The District of Columbia is indebted to the vision and generosity of banker and philanthropist Charles Carroll Glover (1846-1936) for more than three thousand acres of parkland, including Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo. Glover was also instrumental in the building of the National Cathedral, and in the completion of the Washington Monument, and it was Glover who envisioned the twenty-year project of dredging of the Potomac Flats, where the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials are today.
The development of Massachusetts Avenue –– Glover lived at 4300 –– was a favorite project, and in 1928, when Glover provided a site for a new British Legation at 3100, Embassy Row was born.
In 1924 Glover gave the newly instituted National Capital Parks Commission seventy-seven acres in the valley of Foundry Branch, which, with the addition of twenty-eight acres from Anne Archbold, became Glover-Archbold Park, just west of the neighborhood that bears his name.
Charles Carroll Glover began his career in banking in 1866, as a teller at Riggs & Company. In the Panic of 1873, when many banks failed, Glover became chief administrative officer of Riggs; he was just 27. By 1896 he was president of the leading bank in the nation’s capital.
Along the way Glover was also director of the Washington and Georgetown Railroad – the ancestor of Metro – and president of the Corcoran Gallery. He was instrumental in the building of the National Cathedral, and in the completion of the Washington Monument. Glover lobbied tirelessly for his causes, and, as banker to congressmen and presidents, Glover did not want for what is now called “access”: he was often a guest at the White House. Theodore Roosevelt’s children played at Glover’s country house despite the fact that Glover was not of Roosevelt’s party.
In the years immediately after the Civil War there had been serious talk of moving the nation’s capital to another city; St. Louis was mentioned. To forestall this disaster, local business leaders set out to improve the city at such expense that any departure of the government would become unthinkable. Street grading, the extension of new streets north of Boundary Road (now Florida Avenue) and west of Rock Creek, and the provision of water and sewage lines to these new streets, were part of the plan.
Unfortunately, new streets were often laid out without regard for municipal coherence, and suburban subdivisions proliferated with no provision for public amenities. The few remaining areas of natural beauty – such as the valley of Rock Creek – threatened to become dumps. This was the situation that Glover used his influence to change. In 1891 he persuaded Congress to extend the order of L’Enfant’s original streets and avenues all the way to the District line. The effect of this on the present appearance of the District can hardly be overstated.
Inspired by the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1870, Glover was determined to do something similar for the national capital. By assembling parcels of land, and then selling them to the United States, Glover created over 3200 acres of parkland for the District of Columbia. When the government would not pay for more land, he simply made a gift of it.
In 1904 he donated land that he felt was crucial to the integrity of the park on the east of Rock Creek between Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues. In 1924 he gave the newly instituted National Capital Parks Commission 77 acres in the valley of Foundry Branch, which, with the addition of 28 from Anne Archbold, became Glover-Archbold Park. Glover is considered the father of the National Zoo, of Rock Creek Park, and of Rock Creek Parkway.
Charles Carroll Glover conceived of Washington as a city of inspiration, transcending the needs of commerce; reclaiming for the public tracts of land coveted by private interests was a vital part of this conception. It was Glover who envisioned the twenty-year project of dredging of the Potomac mud flats, land which the big railroads had had their eye on. Glover managed to persuade President Cleveland, on his last day in the White House, to sign the Potomac Park bill. Instead of a railroad yard Washington got the noble setting for the future Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials.
As Glover assembled the land for parks, and urged Congress to secure condemnations and make the necessary appropriations, he encountered resistance from legislators who were unwilling to spend money on improvements to a city in which they had no constituents. The Washington press commented: “There has been much opposition to the [D.C. parks] measure, chiefly conducted by bumptious new congressmen from remote districts, who innocently supposed that the first duty of a true statesman was to hold down the District and to make a record as defenders of the groaning masses against its selfish and rapacious schemes.”
One such defender was Thetus Sims of Tennessee. Having been in Congress more than fifteen years, he was not, strictly speaking, new, but when he accused Glover of profiting at public expense by selling the government land for parks at exorbitant prices, the banker evidently found the congressman too offensive for words, and when an occasion presented itself one day in Farragut Square, knocked him down. Because Sims had made his accusation on the floor of the House of Representatives, Glover found himself charged with contempt of the House. His assurance that he never had any intention of showing any disrespect to the House as a whole was apparently sufficient to win an acquittal.
There were also those who took a dim view of Charles Glover’s banking practices. The United States Treasury was right across the street from Riggs Bank, which Glover must have felt entitled him to have his own desk in the Treasury, and to be the first to hear of impending changes in monetary policy that might affect his bank. This convenient arrangement came to an abrupt end with the Wilson administration, which had come into office with a promise of banking reform. For good measure, the new administration also decided to investigate Riggs Bank for any other improprieties. Glover attributed these irksome attentions to personal malice on the part of President Wilson’s Comptroller of the Currency, John Skelton Williams.
Did Glover strike Comptroller Williams––this time in Lafayette Square, with his walking stick––and was he again summoned before Congress to apologize, as historian Constance Green has it? Green seems to have blended elements of the Glover-Sims affray––the assault in a public place and the apology before Congress––with the Glover-Williams feud, which was actually fought in the courtroom. Riggs Bank brought a civil action that named top Treasury officials as defendants, and the Treasury retaliated by bringing a criminal action against Riggs, charging that it had filed a false affidavit in the civil case. Testifying on Glover’s behalf were former Presidents Taft and Roosevelt, who affirmed what everyone in Washington already knew: the defendant, a man of integrity, was the foremost benefactor of his city. The members of the jury, deeming the government’s case to have been purely malicious, took just nine minutes to acquit, then crowded around to shake Charles Glover’s hand.
The extension and development of Massachusetts Avenue was a particular favorite of Glover’s projects, and after about 1909 it became his commute downtown from Westover, his house at 4300 Massachusetts Avenue, at what is now Ward Circle. When he provided a site for a new British Legation in 1928, the prestige of Massachusetts Avenue rose accordingly, and “Embassy Row” was born. The Massachusetts Avenue bridge over Rock Creek fittingly bears the name of Charles Carroll Glover.
Westover, the country house of Charles C. Glover. (Star, September 5, 1891, p.14)
Washington banker and philanthropist Charles C. Glover (1846-1936) bought property between Ward Circle and Cathedral Avenue––some of which had been farmed in the 1880s by an immigrant from Saxony named Traugott Rosenbusch––and built Westover at 4300 Massachusetts Avenue. The house was just south of Newark Street, between 43rd and 44th Streets NW.
The Glover Family
In 1904 Charles C. Glover’s daughter Elizabeth married Reneke de Marees van Swinderen, Dutch ambassador to the United States. After van Swinderen had retired from the diplomatic service in 1937, the couple made their home at Westover, where she died in 1950.
(Hopkins, 1894, vol.3, part 1, plate 13; Star, August 5, 1891; September 5, 1891, p.14; “Retired Dutch Envoy’s Wife Dead at 71”, Washington Post, November 17, 1950, p.B2)
(James M. Goode, Capital Losses)
Jonkheer Reneke de Marees van Swinderen (1860-1955), Charles Carroll Glover’s son-in-law.
Elizabeth van Swinderen, wife of the former Dutch minister to Great Britain––and daughter of Washington banker Charles Carroll Glover––points out London barrage balloons to Princess Juliana (pushing pram) and Princess Beatrix, in 1940, after the Dutch Royal family had fled to London following the German invasion.
Charles Carroll Glover, Jr. (1888-1976) married Marion Everett Wise, May 10, 1913, in Washington D.C., and had three children.
Charles C. Glover’s grandson, Charles C. Glover III, at 4200 Massachusetts Avenue. “An interesting group of youngsters photographed at the recent society hunt. They are C.C. Glover 3d. in the center and children of Commander C.R.P. Rogers U.S.N. Virginia and Alicia Rogers.” National Photo Company, April 8, 1920 (Library of Congress)
In 1920, the southern half of Westover was given to Charles C. Glover, Jr., who built Orchard Hill, a Tudor house facing New Mexico Avenue. The house stood just east of 43rd Street, and just north of Lowell Street (or in the bed of Lowell Street), corresponding, more or less, to Phillip Brooke’s earlier house. (The address, originally 4200 Massachusetts Avenue, was called 3201 New Mexico Avenue by 1968.)
Orchard Hill, the residence of Charles C. Glover Jr. (Washington Post, September 25, 1977, p.37)
Circa 1953, the Gelman Company purchased land from Charles C. Glover, Jr., of Orchard Hill, and built The Towers, 4201 Cathedral Avenue, between 1959 and 1960.
Westover was razed in 1967, and the 16-acre tract was purchased by Westover Development Corporation for 7.5 million in April, 1969. Orchard Hill was razed in 1977. (James M. Goode, Capital Losses, pp.119-21)
Three major developers have acquired ownership or rights to the last remaining undeveloped tracts of land in this are lying south of Ward circle and bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, Glover-Archbold Park, and Cathedral, New Mexico and Nebraska Avenues.
The 15-acre estate of the late Charles C. Glover Jr., Washington banker and lawyer, is the most recent of these acquisitions. Lawrence N. Brandt, who built the Colonnade on New Mexico Avenue and the Beekman Place condominiums on 16th Street NW across from Meridian Hill Park, acquired the tract for $5.6 million earlier this month.
And to the north of this, adjacent to the 5-acre university parking lot, Kettler Brothers Inc., the giant development company that built Montgomery Village has already cleared more than eight acres where town houses will be constructed. Houses in this development, Westover Place, will sell from about $135,000.
Just to the north of this old Glover tract lies a nine-acre parcel, so far untouched, where developers Gerald M. LaVay and Richmond Donohoe have put up a 525-unit apartment building with units renting for between $337 and $746.
(“Bulldozers on the Estates: Development Invades the Preserve of the Wealthy”, Washington Post, September 25, 1977, p.37)
Hartford, William J.. 1902 “Charles Carroll Glover”, Successful American, Writers’ Press Association, Vol. V, No.6, June 1902, pp.331-3;
Washington Post, January 25, 1913, p.5: “There has been much opposition to the measure, chiefly conducted by bumptious new congressmen from remote districts, who innocently supposed that the first duty of a true statesman was to hold down the District and to make a record as defenders of the groaning masses against its selfish and rapacious schemes.”
In the Case of Charles C. Glover for Assault Upon Representative Thetus W. Sims, House of Representatives 63rd Congress, 1st Session, Report No.6, April 26, 1913;
“The Riggs Bank Case” Outlook, Vol. CIX, pp.953-54, April 28, 1915: In The United States vs. Charles Glover, William J. Flather, and Henry H. Flather, 1916, the Comptroller of the Treasury, and the Secretary of the Treasury, accused Riggs National Bank of financial malpractice, including borrowing money from the bank on “dummy notes”.
Interview, Louis Brownlow, “The Riggs Bank Case”, Literary Digest, Vol.L, pp.939-40, April 24, 1915: The bank got an injunction, and brought a case in its defense. Its complaint, brought before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, asked that the Comptroller of the Treasury, and the Secretary of the Treasury, be enjoined from using their positions to wreak personal revenge on the bank.
Washington Star May 23, 27, 1916 Glover, accused of perjury for signing a false statement, has ex-presidents Taft and Roosevelt as a character witnesses. Washington Star, May 27, 1916: Jury acquits Glover in nine minutes, attributing the government’s suit to malice.
Constance Green, Washington, A History of the Capital, 1800-1950, pp.33,173.
Elkington, Steven, Charles Carroll Glover and the Parks of Washington, D.C., An address presented before the Historical Society of Washington, September 25, 1990
Charles C. Glover Papers, Historical Society of Washington.
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