Oh hey, I didn’t see you standing there. It’s been a while. No, no, I should have called you! Look, the past few years have been a little weird. There were a lot of martinis and I think there was orange carpet.
So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Tenleytown’s history. What can it do for us? What are the traces of the past buried in our daily lives? How have we adapted our environment? How can we continue to do so, in a more profound way. Let’s look at the traces of the pre-industrial past within the Fort Reno study area.
It shows the orientation of each building. Gray is for the cardinal grid. Purple buildings face the avenues, while light green ones face curvilinear roads. Blue ones were doing their own thing. Dark green buildings didn’t really fit in any one box. Orange buildings face roads we know to be historical.
Yeah, I know what you’re saying. We’ve all been here. But, and you don’t have to look at it, let me break this down.
It’s been a while since I looked at Tenleytown’s history, but I came across this map on Wikipedia. It shows the changes proposed in 1902 by the McMillan Commission to the Permanent Highway Plan. Meant to make DC more befitting a national capital, it generated several key ideas that would change Tenleytown, beyond its integration into the suburbs:
A park on the site of Fort Reno / Reno Town. The circular parkland shown in the upper left-hand corner radiates out a quarter of a mile from the original point of greatest natural elevation. This is now obliterated by the water tanks. Reno Town certainly still existed at this time, but the political maneuvering that erased the black community from Tenleytown hadn’t begun. It’s possible that Sen. McMillan was collaborating with Sen. Newlands, the founder of Chevy Chase, to suggest this, but I have no proof.
The Fort Circle Parks system appears here for the first time. The country was beset by nostalgia for the Civil War at the time, so it’s not surprising that the planners decided to commemorate those events with a set of parks that incorporated the former sites of the forts that protected Washington during the war. This plan would undergo many revisions, slowly becoming more of a highway until it died in the early 1960s.
Yuma street is depicted as a parkway, running from the daylight of Murdock Mill Creek, into Soapstone Valley. Very little evidence for this idea remains. Principally, Yuma’s right of way is slightly wider than the surrounding streets.
I have seen this map in person at the Washington Historical Society, and there are lots of fascinating details. I will try to get a larger upload, but enjoy this for now.
I’m going to recap some of the analyses I did for Reno Park within the next week or so. After that, I will be getting into a historical analysis of the geography. For now, here is a broad map of historical names no longer used at the site. Names in red were designated organically or based on the farm tracts’ names, while names in blue were attempts to brand new developments.
The Current covered the November 5th ANC 3E meeting, but it’s worth discussing it in a format that’s indexed by Google – and one that doesn’t use two inflammatory headlines for one ANC meeting. Hyperbole is something that can only be applied to Zoning Commission cage fights. Speaking of which, the obvious topic of the night was the Tenleytown Safeway, but like any good spectacle, that discussion came only after a long development. Actually, the debate over Safeway’s PUD was so long that I’m going to put it up as another post tomorrow.
After the crime report and some perfunctory zoning adjustments, a manager at Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights discussed their mandatory re-application for valet parking. The loss of parking is one of DC’s bugaboos, but he assuaged the concerns with cold, hard facts about where they park. Friendship Heights’ traffic is particularly bad and people from nearby neighborhoods complain about visitors parking in along the narrow streets to the east. So it was a huge surprise to learn that the garage under that block is largely empty most of the time. That suggests that most people will take the stress of driving around Jenifer Street over paying to store their cars, have parked in one of the other garages, or that a good number of the shoppers crowding the streets have arrived on transit. It definitely requires further study. The application was approved, and they moved on to the Reno School.
Jane Maroney, the newly elected Deal PTA chair spoke on behalf of the school in regard to the future of the Jesse Reno School. She explained Deal’s intents for the building in general: that it will be used as a performing arts facility and school nursery that could double as public meeting location. Apparently the two major goals are to keep the main building secure at night and reserve the dulcet tones of the band for infants who will only remember the experience subconsciously.
The Jesse Reno building is unquestionably a historic structure, so the debate came down to whether to landmark it now and then renovate, or to renovate and then landmark it. Either way, renovations have to undergo Historic Preservation review because the structure was built in 1903. Deal received money from the city to renovate it, but hasn’t yet hired an architect. Board Member Waldmann of the Tenleytown Historical Society explained a little about its history as a segregated school and the lone survivor of the town of Reno, but her justification for why landmarking was so essential with everyone on board could only be justified with shadows of reckless demolitions during Barry years, so eventually the board voted 3-2 against the nomination. Oddly, the Bender-Frumin-Serebin and Eldredge-Sklover split is the same way they voted on the Janney application.
So, that was the lesser part of the meeting. The rest comes tomorrow.
I’ve been visiting the Historical Society of Washington and the Washingtoniana collection at MLK library. While I make more sense of my research, here is a pile of interesting things about Upper Northwest:
Famous people have been through the area. Oliver Wendell Holmes was stationed at Fort Reno and referred to the area as “Ten Alley Town.” Dolley Madison watched DC burn from Tenleytown and may have overnighted here. Edward Braddock and George Washington passed through in 1755 on their way to Fort Cumberland, and further east, military failure.
Wisconsin Avenue, from Georgetown to Tenleytown, has been a city street since 1809. But most of the streets were planned after 1897. Some of these schemes were grandiose. For example, in 1901, the city considered tunneling Rock Creek from Adams Morgan to the C&O Canal and building a “parkway” on top. One of the other tunneling proposals put Foundry Branch in a pipe and ran a road to be named Arizona Ave on top of it.
Fort Reno Park should have been more developed than it is now. In addition to a Fort Circle plan, the McMillan Commission planned for another parkway up Soapstone Valley and over to Dalecarlia. Until the 30s, Military Road was called Keokuk St. and Grant Road was called Military Road. There was also a Xenia St.