Georgetown Heights


Topographical Map of the Original District of Columbia and Environs, Showing the Fortifications Around the City of Washington, by E.G. Arnold, C.E., 1862 (detail).


The term Georgetown Heights, though rarely used today (aside from occasional use in reference to some of the northernmost streets of the historic district of Georgetown), was, in the 19th and the early 20th centuries, often used to designate the terrain north of those streets. The question is, how far north? The term can certainly be assumed to have applied at least as far up Wisconsin Avenue as Davis Street, because that intersection actually falls within the municipal boundary of the City of Georgetown (which extended north almost to the present intersection of Tunlaw Road and Fulton Street).



The northern boundaries of the city of Georgetown, as confirmed by Congress––”An Act Amending the Charter of Georgetown,” March 3, 1809––are shown in red on a modern street map. (Prepared by Col. Robert B. Curtiss, of the Burleith Citizens Association in 1974.)


On at least one occasion the term was used as far north as 3001 Wisconsin Avenue. “The school for girls connected with the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, of the diocese of Washington, situated at the northwest corner of the park at Mount Saint Alban, on Georgetown Heights…”  (“Hearst Girls’ School: Bishop Satterlee Dedicates the New Structure.” Washington Post, May 25, 1900, p.7)



“Old Georgetown Heights”, by Charles Henry Davis, Jr. (1845-1921). (“Watercolor Views of Washington”, Evening Star, November 19, 1916.)



That points west of the Russian Embassy were considered to be on Georgetown Heights is also clear. In 1916 a watercolor painting, entitled “Old Georgetown Heights”, was reproduced in the Evening Star, showing the old house called Weston that stood at about the intersection of 36th Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The painter was Charles Henry Davis, Jr. (1845-1921), who had been Superintendent of the neighboring Naval Observatory. Davis would have been confident in his use of the term because he issued all his reports with that address.

The property purchased by the federal government  in 1881 for the new Naval Observatory was widely understood to be on Georgetown Heights. “Admiral Rogers, who has been very ill for some time at the Naval Observatory, was yesterday afternoon moved to the Barber mansion, on Georgetown Heights, the site recently purchased for the new observatory.” “Rear Admiral John Rogers, superintendent of the U.S. naval observatory, died at his residence, at the site of the proposed new naval observatory, on Georgetown Heights, at 8 o’clock last evening, after a painful illness of Bright’s disease, of several weeks’ duration.” This understanding was also reflected in official announcements. “Bids were opened at the Navy Department today at noon for the construction of the new naval observatory building on Georgetown Heights.”

(“Watercolor Views of Washington”, Evening Star, November 19, 1916; Report of the Superintendent, United States Naval Observatory, Georgetown Heights, Washington, September 28, 1893; Anthony Bruce, William Cogar, Encyclopedia of Naval History, p.101; Washington Post, April 25, 1882, p.4; Evening Star, December 27, 1921, p.2; “The Death of Rear Admiral Rogers”, Evening Star, May 6, 1882, p.1; “The New Observatory”, Evening Star, June 12, 1888, p.3; “Oldest Weather Man: Half a Century of Service at Naval Observatory”, Washington Post, October 22, 1905, p.S1.  See also:  Specifications for engine pumps, pump house, etc., to be furnished for the United States Naval Observatory, Georgetown Heights, District of Columbia, from plans prepared by Leon E. Dessez, architect, Corcoran Building, Washington D.C., Washington, Government Printing Office, 1891; and other official publications of the period.)



“Superintendant’s Dwelling, U.S. Naval Observatory, Georgetown Heights, D.C.” Elevation by Leon Dessez, 1891.  (US Naval Observatory Archives)


As late as 1926, when the name Glover Park was still unknown, and proximity to the park-like campus of the Naval Observatory was a selling-point:  “Georgetown Heights, Near Naval Observatory, 3507 W Place, Attractive apartments.” (Evening Star, March 13, 1926, p.30)




Carlton Fletcher

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