice.
So, the stupid name I did not know until I was 23 forms the starting off point for this discussion. That name lacks the lacecurtain cachet of “North Cleveland Park” or the actual uniqueness of “Tenleytown.” It’s a white-bread name reminiscent of too many other suburban developments. And, in fact, most of the area West of Connecticut Ave, North of Albemarle St., and East of Nebraska Ave was developed shortly before World War II and is one of the last areas to be developed as a tract in DC.
Because this name and others in the area came with the developments, neighborhood names tend to be bounded by major roads. Yet the centers of community and busy commercial areas. So, residents have ended up with indistinct locations bearing forgotten names and very popular ones with no names but provisional monikers, like “Comet Corner” and “Van Ness.” Or, according to City Paper, the area consists of Upper Caucasia, Connecticut, and Subarubia.
People have been attempting to name the area between Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park for over a century. Tenleytown may have grown up around John Tennally’s Tavern, but family names like Nourse and Dryer have disappeared from maps. In the late 1900s, the first developers came along and tried to add Armsleigh Park, Colorado Heights, Mount Airy, and Gizor. What seems to make a difference in whether the names stuck or not is whether the neighborhood has a clear social and commercial center. Tenleytown and Georgetown have such places. Forest Hills and AU Park do not.
In a blog post tangentially related to the Reno Park department, a geologist from NOVA took a look at Soapstone Valley, a deep forested gash that divides Forest Hills from Van Ness. I don’t know so much about the science of rocks, but the article is actually really interesting. Soapstone is a very soft stone, consisting of talc that kind of feels smooth but sticky, like soap. Anyway, it’s an interesting article, and the guy has many other posts about DC geology that are also interesting. Have a look.
Upper Northwest has a reputation for having bland architecture, with the exception of pre-Depression Chevy Chase. But that’s proving itself to be a not completely true perception. Down at the eastern end of Audubon Terrace in Forest Hills there’s a real treasure of modern architecture, almost completely buried the trees of Soapstone Valley. Although it’s been a house I’ve admired since a stopping a run in the valley back in high school, Modern Capitalclued me in to the house’s authorship by the definitive SoCal architect, Richard Neutra.
The residence, known as the Brown House, was built in 1968, only two years before the architect’s death. It is the only example of that architect’s work in DC, and one of only a few on the East Coast. More photos under the fold.
Pizza is a staple of American cuisine. Good pizza, however, is hard to find outside of a few metropolises where Italian immigrants settled. Chicago, New Haven, and, of course, New York lead the pack. For more designer pies, the urban boho can easily acquire a california-style pizza in any place touched by Whole Foods. For a simple, cheese-sauce-bread combination handmade from fresh, straightforward ingredients, getting a pizza that’s delicious is rare.