A Brief History of Cathedral Heights

While Cathedral Heights is generally understood to be the neighborhood west of the National Cathedral, between Glover Park and Tenleytown, its borders have been subject to periodic redefinition, and even to amalgamation with an adjoining neighborhood––as in 1928, when, for a time, the combined Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association represented the interests of both neighborhoods.

(A short sketch of the development of McLean Gardens, which adjoins Cathedral Heights on the north, appears near the conclusion of this page.)

 

 

Land tracts of Cathedral Heights, circa 1800 (superimposed on the 1881 Carpenter Map of the County of Washington, D.C.)

The general location of the early land grants of Cathedral Heights at the beginning of the 19th century.  (Carpenter Map of the County of Washington, D.C., 1881)

 

Early Real Estate

 

The earliest land grants in what is now Cathedral Heights include The Scotch Ordinary (patented in 1716, and later often called Scott’s Ordinary), Terra Firma (1762), and Lucky Discovery (1771).

The land on which the cathedral that is the namesake of the neighborhood now stands comes out of Pretty Prospects, patented by Benjamin Stoddert, Uriah Forrest, and William Deakins Jr. in 1795. Uriah Forrest, the only patentee to take up residence on Pretty Prospects, built Rosedale––which still stands at 3501 Newark Street––in 1793.

Uriah Forrest (1746-1805), an officer of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, lost a leg to a musket ball in the Battle of Germantown (1777). In 1789, Uriah Forrest married Rebecca Plater, and entered into business with Benjamin Stoddert, establishing a merchant shipping firm in Georgetown. Forrest served terms as mayor of Georgetown (1792-93), and in the Congress (1793-1794).

Forrest and Stoddert were among those enlisted by George Washington to quietly assemble town lots for federal reservations, and to pretend that they were for private use. It was understood that these agents would also invest in real estate on their own account.

Besides buying up town lots in Washington City, the partnership of Benjamin Stoddert, Uriah Forrest, and William Deakins Jr. also invested in land on the outskirts of the city that they calculated would be desirable for estates. In 1792 they began to assemble portions of the patents known as Rock of Dumbarton, and Addition to Rock of Dumbarton, north of Georgetown, and east of the road to Montgomery Court House (Wisconsin Avenue) into a 1282-acre tract, optimistically christened Pretty Prospects, which they patented in 1795.

Their prospects dashed by the real estate collapse of 1797, Stoddert and Forrest each endorsed the other’s note for money they owed the District commissioners, which the commissioners would not accept. By 1802 both men were bankrupt. (Forrest’s fortunes improved somewhat after the Jefferson administration ruled that the Treasury was responsible for money Forrest had borrowed from Maryland to invest in the creation of the District of Columbia.)

Uriah Forrest died in 1805, and his widow, Rebecca Plater Forrest, died at in 1843, at which time the property passed to her daughter Ann Forrest Green.

(Forrest and his wife were buried in Georgetown’s Presbyterian Burial Ground, but transferred to Oak Hill Cemetery in 1883.)

 

 

Uriah_Forrest

 

 

 

Rosedale, circa 1920 (Cleveland Park Historical Society)

Rosedale (1793) in about 1920.  (Cleveland Park Historical Society)

 

(Selden Marvin Ely, “The District of Columbia in the American Revolution and Patriots of the Revolutionary Period who are interred in the District or Arlington”, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1918, Vol.21, p.144; Louise Mann-Kenney, Rosedale, The Eighteenth Century Country Estate of General Uriah Forrest, Cleveland Park, Washington D.C., 1989; Ann Forrest Green, James Nicholas Payne, The 1861 Diary of Ann (Forrest) Green of Rosedale, J.N. Payne, 1991; Bob Arnebeck, Through A Fiery Trial, 1991; Priscilla W. McNeil, “Pretty Prospects: The History of a Land Grant”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002; Pamela Scott, “Moving to the Seat of Government: ‘Temporary Inconveniences and Privations’”, Washington History, Spring-Summer 2000, pp.70-73)

 

Ann Forrest Green (Forrest-Rosedale Collection)

Ann Forrest Green (Forrest-Rosedale Collection)

 

While her parents attended Georgetown Presbyterian Church, and were buried in Georgetown’s Presbyterian Burial Ground, Ann Forrest converted to Catholicism after her marriage to John Green (1782-1850). John Green was a purser in the United States Navy in the War of 1812, and served aboard Commodore Decatur’s flagship in the Second Barbary War (1815).

As a purser, Green narrowly avoided disgrace; detached from the brig Hornet in 1811, because his records ledgers and checkbooks were chaotic and incomplete, Green was rescued by another accountant’s reconstruction (1813-1814) of the missing accounts. Through the good offices of his uncle, Col. William Richardson (1735-1825), a veteran of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, Green then obtained a clerkship in the Navy Commissioners’ Office, which he held for many years.

(Samuel Putnam Wald, The Life and Character of Stephen Decatur: Late Commodore and Post-Captain in the Navy of the United States and Navy Commissioner, 1821, p.368; Peter Force, The National Calendar, and Annals of the United States, Volume X, 1832, p.136; Register of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the District of Columbia, 1910; Louise Mann-Kenney, Rosedale, The Eighteenth Century Country Estate of General Uriah Forrest, Cleveland Park, Washington D.C., 1989; Christopher McKee, A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815, 1991, p.376; Thomas L. Lalley, “The Early History of St. Ann’s Church, Washington, D.C.”, The Catholic Historical Society of Washington Newsletter, October-December 2003)

 

 

John Green (Forrest-Rosedale Collection)

John Green, circa 1815 (National Portrait Gallery, Corcoran Gallery, Forrest-Rosedale Collection)

 

After his death John Green’s portrait by C.B.J Fevret de Saint-Mémin was sometimes mistaken for that of Stephen Decatur. “Saint Memin’s inaccuracy in marking his portraits in the Corcoran Gallery collection has led to much confusion. A case in point is that of the portrait marked Stephen Decatur, which also bears the name of John G. Barnwell in the French artist’s handwriting, and it is, according to Mrs. Maria Green Devereux, who owned the original copper plate, really a portrait of her father, John Green, purser or paymaster in the United States Navy. Green was born in Somerset County, Md., in 1782, and died in Washington, in 1850, at his home in Cleveland Park.”  (Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, Vol.LI, No.1, July, 1917, p.298)

 

 

 

When Congress approved “An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia” in 1862, Ann Forrest Green “held a claim to service or labor against ten persons of African descent”. In her application for compensation Green states that the mother of the Dorsey family was purchased in 1815, and that the children were born and raised in my family, and that the other slaves were inherited from her mother. Ann Green’s slaves were:

Mary Jane Dorsey (38), “Bright mulatto, medium stature, first rate cook, fine disposition & most faithful servant in all respects.”

Henry [Dorsey] (21), “Bright mulatto, remarkably honest, faithful, competent & in all respects a most valuable servant.”

Charles [Dorsey] (19), “Very bright color, short stature, first rate farm hand & valuable servant.”

Susanna [Dorsey] (16), “Dark color, capable, amiable & first rate nurse.”

Francis [Dorsey] (14), “Dark color, very quick, bright countenance, very honest upright, capable, and reliable.”

John Gustavus Adolphus Dorsey (10), “black color, open bright countenance, a very remarkable child as regards his instinctive goodness and capability.”

Thomas Waters (30), “Black, rather tall, & straight, honest, upright & capable.”

Aaron Edmonson about (27), “Tall, black, rather straight, very active & capable.”

Rachel Edmonson (20), “Rather tall, black, athletic, honest and first rate servant.”

Phebe Edmonson (22), “Very tall for a woman, black, robust, and capable of great endurance and determination.”

 

(National Archives)

 

 

 

 

St. Ann's Church, circa 1890. (Tenleytown Historical Society)

St. Ann’s Church, circa 1890. (Tenleytown Historical Society)

 

 

Ann Forrest Green is thought to have been involved in the founding of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Tenleytown, for which the cornerstone was laid in 1867; but although she was later said to have been its “foundress”, “patroness”, and “most ardent advocate”, no evidence survives to confirm this. (The claim that Ann Green chose the name of the parish is also three decades after the fact, and equally tenuous.) What is certain is that St. Ann’s began its existence in 1867 as a mission of the Jesuits of Georgetown College, and that its staunchest advocate was Bernard Maguire, S.J., the president of Georgetown College.  (“Laying Of The Corner-Stone Of A Catholic Church At Tennallytown”, Evening Star, September 30, 1867; Thomas L. Lalley, “The Early History of St. Ann’s Church, Washington, D.C.”, The Catholic Historical Society of Washington Newsletter (now Potomac Catholic Heritage), October-December 2003)

John Green died at Rosedale on February 22, 1850, at the age of 72. Ann Forrest Green, died at Rosedale, September 13, 1870, at age 71. They are buried together at Holy Rood Cemetery (Section 41, lot 400).

 

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Ann Forrest Green’s heirs, whose names would appear on real estate maps for many years to come, included her sons George Forrest Green and Osceola C. Green, her widowed daughter Maria Genevieve Devereaux (1819-1902); and those daughters who were still unmarried in 1858: Ann Rebecca Green (1826?-1908); Mary Imogen Green (later Lewis) (1831-1913); Louisa Key Green (later Norton) (1832-1920); and Alice Green (later Iturbide)(1836?–1892).

(The Washington Law Reporter, 1912, Volume 40, p.194; “Deaths in the District”, Evening Star, December 9, 1902, p.3; “Will Filed for Probate”, Evening Star, December 19, 1902, p.2; “Deaths”, Washington Post, May 24, 1908, p.3; “Mrs. Norton’s Funeral To Be At St. Matthew’s”, Washington Times, September 14, 1920, p.19; Alice Green Iturbide”, Washington Post, January 30, 1892, p.5)

 

George Forrest Green, born at Rosedale circa 1829, married Maria Devereaux (1821?-1902?) in 1861. He was for many years Water Register of the District of Columbia. In 1868 Green built Forrest Hill (3542 Newark Street), which he sold in 1886 to Grover Cleveland (who remodeled it, called it Oak View. President Cleveland’s 1886 purchase of part of Pretty Prospects––and a piece of Terra Firma along the western boundary––for his summer house, “Oak View”, added impetus to residential development, and his sale of that same property––at a handsome profit––to F.G. Newlands, of the “California Syndicate”, marked the birth of Cleveland Park.

George Forrest Green is buried in Holy Rood Cemetery.

“The President’s Washington Property”, New York Sun, May 28, 1886, p.2; “Cleveland’s Big Profit”, Washington Post, August 1, 1891, p.8; “Land Investors Well Rewarded For Confidence”, Washington Post, December 6, 1927, p.D1; Estates in Georgetown Bequeathed”, Washington Post, October 25, 1891, p.9; “Funeral On Friday For Aged Pioneer––George Forrest Green, of Revolutionary Stock, Dies, Nearly Eighty Years Old”, Washington Times, December 16, 1908, p.8; Washington Herald, January 13, 1909, p.7; “Green Funeral Tomorrow”, Washington Post, May 13, 1930, p.4; “Ann F.G. Wheat”, Washington Post, July 19, 1956, p.16)

 

Osceola C. Green (1838-1895) married Eastmond Pile, daughter of Richard Parris Pile, of Eden Bower. He was a government contractor during Civil War, and in 1872 he became a real estate broker, and sat on the boards of the Bank of the Republic, the Traders’ Bank, and the Metropolitan Street Railroad.

When Osceola Green’s mother died in 1870 she devised the “new ground field” of Rosedale to Osceola. In 1888 Green sold this land to Gardiner Greene Hubbard, founder and first president of the National Geographic Society, who built Twin Oaks (3225 Woodley Road).

Osceola Green’s daughter Easie married Schomberg F. Gandell of London, and in 1904 Osceola’s widow and her sisters went to live in England.

Osceola Green died where he was born, at Rosedale, and was buried next to his mother in Holy Rood Cemetery (Section 41, lot 400).

(“Osceola C. Green Dead”, Washington Post, June 18, 1895, p.1; “Funeral of Osceola C. Green”, Washington Post, June 20, 1895, p.10; William Wirt Henry, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Eminent and Representative Men of Virginia and the District of Columbia, 1893, p.134; Samuel C. Busey, Pictures of the City of Washington in the Past, 1898; 1880 census; “Suburban––West Washington”, Washington Post, February 2, 1890, p.10; “Col. Richard Parris Pile”, Washington Post, May 23, 1901, p.7; “Social and Personal”, Washington Post, October 8, 1904, p.7)

 

 

 

 

The Nourse Family, St. Alban’s Church, and the Cathedral Close

 

Joseph Nourse (1754-1841), the first United States Register of the Treasury. (Dumbarton House)

Joseph Nourse (1754-1841), the first United States Register of the Treasury. (Maria Catharine Nourse Lyle, James Nourse and His Descendants, 1897)

 

Joseph Nourse was born in London in 1754, emigrated with his family to Virginia in 1769, and entered the Continental army as military secretary to Gen. Charles Lee in 1776, and served as paymaster to the Board of War and Ordnancy. In 1789 George Washington appointed Nourse to be Register of the Treasury, the keeper of the government’s accounts. Nourse came to the District of Columbia with the Adams administration in 1800, and resided in Georgetown until 1817, when he purchased a farm in Washington County from his colleague Richard Harrison. Nourse called the farm––which included a part of Lucky Discovery, but was mainly out of Pretty Prospects––Mount Alban. The farm house had been built in 1807 by Harrison, who started his career as a merchant in Alexandria, was married to the daughter of George Washington’s physician and friend, James Craik, and had been appointed Auditor of the Treasury by President Washington.

(Priscilla McNeil, “Pretty Prospects: The History of a Land Grant”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002; Alcyon Trubey Pierce, Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers 1818-1864, District of Columbia, 1998; Ted Pulliam, Gunpowder, Flour, Fire and Heirs: a Waterfront Block from Duke to Wolfe Streets, The Alexandria Chronicle, Alexandria Historical Society, Fall 2007; Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Kenneth R. Bowling, Mark Walston, In Search of Joseph Nourse, 1754-1841, Dumbarton House, 1994)

 

 

 

Watercolor ofMount Alban by Caroline Rebecca Nourse. (Dumbarton House)

Mount Alban, circa 1840, by Caroline Rebecca Nourse.

 

 

When, over a hundred years ago, the Treasury Department moved with the government offices from Philadelphia to this city, it took up its abode in one of the two executive office buildings erected by the government. This was the two-story-and-basement structure which stood on the site of the present Treasury on 15th street south of the line of F street, and was destroyed by fire in 1833. Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut came here as Secretary, with Joseph Nourse, register; John Steele, controller; Richard Harrison, auditor, and Samuel Meredith, treasurer, with the clerks in 1800.

(“Olden Time Clerks––Men Who Worked for Government in Earlier Days”, The Evening Star, July 26, 1908, p.9)

 

 

As administrations came and went Nourse’s institutional memory must have made him seem all but indispensable; under six presidents he maintained his position until 1829, when he was removed by Andrew Jackson, who needed to give jobs to his Democratic supporters, and had promised them to clean out “the Noursery”––i.e. the department where a remarkable number of Nourse’s relatives held positions. (Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Kenneth R. Bowling, Mark Walston, In Search of Joseph Nourse, 1754-1841, Dumbarton House, 1994; Adam Bellow, In Praise of Nepotism: A History of Family Enterprise from King David to George W. Bush, 2004, p.310)

Their number was long remembered. “Many Nourses in Service––Col. Joseph Nourse, the head of the register’s office appointed by Washington, came with the government. Long connected was the name of Nourse with the office and the government as well as the affairs of the community. Michael Nourse was long chief clerk [of the Treasury], and before his death at a ripe old age filled his [brother’s] place. There were on the rolls in 1800 the names of Charles and Henry Nourse. In the twenties Maj. Charles J. Nourse was the acting adjutant general of the army, and on the register’s roll were Joseph K. and John R. Nourse.” (“Olden Time Clerks––Men Who Worked for Government in Earlier Days”, The Evening Star, July 26, 1908, p.9)

 

 

Certain it is that the year 1829 marked the end of an era, politically and administratively. The gentlemen who since 1789 had taken the responsibility of government were driven from the scene, to be replaced by a new type of public servant and by other ideals of official action. The perfect symbol of the change was Jackson’s removal of the venerable Joseph Nourse, appointed register of the Treasury by George Washington in 1789 and serving in that same office without a break until the spring of 1829.

(Leonard D. White, The Jeffersonians: A Study in Administrative History, 1801-1829, 1951)

 

For sale, the property on which the subscriber resides, on the heights above Georgetown, 35 acres. The house is spacious, outbuildings commodious, garden extensive. Could also be rented, possession may be had on July 1.

(National Intelligencer, June 12, 1829)

 

 

At the time of his dismissal from office, Nourse was charged by the Democrats with misappropriation, having billed the Treasury for a variety of expenditures in connection with his service, such as the costs of moving with the government from Philadelphia to Washington. The marshal of the District of Columbia was directed “by distress and sale of the goods and chattels of the said Joseph Nourse” to collect $11,000, and to commit Nourse to prison if his goods and chattels were insufficient to satisfy the debt. In 1831 Nourse sued the government, and won. Jackson appealed, but the decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1835. Nourse was vindicated, and the government owed Nourse $23,000 for commissions to which he had been entitled, but had not taken! (To be paid, Nourse’s heirs were obliged to wait for the Democrats to lose control of the government in 1848.)

(Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Kenneth R. Bowling, Mark Walston, In Search of Joseph Nourse, 1754-1841, Dumbarton House, 1994; Richard D. White, “A Tale of Two Bureaucrats: Joseph Nourse, Oliver Wolcott Jr., and the Forerunners of American Public Administration”, Administration & Society, 2008)

 

 

 

A Cautionary Aside

Although the image below appears in an online search, identified as Joseph Nourse (1754-1841), it has been pointed out that this can’t be right, as the image appears to be made by a photographic process that came into use fifteen years after Nourse had died.

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Nourse died at Mount Alban in 1841 on September 1, 1841. His funeral was held in a Presbyterian church; Nourse and his brothers, born in the Anglican faith, were converts. It was later remembered that the pious Treasury official and his fellow Presbyterians, “for want of a more suitable place of worship”, had held Sunday services in the Treasury building between 1803 and 1807, and that these meetings resulted in the establishment of the F Street Presbyterian congregation, of which Nourse was an elder.

(“Olden Time Clerks”, The Evening Star, July 26, 1908, p.9; Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, Old Age: A Funeral Sermon Preached in the F Street Presbyterian Church, in Washington, September 15th, on the Occasion of the Death of Joseph Nourse, who was Fifty-three Years in the Service of the Government, and Still Longer a Member of the Church, 1841; Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Kenneth R. Bowling, Mark Walston, In Search of Joseph Nourse, 1754-1841, Dumbarton House, 1994)

 

 

Charles Josephus Nourse and Rebecca Wistar Morris Nourse. (Collection of Edith Stenhouse Bingham)

Charles Josephus Nourse and Rebecca Wistar Morris Nourse.  (Collection of Edith Stenhouse Bingham)

 

 

Joseph Nourse’s son, Charles Josephus Nourse (1786–1851), married Rebecca Wistar Morris, a Philadelphia Quaker, in 1816. The younger Nourse served as acting Adjutant General of the Army from 1822 to 1825. In 1827, he resigned his commission to become Chief Clerk of the War Department, but was forced out of office with his father in 1829. Nourse then served as a Justice of the Peace in Washington County.  Charles and Rebecca Nourse raised eleven children in the house called The Highlands, built in 1827 on 130 acres out of Terra Firma that were a gift from his father.  (The house, at 3825 Wisconsin Avenue, is now the administration building of Sidwell Friends School.)

In the last decade of his life Charles Nourse and his family attended Episcopal services in an upper story room of  St. John’s Institute at Mount Alban, a struggling church school built on his father’s farm after his father died. When Charles Nourse’s twenty-three-year-old daughter Phoebe died of tuberculosis in 1850, she left a modest bequest for “a free church”––that is, not charging the pew rent that was customary in most Episcopal churches––to be built on “Alban Hill”. With additional funds raised by family and friends, St. Alban’s Church was built on a half-acre of Mount Alban donated in 1854 by Phoebe’s sister, Caroline Nourse Dulany.

(Louise Pecquet du Bellet, Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol.4, pp.110-1, 1907; Journal Of The Fifty-Sixth Annual Convention Of The Protestant Episcopal Church in Maryland, 1844; “Incasing Old Church––Historic St. Alban’s Gets New Granite Wall Around It––Original Building Is Intact”, Washington Post, July 14, 1914, p.14; Mary Badger Wilson, ed., The Story of St. Albans Parish, 1854-1929, 1929; Ruth Harwood Cline, Church at the Crossroads: A History of St. Alban’s Parish, Washington, D.C. 1854–2004; Priscilla McNeil, “Pretty Prospects: The History of a Land Grant”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002)

 

St. Alban's Church, as it appeared between 1854 and 1914.

St. Alban’s Church in 1862.

 

 

Phoebe’s surviving sisters Mary and Rosa lived with their mother, and their brother James, at The Highlands. “In years gone by I remember that this ivy-covered stone house was deemed inaccessible, as it was reached only by private conveyance or stage coach. The first time I crossed its threshold I could have readily imagined myself living in the colonial period, as the furniture was entirely of that time. When I first knew Mrs. Nourse, who was Miss Rebecca Morris of Philadelphia, the widow of Charles Josephus Nourse, she was advanced in life, but notwithstanding the infirmities of age, she had just acquired the art of china painting, and was filling orders the proceeds of which she gave in aid of St. Alban’s which was then a country parish.” (Marian Gouverneur, As I Remember: Recollections of American Society during the Nineteenth Century, 1911, p.369)

 

 

The Highlands, home of Charles J. Nourse, circa 1902. (Library of Congress)

The Highlands, home of Charles J. Nourse, circa 1902.  (Library of Congress)

 

 

Rosa Nourse visited the poor, and was a teacher in Georgetown and at the Industrial Home School. Legacies left by the sisters in 1903 and 1908 were used to build the Memorial Guild Hall of St. Albans Church. Their sister Elizabeth, widow of Captain Charles Carroll Simms, lived in Georgetown, and, like the rest of the family, was known for her benefactions. Caroline Rebecca Nourse, daughter of Charles Josephus Nourse and Rebecca Mister Morris Nourse, granddaughter of Joseph Nourse, and widow of Commander Bladen Tasker Dulany, USN, died at Mount Alban in 1893.  (Samuel C. Busey, Pictures of the City of Washington in the Past, 1898; Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, 1951, p.63. “Mrs. Caroline Dulany Dead”, Washington Post, July 28, 1893, p.5. My thanks to Mark Auslander, Central Washington University, for corrections.)

Caroline Dulany’s estate then passed into the possession of Amzi Barber, the developer of LeDroit Park. Barber’s plans for the tract were frustrated by the vestry of St. Alban’s Church, who declined to sell their half-acre lot, which was surrounded on three sides by the Dulany tract. When Barber found a buyer with no objection to having a church on the property, his problem was solved. “Land For A Cathedral.––Conveyance of a Deed From Amzi L. Barber and Wife.––The deed of Amzi L. Barber and his wife, Julia L. Barber, conveying to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia, a corporation, all that part of the tract of land known as Mount St. Alban’s, part of Pretty Prospect, and Lucky Discovery Tracts is filed in the office of the recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. The price for the property is $245,000.”  (Evening Times, September 12, 1898, p.2)

Thus St. Alban’s Church prepared and held the ground for the cathedral to come. “The grounds on which the church stood passed through several hands, and had it not been for the sacred edifice already constructed there the mount would probably have been used as a private residence place.”  (“History of the Mount”, Washington Post, October 24, 1898, p.2; “On Site of Cathedral”, Washington Post, June 20, 1903, p.13; “Saved Site For Cathedral”, Washington Post, October 29, 1921, p.9)

 

 

In 1914 the wooden St. Alban’s Church was enlarged and encased in granite. (“Incasing Old Church––Historic St. Alban’s Gets New Granite Wall Around It––Original Building Is Intact––Frame Structure That Formed Nucleus for Imposing Cathedral Group To Be Unchanged in Appearance on Interior. Interesting History Woven Around First Free Church in Diocese”, Washington Post, July 14, 1914, p.14)

 

(Washington Post, July 14, 1914, p.14)

(Washington Post, July 14, 1914, p.14)

 

 

 

The Meat Industry

 

Between 1790 and 1871 what is now Cathedral Heights lay within the rural part of the District of Columbia known as Washington County, and was characterized by farms, mostly devoted to raising cattle for the local markets.

Jacob H. Kengla was a cattle dealer, who owned about seventy acres west of Wisconsin Avenue between Tunlaw Road and Cathedral Avenue. His house was razed to make way for Massachusetts Avenue.  (Washington Times, July 22, 1911)

Conditions before residential development were later recalled by a descendant of Jacob Kengla. “I lived on the farm just opposite St. Alban’s Church in the house in which I was born. The house in which my father was born was next door. The hill down which Cathedral Avenue runs today was wooded and dangerous, the wild dogs were so bad”.  (Washington Post, November 16, 1939, p.19)

William Homiller owned land in Scotch Ordinary, directly across Wisconsin Avenue from St. Albans, on the south side of what is now Cathedral Avenue. Homiller married Mary Therese Duvall (alias Poor), and his household included Joseph Duvall, Andrew Poor, Randolph Poor, all three butchers. The firm of Homiller & Duvall sold meat in the Georgetown Market.  (DC Liber WB85 (1840) f.68/48)

John T. Varnell and his sons, including Thomas, were meat dealers in Center Market, and owned land and operated a slaughterhouse, west of the Tenleytown Road, opposite Woodley Lane, on a part of Scott’s Ordinary that had been sold to them by William Homiller and Joseph Duvall. (DC Liber ECE27 (1868) f.129)

The changes coming to the local meat industry were national. As the volume of livestock arriving in the District of Columbia by rail increased in relation to the volume delivered “on the hoof”, butchers and livestock brokers were compelled to reconsider the location of their operations. In 1890, Drover’s Rest, the scene of the annual livestock market, was sold to the developers of the Palisades subdivision on Reservoir Road; henceforth those members of the Georgetown Heights syndicate still in the business would transact their business at the Union Stock Yard, on Benning Road. The potential value of their land, once it was freed for a better use, was also on their minds.

 

 

The section of Washington County between Tennallytown and the old corporation line of Georgetown (pink), the future Cathedral Heights. (Hopkins, Atlas of Washington D.C., 1879)

The section of Washington County between Tennallytown and the old corporation line of Georgetown (pink), the future Cathedral Heights. (Hopkins, Atlas of Washington D.C., 1879)

 

Map of the Real Estate in the County of Washington, D.C. (Carpenter), 1881, detail.

Map of the Real Estate in the County of Washington, D.C. (Carpenter), 1881, detail.

 

 

Speculation and Subdivision

 

After 1886, when the District Commissioners approved the extension of Massachusetts Avenue from Florida Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue––rural properties between Rock Creek and Tenleytown saw a wave of real estate speculation.

 

(Washington Post, October 20, 1886, p.1)

(Washington Post, October 20, 1886, p.1)

 

 

In 1887, Richard H. Goldsborough bought the old Nourse property, Highlands; later that year, he purchased the former Loughborough estate called Grasslands. Richmond Park, north of Cleveland Park, was also owned by the Goldsborough syndicate in 1887.

“The [Goldsborough] syndicate now owns several of the most extensive and beautiful properties northwest of Washington, embracing a large part (over 200 acres) of the grand plateau about Oak View, lying nearly 400 feet above the city. It is the intention of the purchasers, after liberally improving, to subdivide their properties into large building sites, to be sold at reasonable prices to persons intending and contracting to erect upon the same residences creditable to the neighborhood.”

(“Beyond The City Limits––Nearly All The Suburban Property Is Now Bought Up”, Washington Post, May 1, 1887, p.2; “A Big Real Estate Sale”, Washington Post, May 1, 1887, p.2; “The Real Estate Market”, Washington Post, May 16, 1887, p.4; “The Sale of Grasslands”, Washington Post, October 28, 1887, p.3; “Land Investors Well Rewarded For Confidence”, Washington Post, December 6, 1927, p.D1)

 

Map of Washington, D.C., and environs, Axel Silversparre, 1887 (Library of Congress)

Fairview Heights (marked “Varnell”), in relation to President Cleveland’s “Oak View”.  (Map of Washington, D.C., and environs, Axel Silversparre, 1887, Library of Congress)

 

The Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott’s Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts was subdivided in 1887. This tract lies west of Wisconsin Avenue, on both sides of Woodley Road, and runs west, past 39th Street, almost to Glover-Archbold Park. (It originally included Hamilton Circle, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Idaho Avenues. There was also a Varnell Place, north of 3200 Idaho Avenue, that commemorated the name of the prior owners of the subdivision.)

The developer of Fairview Heights, John E. Beall “was among those who first brought to the attention of investors the advantage of owning property beyond Tennallytown. He was interested in the Bethesda Park Amusement Company, and for several years was identified with the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railway Company.”

(“West Washington”, Washington Post, May 29, 1889, p.6; Affairs of an Electric Railway”, Washington Post, January 15, 1892, p.6; “Two Roads May Consolidate––The Georgetown and Tennallytown Joins Hands With the Bethesda Line”, Washington Post, April 30, 1894, p.8; “Started Suburban Boom––John E. Beall, Recently Deceased, Once Prominent In Real Estate Here”, Washington Post, January 22, 1901, p.12; Matthew Gilmore and Michael R. Harrison, “A Catalog of Suburban Subdivisions of the District of Columbia, 1854-1902” Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002)

 

 

Hopkins Real Estate Plat-book of Washington, District of Columbia, 1887, detail.

Hopkins Real Estate Plat-book of Washington, District of Columbia, 1887, detail.

 

 

John E. Beall’s Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott's Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts, 1887. (Baist’s Real Estate Atlas, 1903, Plate 18 [detail, with thanks to Ghosts of DC])

John E. Beall’s Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott’s Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts, 1887. (Baist’s Real Estate Atlas, 1903, Plate 18 [detail, with thanks to Ghosts of DC])

 

 

“There was a decidedly upward tendency in the market for suburban real estate during the past week, one of the largest transactions recorded being the transfer made by John W. Thompson to John E. Beall of one fifth interest in the syndicate property on Massachusetts avenue extended. Fifty thousand dollars was the sum paid for about forty acres, that being one-fifth of the syndicate holding, and the price was regarded by real estate men generally as indicative not only of the firmness of property in the northwestern part of the District, but of a boom at an early day out in the direction of Woodley Lane.” (“An Upward Tendency––No Lack Of Interest In Suburban Property”, Washington Post, June 23, 1889, p.9)

 

 

President Cleveland’s 1886 purchase of part of Pretty Prospects for his summer house, “Oak View”, had added impetus to the growth of the suburbs, and his sale of that property, to F.G. Newlands, of the “California Syndicate”, was the birth of Cleveland Park. “Last Wednesday Mr. Wilson, in conversation with Richard H. Goldsborough, of Goldsborough Bros., and Charles Glover, remarked that Oak View was for sale and that he was authorized to sell it if the figures asked were accepted. The same morning Mr. F.G. Newlands was informed of the chance and referred Mr. Goldsborough to Thomas J. Fisher & Co. as his agents.” (“He Sells Oak View––Ex-President Cleveland Parts With His Pretty Summer Home”, Washington Post, February 28, 1890, pp.6-7; (“Cleveland’s Big Profit”, Washington Post, August 1, 1891, p.8; “Land Investors Well Rewarded For Confidence”, Washington Post, December 6, 1927, p.D1)

“Cleveland Heights, in which the lots have about all been disposed of, adjoins Oak View. It is contemplated that the streets running north and west in this sub-division will be extended so as to embrace the new purchase, which will make the whole a beautiful suburban location. Woodley Road lies on the other, and the electric passenger road, now ready to be operated, passes directly by the tract.” (“He Sells Oak View––Ex-President Cleveland Parts With His Pretty Summer Home”, Washington Post, February 28, 1890, pp.6-7)

 

 

Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott’s Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts, by John E. Beall, Esq.––I offer for sale lots in the above subdivision, being the first ground properly sub-divided into villa sites offered to the public, lying on Tennallytown Road. The activity which has prevailed in this locality during the past five years has attracted universal attention, and the fact that some of the strongest and most conservative financiers of the District have largely invested in this ground in bulk, confirms the belief that this section has a great future, and will rapidly fill up with fine houses, especially as the opportunity now exists for every one to readily reach it by the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railway line now open for traffic, and the terminus of which, as far as at present constructed, is at St. Alban’s Church, which is almost opposite this property.

Fairview Heights is located at the end of Woodley lane, and is immediately opposite Oak View, which was recently purchased by the California syndicate, and upon it is located the Washington [Inn]––now the Woodley Inn. This property, in addition to being well situated as to railroad facilities, has city gas laid to and in it, and will be, within two months, within reach of city sewer and city water, which are to be brought to Tunlaw heights, a sub-division now being graded, and within a very short distance of this property. This section of the country has long been noted for its healthfulness, and in summer is admitted to be ten degrees cooler than the city, and it is one of the highest points in the District of Columbia.

It is intended by those in interest in this and other property surrounding, to have the electric lighting system of the Thompson-Houston Electric Company, which is the same system used by the railway, introduced within a short time. Under the comprehensive system of extension of streets, as designed by Mr. H. K. Viele, and approved by the District Commissioners, Fairview Heights will be within five short squares of the grounds of the National Observatory, and lots have been purchased by employees of the Observatory, who will erect dwellings as soon as the Observatory buildings are completed, which will probably be within one year. Other lots have been purchased by those who intend to build this summer.

It is the intention of the syndicate owning this property to open streets, Massachusetts avenue and Hamilton circle, and to make some beautiful improvements, which will not be a tax upon purchasers of lots.

We offer all unsold lots at twenty-five cents per square foot, and the first persons coming to secure them will get the best lots left at this figure. These lots will be sold on easy terms––1/4, 1/3, or ½ cash and balance to suit purchaser at 5 per cent interest. In connection with price, it is well to add that some lots at the rear having large areas will be sold at 20 cents per square foot. These prices are very low compared with those that will govern later, as from all the information now had upon the subject it is believed that in future sub-divisions of this section prices ranging from 50 to 75 cents per square coot will be asked and obtained.

John E. Beall, 1321 F Street N.W.

 

(Washington Post, April 27, 1890, p.3)

 

 

 

“Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott's Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts, by John E. Beall” (Washington Post, April 27, 1890, p.3)

“Fairview Heights Subdivision of Parts of Scott’s Ordinary, Terra Firma and Alliance Tracts, by John E. Beall” (Washington Post, April 27, 1890, p.3)

 

 

(“Fairview Heights”, Washington Post, November 17, 1900)

(“Fairview Heights”, Washington Post, November 17, 1900)

 

 

 

 

J.Nota McGill

 

 

J. Nota McGill (“A Register of Wills––J. Nota McGill Named to Succeed Col. L.P. Wright––The Appointee a Young Democrat Who Is a Native of the District”, Washington Post, August 31, 1895, p.2)

J. Nota McGill (“A Register of Wills––J. Nota McGill Named to Succeed Col. L.P. Wright––The Appointee a Young Democrat Who Is a Native of the District”, Washington Post, August 31, 1895, p.2)

 

 

3200 Idaho Avenue, built circa 1902. (Washington Post, Times Herald, September 29, 1962, p.D14)

J. Nota McGill’s “West Oaks”, at 3200 Idaho Avenue. (Washington Post, Times Herald, September 29, 1962, p.D14)

 

The scale of the villas and country houses foreseen by the founders of Fairview Heights and Cathedral Heights may be guessed from the handsome house that still stands at 3200 Idaho Avenue. It formed part of an early cluster of houses near the present intersection of Idaho Avenue and Woodley Road––Idaho Avenue was not yet opened, and Woodley Road was still Woodley Lane––whose owners were William S. Peachy, Robert S. Chew, and J. Nota McGill.

J. Nota McGill’s house, West Oaks––listed in the city directory as being at the “west end of Woodley Lane”––was in block 7 of Fairview Heights, on the west side of Idaho Avenue. Its original address, 3212 Idaho Avenue, appears to correspond to the modern 3200 Idaho Avenue.

(“Fairview Heights––Waters, Elkanah N., et ux., to J. Nota McGill, $10, lot 3, block 7”, “Real Estate Transfers”, Washington Post, April 4, 1900, p.11; “Fairview Heights”, Washington Post, November 17, 1900, p.2; 1903 Boyd’s Directory of Washington)

“Mr. J. Nota McGill, formerly register of wills, has taken out a permit for the erection of a two-story and attic frame dwelling at what is given as 3212 Idaho avenue. The property will be located in the subdivision known as Fairview Heights.” (“Affairs In Georgetown”, Evening Star, August 10, 1900, p.12)

“J. Nota McGill, two-story and attic frame dwelling, 3212 Idaho Avenue; 44 by 56 feet; hot water heat; cots, $12,500.” (“Real Estate Market”, Washington Post, August 12, 1900, p.15)

 

 

(“District of Columbia Inaugural Committee of 1909”, Washington Herald, March 4, 1909, p.9)

J. Nota McGill (“District of Columbia Inaugural Committee of 1909”, Washington Herald, March 4, 1909, p.9)

 

 

 

(“Death of J. Nota M’Gill”, Washington Post, October 17, 1915, p.19)

(“Death of J. Nota M’Gill”, Washington Post, October 17, 1915, p.19)

(“Death of J. Nota M’Gill”, Washington Post, October 17, 1915, p.19)

 

 

 

Street Cars 

 

 

A High Street & Tenallytown Road streetcar, circa 1890. The developers Richard H. Goldsborough, John E. Beall, and John W. Thompson, were all connected with the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railroad Company. (Tenleytown Historical Society)

A High Street & Tenallytown Road streetcar, circa 1890. The developers Richard H. Goldsborough, John E. Beall, and John W. Thompson, were all connected with the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railroad Company. (Tenleytown Historical Society)

 

 

When a bill to incorporate the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railroad Company was introduced in the Senate, incorporators included the landowner Jacob H. Kengla, and the developer Richard H. Goldsborough. When the Georgetown and Tennallytown Rail Road was chartered in 1888, John W. Thompson was the chief investor.

(“The Free Bridge Bill”, Washington Post, May 11, 1886, p.1; “Railroad to Tennallytown”, Washington Post, November 29, 1887, p.4; “The District In Congress––The Georgetown and Tennallytown Railroad Bill Awaits the President’s Signature”, Washington Post, August 9, 1888, p.6; John W. Thompson)

 

 

“Georgetown.––The Electric Cars Running.––The formal opening of the Tenleytown electric road took place yesterday afternoon. This morning the cars began running on regular schedule time. the officers and directors of the road, together with a number of invited guests, went over the road yesterday and inspected the appointments. At the power house, which is on the line of the road adjoining the grounds of the Industrial Home School, a lunch was served. The road is completed thus far to a point on the Tenleytown road just south of where Massachusetts avenue extended crosses the road. The company, however, expect to complete in a short time the line of the road as far as Tenleytown.”  (Star, April 25, 1890, p.8)

 

 

 

Tunlaw Heights

 

In 1890, John W. Thompson subdivided thirty-four acres of former Kengla land north of Tunlaw Road, mostly out of Resurvey on Lucky Discovery, as Tunlaw Heights.  (“Nature’s Beauty Spot––An Attractive and Rapidly-developing Suburb of Washington.––Tunlaw Heights and Vicinity––Unsurpassed as to Situation, Being on the Highest Ground in this Region––A Panorama Upon Which Thousands of Tourists Have Gazed with Admiration”, Washington Post, June 15, 1890, p.9)

 

 

Tunlaw Heights. The Goldsborough house, called Tunlaw Towers, is at the northwest corner of Galveston (Garfield) Street and the Georgetown and Rockville Pike (Wisconsin Avenue). (Baist’s Real Estate Atlas, 1903, Plate 18 [detail, with thanks to Ghosts of DC])

Tunlaw Heights. The Goldsborough house, called Tunlaw Towers, is at the northwest corner of Galveston (Garfield) Street and the Georgetown and Rockville Pike (Wisconsin Avenue). (Baist’s Real Estate Atlas, 1903, Plate 18 [detail, with thanks to Ghosts of DC])

 

 

“Road and railroad construction on Mass. Ave., Washington, D.C., looking west from the Naval Observatory Circle, March 24, 1911” (Bryan Collection, Library of Congress)

The Richard Goldsborough house called Tunlaw Towers can be seen on the horizon in this 1911 photograph of construction on Massachusetts Avenue, looking west from just above Observatory Circle.  (Bryan Collection, Library of Congress)

 

 

One of the early landmarks of Tunlaw Heights was a three-story house at the northwest corner of Garfield Street and Wisconsin Avenue, built by Richard H. Goldsborough in 1891, known in the press as the “Goldsborough mansion” or “Tunlaw Towers”.  (Goldsborough seems not to have resided there; his country house was on Woodley Lane, and his town residence was the Richmond Hotel.)

“A.T. Britton and C.J. Bell, trustees, have just sold to R.H. Goldsborough lots 1, 5, and 6, in block 7, in the subdivision of Tunlaw Heights, on the Tennallytown road. Mr. Goldsborough intends erecting at once thereon a fine residence, to cost about $20,000.” The sellers were trustees of the Tunlaw Syndicate, “engaged in the improvement of Georgetown Heights”; Alexander T. Britton was “one of the promoters and for a number of years director” in the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railroad Company. (“Sale of Tennallytown Property”, Washington Post, July 8, 1890, p.7; “Col. A. T. Britton Dead”, Washington Post, July 8, 1899, p.2)

“A.T. Goldsborough, three-story brick and frame, Tunlaw Heights, $23,000.”(“Permits to Build”, Washington Post, July 14, 1891, p.6)

Tunlaw Towers was briefly a hotel in 1896. “The Hotel Eckington, Third and T streets northeast, having been purchased for the purpose of a young ladies’ boarding school, will close April 20. The proprietor of the Eckington has taken Tunlaw Towers (the Goldsborough mansion) on the Tennallytown road, and will open it for the reception of guests May 2.” This venture failed.  (“To Occupy the Goldsborough Mansion”, Washington Post, April 8, 1896, p.3)

About 1898 it housed the Washington School for Boys, the main building of which, built in 1900, was at 3901 Wisconsin Avenue. The school’s headmaster was Prof. Louis Leverett Hooper, who took an active interest in the affairs of Cathedral Heights. After Hooper’s school was combined with the National Cathedral School for Boys in 1910, Tunlaw Towers was used by the younger students of the future St. Albans School.

(“New School For Boys––Model Institution of Tennallytown Road Is Practically Completed”, Washington Post, September 24, 1900, p.10; “Add To Boys’ School––National Cathedral Executives Acquire Nearby Estate”, Washington Post, November 8, 1910, p.14)

 

 

(Washington Post, May 4, 1890, p.13)

(Washington Post, May 4, 1890, p.13)

 

Another landmark of the time was the Washington Inn, a country summer resort on the west side of Tennallytown Road near Woodley Lane. “The inn has many suggestions of the antique in its swinging sign and old-fashioned open fireplaces; but its gas illumination, excellent cooking, handsomely furnished rooms and modern conveniences will present all the attractions of a very modern hotel. Besides the inn proper there are two cottages on the property. The hotel will be under the management of Arthur R. Wood, formerly of the Windsor Hotel, Saratoga, and the Metropolitan Hotel, New York.”  (“The Washington Inn”, Washington Post, June 14, 1887, p.1)

In 1890 the Washington Inn re-opened “to those who desire a pleasant time in the suburbs” as the Woodley Inn. Admission was by ticket:“Under no circumstances will improper persons be admitted to the Inn, the rule having been determined upon by the proprietor, who is actuated by a desire to cater only to the best people in Washington and vicinity.” “For years past there was an urgent necessity for such a resort conveniently located near the Capital, where family parties could spend a pleasant day or evening”. “For those who desire to obtain rooms for the summer there are thirty-five splendid apartments at the Inn, and reasonable charges will be made for accommodations at one of the most eligibly-situated and highest points about Washington.”  (“A New Suburban Resort––Woodley Inn in the Hands of a Capable Manager”, Washington Post, April 27, 1890, p.13)

 

 

The Cathedral Close

 

In 1891, Charles C. Glover originated the project of the National Cathedral, and called the first meeting looking toward the organization of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation (chartered by Congress in 1893).

Among those present was Richard H. Goldsborough. This project, on one of the highest points in the city, made it inevitable that the developers of nearby residential property, such as Goldsborough, would wish to associate themselves with the prominent and prestigious landmark. (G. C. F. Bratenahl, Hand Book of Washington Cathedral, 1911)

 

 

Ernest Flagg’s proposed Renaissance design for the National Episcopal Cathedral. (Washington Post, January 5, 1896, p.3, and “Unbuilt Washington”, National Building Museum)

Ernest Flagg’s proposed Renaissance design for the National Episcopal Cathedral. (Washington Post, January 5, 1896, p.3; “Unbuilt Washington”, National Building Museum)

 

“Imposing Marble Pile––Magnificent Plans for the Episcopal Cathedral––It Will Cover Twenty Acres––The Structure Is To Be in the Renaissance Style and Will Cost About $3,000,000––Four Massive Spires Are Proposed to Rise 312 Feet––The Main Dome and Ground Plan––To Be Built in Cruciform––A Series of Corinthian Columns”, Washington Post, January 5, 1896, p.3)

“The [Washington Post] article on the proposed plans appeared just as relations between [Flagg] and Cathedral trustees were deteriorating, and elicited a sharply-worded rebuttal from Bishop Satterlee, denying that the design had been accepted, as the picture caption asserts.” (Carin Ruff, Cleveland Park Historical Society)

Henry Yates Satterlee, consecrated the first bishop of Washington in 1896, chose George Frederick Bodley as the head architect, replacing Ernest Flagg, effectively preventing the cathedral, when seen from a distance, from being mistaken for the Capitol.

(Snapshots of Construction of the Washington National Cathedral, 1907-1990.)

 

 

(Washington Post, August 5 1900, p.17)

(Washington Post, August 5 1900, p.17)

 

 

As the construction of the “Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul” was understood to take many years, the completion in 1900 of the Cathedral School for Girls, designed by the ecclesiastical architect, Robert W. Gibson, provided more immediate satisfaction. “Shortly thereafter Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst offered to build a cathedral school for girls, to cost $200,000. There was doubt for some time as to the best location for this cathedral school, until finally all agreed that the beautiful Mount St. Alban’s was the proper site.” When the school was completed the writer for the Washington Post was ecstatic. “The very grounds which surround it, the name it bears, the mount on which it stands, recall the things of England.”  (“History of the Mount”, Washington Post, October 24, 1898, p.2; “Hearst Girls’ School––Edifice on Cathedral Close Is Now Completed––Is To Be Opened Next October––Magnificent Interior Decorations of the School, Said to Be the Finest Building for Girls Ever Erected”, Washington Post, August 5 1900, p.17)

 

 

 

The Cathedral Heights Citizens Association

 

 

In 1900, when Richard H. Goldsborough founded the Cathedral Heights Citizens Association, it is clear that he intended it to represent every subdivision in the vicinity of the Cathedral, including the two subdivisions by Thomas E. Waggaman, Cleveland Heights (1889) and Cleveland Park (1893). This would be the case for a decade or more. In 1910, when the John Eaton School, at 3301 Lowell Street, was dedicated, it was J. Nota McGill, president of the Cathedral Heights Citizens Association, who delivered an address on behalf of the neighborhood.  (“Newcomers In The Field––Cathedral Heights Citizen’s Association Will Soon Be Organized”, Washington Post, October 19, 1900, p.10; “New School Dedicated––Addresses and Music Mark Ceremonies at John Eaton Edifice”, Washington Post, November 24, 1910, p.16)

Besides pressing for the extension of Massachusetts Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue and beyond, and for completion of the Arizona Avenue sewer through the valley of Foundry Branch––obviously urgent matters for investors like Goldsborough––the association began what would become a never-ending crusade for improved streetcar service. In time, the Cathedral Heights Association would also achieve its goal to have the grade of the hill between Calvert and Garfield Streets reduced.

 

 

The owners of property in Cleveland Park, Woodley, and the country surrounding held a meeting a few days ago upon the call of Mr. R.H. Goldsborough, and it was decided to organize a Citizen’s association. Mr. Goldsborough was elected temporary chairman of the meeting and T. Cushing Daniel, temporary secretary.

It was decided to adopt the name of “The Cathedral Heights Citizen’s Association,” and a committee was appointed to frame a constitution, which will be submitted Monday evening, at the meeting to be held at Woodley inn, when a permanent organization will be effected. The committee consists of Messrs. Goldsborough, Daniel, James H. Taylor, J. Nota McGill, and A.Y. Gray.

It was decided that the membership should be drawn only from Cleveland Park, Woodley, and the country in the immediate neighborhood, and extending as far south as Georgetown.

(“Newcomers In The Field––Cathedral Heights Citizen’s Association Will Soon Be Organized”, Washington Post, October 19, 1900, p.10)

 

“An important move has just been made by the residents and property owners in the fashionable northwest section of the city, on the line of Massachusetts Avenue extended, known as “Cathedral Heights,” whereby an organized effort will be made to have the District Commissioners and Congress make necessary improvements. The first meeting was held at Woodley Inn, Fairview Heights, immediately opposite the cathedral grounds, and an organization was perfected to be known as the “Cathedral Heights Citizens’ Association.” The following gentlemen were present: Messrs. R.H. Goldsborough, J. Nota McGill, Robert S. Chew, T.C. Daniel, David Weaver, James B. Nourse, A.Y. Gray, Prof. L.L. Hooper. Rev. George Bratenahl, James H. Taylor, John Sherman, Ingraham, J.R. Enerson, and Brooks [sic]. The magnificent Hearst school has recently been completed on the cathedral grounds, the electric road has been rebuilt and equipped with new cars, and a magnificent bridge is being built over Rock Creek, the full width of Massachusetts avenue. Congress will be asked to make liberal appropriations for improving Massachusetts avenue from Rock creek to Wisconsin avenue, as this avenue is destined to be a great thoroughfare and fashionable driveway out from the northwest part of the city, and it is the purpose of the Cathedral Heights Citizens’ Association to make every effort toward its early consummation.”

(“Big Structure Rising”, Washington Post, October 21, 1900. p.14)

 

“The committee on legislation was directed to urge the District Commissioners to… provide for the removal of the hill on Tenleytown road between 37th street and Massachusetts avenue. In the discussion of the project Prof. Hill said that at some points the present grade is between 7 and 8 percent, and, owing to the difficulty in hauling building material up this steep grade, the cost of building residences in this locality is greatly in excess of what it would be if the grade were lessened. Several of the members complained bitterly that owing to this heavy grade they were obliged to pay 50 cents per ton additional for the delivery of fuel, and many merchants refuse to deliver goods in the locality in consequence.”

(“Better Car Service––Cathedral Heights Citizens Declare For It”, Evening Star, October 24, 1902, p.16)

 

“The members of the Cathedral Heights Citizen’s Association are up in arms over the car service on the Tennallytown road. At a meeting last night at the residence of President Richard Goldsborough it was determined to invoke the good offices of the District Commissioners in an effort to secure a betterment of the service on this line.”

(“Car Service Unsatisfactory––Patrons of Tennallytown Line Appeal to Commissioners for Relief”, Washington Post, June 7, 1904, p.2)

 

The Cathedral Heights Citizens’ Association was organized three years ago. Its members are residents of that section of the District bordering on the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, comprising the subdivisions of Tunlaw, Cathedral, and Fairview Heights, Oak View, and Cleveland Heights. The president is Richard M. Goldsborough, and William S. Peachy is its secretary. The principal measures now before the association are the completion of the Arizona Avenue sewer and the betterment of the railroad service on the Tenleytown line.

The Arizona Avenue trunk sewer has been built only as far as Joliet Street, and although $98,000 have been spent upon it, it will be unavailable for use until it shall have been completed at an additional cost of about $180,000. It will drain the entire Foundry Branch valley as far as Tenleytown, where alone there is a population of more than 2,000 souls, utterly without sewerage service, and where a typhoid epidemic would menace the entire District. The item has been recommended by the Commissioners the past two sessions of Congress––has been included in their estimates and thrown out at the Capitol.

The next necessity which this association is urging is the improvement of the Tenleytown railroad service. Despite the rapid increase of population along this line the policy of the present management has been one of retrogression. In former years there was a uniform schedule of fifteen minutes headway maintained, but now during most of the day it maintains a half-hour schedule, with fifteen-minute intervals during the busiest hours.

The cars are consequently at most times overcrowded, and on the exceedingly long and heavy grades above Georgetown this crowded condition renders the travel doubly perilous. The management of the road has failed to respond to repeated appeals for betterment of conditions. The main reason for this is that although the approval of all schedules is vested in the Commissioners, they are without power to penalize any infraction. It shall be the effort of this association to have such legislation brought about as will prevent any greater time between cars in the District of Columbia than fifteen minutes.

The association is also urging that a steam engine be provided at the Tenleytown fire house.

(“Want Much Better Railroad Service”, Washington Times, October 2, 1904, p.8)

 

 

Naturally the interests of property owners to the north and west coincided with those of Cathedral Heights. In 1901 the Citizens’ Northwest Suburban Association met at Friendship, the recently acquired country house of John. R. McLean, at an event that was also a reception for the District Commissioners. Among the guests were Charles Carroll Glover and Richard H. Goldsborough. Prof. Hooper, of the Washington School for Boys, directly opposite McLean’s property, offered a resolution expressing the “urgent desire of the citizens of the northwestern section of the District that the cars of the Georgetown and Tennallytown Railway be run to the business center of Washington”.  (“Guests Of Mr. McLean––Commissioners and Suburban Citizens Meet”, Washington Post, November 2, 1901, p.2)

After ten years the citizens association founded by Richard Goldsborough looked back on its achievements. “It has wrought wonders for that section of the District, and prides itself especially on its efforts toward having the Wisconsin avenue hill cut down and Massachusetts avenue extended”.  Extension of Massachusetts Avenue––now to the District line––was still the abiding interest of the neighborhood in 1916.  (“Cathedral Heights”, Washington Herald, September 18, 1910, part 3, p.4; “Citizens Ask Better Streets––Cathedral Heights Association Holds Its First Meeting of the Fall”, Washington Post, October 6, 1916, p.6)

 

 

 

 

Cathedral Highlands

 

 

In 1907 Tunlaw Heights was re-christened as Cathedral Highlands. Once again, the high degree of real estate activity in this section was ascribed to the extension and improvement of Massachusetts Avenue, “Washington’s most beautiful and fashionable thoroughfare”.

 

 

(Washington Post, April 7, 1907, p.R2)

(Washington Post, April 7, 1907, p.R2)

 

 

One of the most important suburban movements of the year is the re-subdivision of the tract of ground just south of the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues, formerly known as Tunlaw Heights. As the property lies on a high plateau, overlooking the city, affording an unobstructed view of the entire surrounding country for miles, and is directly opposite the famous Cathedral Close, the new name of Cathedral Highlands is very appropriate.

The tract has frontage of 1,348 feet on Wisconsin avenue. The subdivision has an area of thirty acres, equal to several hundred lots having a frontage of thirty feet. Fulton and Girard streets will run east and west through the property, while Thirty-eight street, Bellevue Terrace, and Thirty-ninth street will interest the tract running north and south, with Wisconsin avenue fronting the property on the east.

The extension and improvement of Massachusetts avenue, just completed, brings this property within ten minutes drive of the center of the city, over Washington’s most beautiful and fashionable thoroughfare. The extension of this avenue from Wisconsin avenue to the American University campus, for which there is an appropriation of about $50,000, is the cause of great real estate activity in this section. It is expected this work will be completed during the coming year.

(Washington Post, April 7, 1907, p.R2)

 

The subdivision of the old Tunlaw Heights property, located south of the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues, just opposite the Cathedral close, under the new name of Cathedral Highlands, marks an important step in the real estate development of the northwest section of the District.

The tract contains thirty acres, with a frontage on Wisconsin avenue of nearly 1,500 feet. It has an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level, affording an unobstructed view of the surrounding country, and can be reached from the Treasury by way of the Washington Railway and Electric Company’s line, which passes the property along Wisconsin avenue, in twenty-five minutes.

There has been more activity manifested in the sale of this property, it is said, than in any subdivision placed on the market recently.

William F. Matteson, who is handling the property for a syndicate of well-known Washington business men, reports the sale of seventy-seven lots, or an average of seven lots a week, since he took the management of the property the 1st of April.

(“On Cathedral Highlands––Advantages Offered By This New Subdivision––Was Formerly Called Tunlaw Heights, Has Elevation of 400 Feet Above Sea Level”, Evening Star, June 30, 1907, p.11; Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Washington, 1907, and Washington Post, April 7, 14, 1907: Ghosts of DC)

 

 

 

(Washington Post, April 14, 1907)

(Washington Post, April 14, 1907)

 

 

(Washington Herald, June 23, 1907, Ghosts of DC)

(Washington Herald, June 23, 1907, Ghosts of DC)

 

 

 

Highest Class Suburban Property Soon to be Urban––Fairview Heights––An ideal location for a home, and a most promising investment proposition. At the prices we are quoting on this property there’s every reason to expect every site will be snapped up in a hurry.

Located on the Tennallytown road on a plateau high above the city. Naturally beautiful, as well as desirable and convenient. 15 minutes from business section.

The estates of Mr. John R. McLean and Mr. C.C. Glover bound Fairview heights on the north and south, while just opposite is the Cathedral Close. Massachusetts avenue will be finished this year, when an immediate enhancement must come.

(Washington Times, April 17, 1909, p.13)

 

 

Despite its 1907 rechristening as Cathedral Highlands, it took several decades before houses began to be built in John W. Thompson’s Tunlaw Heights.

 

 

The office of Charles D. Sager plans to erect 34 dwellings in the Cathedral Heights section, 14 of which are now completed, and located on Garfield street and on Bellevue terrace, between Thirty-eight and Thirty-ninth streets northwest. The others are to be erected in this immediate neighborhood.

Mr. Sager has erected a dwelling at 3826 Cathedral avenue northwest for his own occupancy. It is detached, of brick construction, on a large landscaped lot with stone wall. It contains twelve rooms, three baths, and three separately built-in garages. There are cold storage and refrigerating plants in the cellar, and also a complete billiard room.

On the first floor there is a solarium with running fountain. There is a front colonial and a double inclosed sleeping porch. The third floor has been finished and decorated for dancing and entertainments.

(“C.D. Sager Erecting Northwest Houses––14 Completed in Cathedral Heights Operation; Builds Home for Himself”, Washington Post, March 21, 1926, p.R2)

 

 

Standard Oil filling station, Massachusetts Avenue at Wisconsin Avenue, looking south, circa 1918. (Vanished Washington)

Standard Oil filling station, Massachusetts Avenue at Wisconsin Avenue, looking south, circa 1918. (Vanished Washington)

 

 

 

Apartment Buildings

 

In the beginning, the new residences being built, or foreseen to be built, in Cathedral Heights were expected to be detached villas, or even country houses (such as the one still standing at 3200 Idaho Avenue, built in 1902). However, within a short amount of time, a demand for apartment buildings, large and small, had made itself felt, and, in later years, upwards of  twenty apartment towers would be constructed in Cathedral Heights.

 

 

Elevation drawing for an apartment building under construction at 2802 Wisconsin Avenue. (Washington Post, July 18, 1915, p.R5)

Elevation drawing for an apartment building under construction at 2802 Wisconsin Avenue. (Washington Post, July 18, 1915, p.R5)

 

 

2802 Wisconsin Avenue, built in 1916, and replaced in 1964 by 2800 Wisconsin Avenue. (Washington Post, April 16, 1916, p.R2)

2802 Wisconsin Avenue, built in 1916, and replaced in 1964 by 2800 Wisconsin Avenue. (Washington Post, April 16, 1916, p.R2)

2844 Wisconsin, replaced in 1964 by Garfield House. (Washington Post, August 5, 1817, p.R4)

2844 Wisconsin, built in 1917. Each of its twenty suites was provided with a sleeping porch, a dining porch, and an observation porch. It was replaced in 1964 by Garfield House. (Washington Post, November 5, 1916, p.RE7; August 5, 1917, p.R4)

 

2716 Wisconsin, built in 1924. (Washington Post, April 27, 1924, p.R6)

2716 Wisconsin, built in 1924. (Washington Post, April 27, 1924, p.R6)

 

Architectural rendering of the Alban Towers apartment building. (“$1,500,000 Apartments Near Cathedral”, Washington Post, August 26, 1928, p.R1)

Architectural rendering of the Alban Towers apartment building. (“$1,500,000 Apartments Near Cathedral”, Washington Post, August 26, 1928, p.R1)

 

3701 Massachusetts Avenue––which acquired the name Cathedral Courts at a later date––opened in 1926.  Alban Towers, at 3700 Massachusetts Avenue, which opened for preliminary inspection in 1928, was built on the former Jacob Kengla tract acquired by Charles C. Glover. Two years later the structure was extended to the south, on property purchased from the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which had owned the “Goldsborough mansion” (also known as Tunlaw Towers) at the northwest corner of Garfield Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

(Washington Post, September 6, 1926, p.13; Washington Post, October 2, 1927, p.M12; “$1,500,000 Apartments Near Cathedral”, Washington Post, August 26, 1928, p.R1; “Addition Planned for Alban Towers––Baer and Scholz Apartment house to be one of the Three Largest in City––More Land Purchased”, Washington Post, September 22, 1929, p.R2; “New Alban Building will have 84 Units––Apartment Near Cathedral to Have Total of 775 Rooms––Garage For 125 Autos”, Washington Post, February 9, 1930, p.R1)

In 1930 Elias Gelman founded the Gelman Construction Company; one of its first projects was Alto Towers, at 3206 Wisconsin Avenue, designed by George Santmyer, and completed in 1932. Macomb Gardens, 3725 Macomb Street, also designed and built by Santmyer and Gelman, showed its first apartments in 1937. Elias Gelman also built Skyline Towers, at 2730 Wisconsin Avenue, in 1939, and this is where he lived at the time of his death in 1954.

(“Building Permits”, Washington Post, August 16, 1931, p.R1; “Weaver Bros. Take Over Alto Towers”, Washington Post, January 10, 1932, p.R1; “New Building In D.C. Holds Steady in Week”, Washington Post, June 13, 1937, p.R1; “D.C. Building Hits $523,000 Despite Holiday”, Washington Post, February 26, 1939, p.R1; “Elias Gelman Dies; D.C. Builder, Realtor”, Washington Post, October 18, 1954, p.20)

 

In 1936 J. Charles Shapiro obtained a permit to build The Warwick, a three-story brick apartment building, designed by Louis T. Rouleau, at 3051 Idaho Avenue, which was completed the following year. It was advertised as “Glover Park’s Most Modern Apartment”. (“Permit Asked on $300,000 Residence Job”, Washington Post, October 11, 1936, p.R5; Washington Post, December 5, 1937, p.R14)

 

(Washington Post, December 5, 1937, p.R14)

(Washington Post, December 5, 1937, p.R14)

 

William E. Shannon, the president of Shannon and Luchs Company, declared 4000 Massachusetts Avenue, designed by the firm of Corning and Moore, and under construction in 1955, a “new concept of urban living”, and said the building would combine “the most modern of conveniences with the eloquence and dignity of the past––there is nothing like it in Washington.” (“New Luxury Apartments Under Construction in D.C.”, Washington Post, November 6, 1955, p.G1)

The Colonnade (2801 New Mexico Avenue), developed by Nathan Landow and Lawrence Brandt, and designed by Donald H. Drayer, was completed in 1966, as was Cathedral West, at 4100 Cathedral Avenue, designed by J. Allan MacLane, and built by The Lenkin Company.

(“Apartment Designed for High Living: Landow and Brandt Accent the High Life”, Washington Post Times Herald, October 24, 1964, p.C1; “Cathedral West Project Offers Park Features”, Washington Post Times Herald, December 12, 1965, p.P5)

 

 

 

Cathedral Heights and Cleveland Park

 

While Cathedral Heights is generally understood to be the neighborhood west of the National Cathedral, between Glover Park and Tenleytown, its borders––as is often the case with neighborhoods––have been subject to periodic redefinition, and even to amalgamation with an adjoining neighborhood.

In 1928, the Cathedral Heights Citizens Association (founded in 1900), and the Cleveland Park Citizens Association (founded in 1911) were combined in to form the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association, and the two neighborhoods began to act as one.

 

 

“Mrs. Harriet Saunders was elected president of the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Association at their meeting in St. Alban’s Parish Hall. Other officers named are: first vice president, Grahame Powell; second vice president, Edward R. Walton; secretary, John W. Townsend; treasurer, Miss Sarah F. Schroeder; and delegates to the Federation of Citizens’ Association, George R. Wales and Hugh M. Frampton.” (“Warning To Police On Gambling Wins Citizens’ Approval––Five Other Groups Assemble; Mrs. Saunders Elected by Cathedral Heights”, Washington Post, December 4, 1928, p.20)

 

 

“Cathedral Heights as a separate subdivision does not exist on ordinary present-day maps, although it general location would be familiar to most Washingtonians just from the name.

About ten years ago, realizing that their problems were the same, the Cathedral Heights and Cleveland Park Citizens associations joined forces. Their boundaries shift from time to time, but always include the several blocks around the cathedral and all of old Cleveland Park between Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues, from Macomb to Porter streets.

(Washington Post, November 16, 1939, p.19)

 

 

 

The boundaries of the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association in 1940. (Washington Post, October 9, 1940, p.17)

The boundaries of the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association in 1940. (Washington Post, October 9, 1940, p.17)

 

The Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association was profiled in 1940. (Washington Post, October 9, 1940, p.17)

Culver B. Chamberlain, president of the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park Citizens Association, and campaigner for home rule and elected government in the District of Columbia, was interviewed in 1940. (Washington Post, October 9, 1940, p.17)

 

 

 

 

Alliance Farm

 

The southwestern corner of what is now Cathedral Heights was farmed by the descendants of Edward Levis and Agnes Lownes Levis.

In 1842, Agnes Levis bought from estate of Clement Smith, for $3906, part of Alliance, beginning at NW boundary of Beatty and Hawkins’ Addition to Georgetown, north to George French’s land, then to Terra Firma, now Col. Pyle’s, then to south line of Loughborough’s, to Alexander Burrows’, and south to land of Henrietta S. Young.  (DC Liber WB96 (1842) f.410/265).

The sale gave Mrs. Levis a right of way for wagons, horses, and cattle to come and go over Smith’s land on Tennallytown Road, east of her, which corresponds to part of the road to the Powder House, now Cathedral Avenue.  (The Georgetown Powder Magazine)

Agnes Levis died 1873. Her estate, assessed at 60 acres in 1876, had been divided into at least two parts. Philip Levis, born DC circa 1846, resided on the southern end of Alliance farm, about where the Westchester Apartments are today. “Levis, Philip, butcher, High nr Boundary”. (1874 Georgetown Directory)

Philip Levis, in 1875, made a mortgage secured by a note to Charles R. Kengla and George M. Kengla; default having been made in the payment of the note, the land was sold by auction, and was bought by the two Kenglas in 1877. (U.S. Supreme Court, Levis v. Kengla, 169 U.S. 234, 1898. See also Kengla Family Notes)

 

 

After the Philip Levis farm was acquired by George and Charles Kengla, a Victorian country house replaced the earlier farm house. (Photo, Washington Times, January 5, 1935)

After the Philip Levis farm was acquired by George and Charles Kengla, a Victorian country house replaced the earlier farm house.  (Washington Times, January 5, 1935)

 

 

Starting in 1909, the Kennedy Brothers Company (Edgar Sumter Kennedy, and William Munsey Kennedy) built thousands of homes and many apartment buildings in the District of Columbia. In 1925, the house (marked “William M. Kennedy, 28 acres”) was exactly on the circular park of the future Westchester Apartments. (1925 Baist map, Vol.III, plate 24)

 

 

Letters testamentary on the estate of William M, Kennedy, builder, who died June 17, were asked yesterday in a petition by Mrs. Mary E. Kennedy, the widow, and her sons, Gordon Kennedy and Kloeber Kennedy. The testator owned stock in the firm known as Kennedy Bros. valued at from $500,000 to $750,000 and owned the home at 3900 cathedral avenue northwest, which is valued at $200,000. He left debts amounting to $245,000. Attorney W Gwynn Gardiner appeared for the petitioners.

(“Administration Asked on Estate of Kennedy”, Washington Post, July 3, 1927, p.2)

 

 

In 1930, the Kennedy property was purchased by the Westchester Development Corp., headed by Gustave Ring, at an assessed value of $350,000. (“Landmark Replaced: Westchester Apartments on Site of Historic Home“, Washington Times, January 5, 1935)

Before the house was razed it was briefly rented by a Russian emigre. “La Colline School––3900 Cathedral Ave. NW. A progressive boarding and day school for boys and girls from 4 to 14 years of age, Baroness Irene M. Ungern, Principal.”  (“School and College Directory”, Washington Post, August 19, 1928, p.ES4; “Licensed To Marry”, Washington Post, November 24, 1928, p.12; “Refugees of 20 Years Ago Now Citizens”, Washington Post, August 20, 1939, p.B7)

 

 

 

From Terra Firma to McLean Gardens

 

As it was conceived, Cathedral Heights combined elements of a villa district and a streetcar suburb, and with the subsequent addition of apartment towers, was likely to appeal to a variety of tastes and expectations. Not so McLean Gardens, which was built on short notice, some four decades later, specifically to help accommodate the influx of wartime defense workers that was straining Washington at its seams.

While almost every acre of this vicinity ultimately arises from the huge land tract called Friendship (1711)the 43 acres now known as McLean Gardens are part of 63 acres, patented in 1762, and called Terra Firma. From accounts published decades after the events, it appears that, from perhaps as early as 1800, and by 1822 at the latest, George French had a brick house, which he called Eden Bower, on Terra Firma.

(“John B. French, born Eden Bower, near Georgetown, DC, September 26, 1822”, Princeton Theological Seminary Biographical Catalogue, 1909, p. 163; “Park For The Public”, Washington Post, May 19, 1901, p.21; “Mr. McLean’s New Home: Extensive Grounds on Tenleytown Road Open to Public”, May 20, 1901, Evening Star, p.2. col.7; Centennial History of the City of Washington, 1892, p.426; Judith Beck Helm, Tenleytown, D.C., 1981)

 

 

George French––Died in prime of life, at Georgetown, a man of respectability and worth, leaving a wife and young children. (National Intelligencer, December 17, 1834)

Trustees sale––A country seat, near Luffboro and Maj. Nourse, 50 acres circa, two-story brick dwelling, garden and orchard, property of George French, deceased. (The Metropolitan, July 5, 1835)

Died, on August 18, at Eden Bower, near Georgetown, in his 48th year, Dr. Robert French, Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Army, a native of Georgetown, & continued to reside there until his appointment in the medical staff of the army in 1819. He has been afflicted for more than three years past of the painful disease of which he died. Funeral from the residence of Mrs. George French, Bridge street, Georgetown. (National Intelligencer, August 15, 1835)

 

 

 

Thomas Sidney Jesup (1788-1860), Quartermaster General of the Army. (State Archives of Florida)

Thomas Sidney Jesup (1788-1860), Quartermaster General of the Army. (State Archives of Florida)

 

 

 

Eden Bower was briefly the property of Gen. Thomas Sidney Jesup, Quartermaster General of the Army, who, having laid plans for a country house, was called away to command American forces against the Creek and Seminole Indians. Jesup’s deceitful arrest of Osceola was widely condemned, and his neighbors at Rosedale, John Green and Ann Forrest Green––who were apparently as Anti-Jacksonian as the Nourse family at the Highlands and Mount Alban––went so far as to name their son Osceola!

Finding the neighborhood politically uncongenial––as later accounts had it––Gen. Jesup put his still uncompleted house on the market in about 1839; his successor tore what had been built down, and started over.  (“Park For The Public––John R. McLean Throws Open His Country Home”, Washington Post, May 19, 1901, p.21; “Mr. McLean’s New Home: Extensive Grounds on Tenleytown Road Open to Public”, May 20, 1901, Evening Star, p.2. col.7; “Col. Richard Parris Pile”, Washington Post, May 23, 1901, p.7)

 

 

 

Osceola, or Billy Powell (1804–1838), war leader of the Seminole Indians. (George Catlin, National Portrait Gallery)

Osceola (1804–1838), war leader of the Seminole Indians, whose treacherous capture by Gen. Jesup met with wide-spread public disapproval.  (George Catlin, National Portrait Gallery)

 

 

 

The next owner of Eden Bower was Richard Parris Pile, the Cambridge-educated son of English planters in Barbados––one of Britain’s premier sugar islands––where, in 1823, Pile married Eastmond Barrow. A few years after the abolition of slavery in Barbados (1834), Pile, compensated for the loss of his slaves by by the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1834, emigrated to the United States.  (“Col. Richard Parris Pile”, Washington Post, May 23, 1901, p.7; Kathleen Mary Butler, The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 1823-1843, University of North Carolina Press, 1995,p.51)

In 1839 Richard P. Pile had Lewis Carbery, surveyor of Georgetown, make a survey. In 1840 Pile bought part of Terra Firma from the estate of Clement Cox, and, in 1843, acquired more of the tract, lying north of his initial purchase, from Thomas S. Jessup. Pile appears in the 1840 census of Washington County, with a wife, nine children, and three slaves. Sons Eyre Pile and William Hinds Pile entered Georgetown Prep in July, 1840.  (W.C. Repetti, S.J. “Georgetown University and McLean Gardens”, Woodstock Letters, 84, 1955)

“Conrad Pile [a cousin from Barbados] and Elizabeth Pile, daughter of Col. R.P. Pile, all of Barbadoes, were married in this city, September 29, 1846, by Reverend Mr. French.“ (National Intelligencer, September 29+, 1846)

Lt. Jones Pile, USMC, a son of Richard P. Pile born in 1836, was killed in action, December 24, 1864, aboard the USS Juniata, in the attack on Fort Fisher, during the Civil War. (Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Ser.I, Vol.II, p.322)

Another daughter, Eastmond, born in Washington in 1841, married Osceola C. Green, the son of John and Ann Forrest Green, of Rosedale; after Osceola Green’s death, in 1895, his widow joined her daughter––also named Eastmond––who had married Schomberg F. Gandell, in England.

Pile mortgaged 65 acres of Terra Firma in 1845, and in the following year Georgetown College agreed to assume the mortgage, and acquired the house and farm, “to be used as a villa”. The transaction took place in 1847, at which time the College also purchased Pile’s furniture, farm implements, and live stock. (W.C. Repetti, S.J. “Georgetown University and McLean Gardens”, Woodstock Letters, 84, 1955)

Richard Parris Pile appears to have died in 1847. His widow, Eastmond Barrow Pile, who lived for many years in the household of her son-in-law Osceola Green, died in Georgetown in 1890.

 

(“Georgetown”, Evening Star, February 1, 1890, p.12; “Osceola C. Green Dead”, Washington Post, June 18, 1895, p.1; “Funeral of Osceola C. Green”, Washington Post, June 20, 1895, p.10; William Wirt Henry, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Eminent and Representative Men of Virginia and the District of Columbia, 1893, p.134; Samuel C. Busey, Pictures of the City of Washington in the Past, 1898; 1880 census; “Suburban––West Washington”, Washington Post, February 2, 1890, p.10; “Col. Richard Parris Pile”, Washington Post, May 23, 1901, p.7; “Social and Personal”, Washington Post, October 8, 1904, p.7)

 

 

 

The College Villa

 

Richard Pile’s “manor-house in the good old English style” was sold to Georgetown College, for use as a place of recreation and retreat for the Jesuits of the faculty, in 1847. Typically, forty Jesuits summered at the College Villa between 1849 and 1861.

Gen. John J. Peck, commander of a brigade defending Chain Bridge and the northern defenses of Washington, occupied the College Villa from January to April, 1862. (W.C. Repetti, S.J. “Georgetown University and McLean Gardens”, Woodstock Letters, 84, 1955)

 

General John J. Peck (fourth from left) and Staff, Tennallytown, 1862.

General John J. Peck (seated, center) and Staff, Tennallytown, 1862. (Library of Congress)

 

 

 

For sale––fine estate known as the College Villa, spacious mansion; 63+ acres, 2 miles out of Georgetown. (National Intelligencer, April 25, 1863)

Mostly under cultivation, residue covered in wood. 21 room mansion and ornamental garden, and a four room frame house, icehouse, stable. Two ponds and a running stream. Numerous fruit trees, land suitable for market garden, pasture, or cultivation of “the grape”. Suitable for diplomat or Congress member, or use as a summer hotel or boarding house. (National Intelligencer, May 2, 1863, p.1)

 

 

 

After 1869 the property was rented out, and sometimes served as a public picnic ground.  One of the last tenants (1881-1886) was an interesting entrepreneur named Lloyd Moxley (who may have used it as a summer place, as he already had a handsome house at 1215 K Street, and a farm in Montgomery County). Moxley started as a theater manager, and then branched out into costuming, ballparks, patent medicine, city bill posting, and outdoor advertising (which he eventually controlled). Moxley also did very well when Woodward & Lothrop bought his store at 10th and F Streets in order to build their “Boston Store” at that prime location.

Late in life Moxley related to the press that, on the night of April 14, 1865, he was standing outside the president’s box at Ford’s Theater when John Wilkes Booth showed up; as a theatrical manager, Moxley had a passing acquaintance with the actor. The two men chatted for twenty minutes, and then Booth carried out his intention. Moxley, who feared to be arrested as a conspirator, hid at home for weeks. The only reason that his conversation with the assassin had not been reported to the investigating authorities, he later concluded, was that his presence in the theater was so frequent as to escape notice altogether. (An alternative––and more likely––explanation is that Moxley’s conversation with Booth took place on a different evening.)

(“Afraid he Would be Hanged: Bill Poster Moxley Was With Booth Before the Assassination”, Washington Post, November 1, 1895, p.10; “Theatrical Manager In War Days: Mr. Lloyd Moxley Dies, After Accumulating a Large Fortune”, Washington Post, October 23, 1896, p.10; “The National Capital”, National Tribune, October 29, 1896, p.5; W.C. Repetti, S.J. “Georgetown University and McLean Gardens”, Woodstock Letters, 84, 1955)

 

In 1887, the College Villa was bought by Anastasia Patten, widow of Edmund Patten, a wealthy California pioneer; she sold it the following year, and died soon after that. “Mrs. Patten owned considerable property in this city and realized a large sum from investments in suburban real estate on Massachusetts avenue extended.” (“Park For The Public––John R. McLean Throws Open His Country Home”, Washington Post, May 19, 1901, p.21; “The Death of Mrs. Patten”, Washington Post, September 13, 1888, p.6)

An 1887 map has the property marked Glenellen Park, but this name does not seem to have enjoyed any currency.

 

 

“[Richard H.] Goldsborough has purchased from Mrs. Anastasia Patten and John E. Beall, for $105,000, a tract of land known as “The Resurvey on Terra Firma,” located on the Rockville turnpike. The property is in reality purchased by a syndicate, of which Mr. Goldsborough is one of the members, and which has made a number of heavy deals in Washington real estate during the last six months.”

“Messrs. R.H. Goldsborough, N.W. Baine and John A. Cake, the last two of Richmond, Va., have bought, as mentioned in yesterday’s Post, through A. T. Goldsborough, of Mrs. Anastasia Patten and John E. Beall, for $105,000, the property on the Tennallytown road formerly called the College Villa. Upon it is located the well-known Country Club, and it adjoins the Varnell subdivision, “Oak View,” the President’s private residence; “Grasslands,” the District home of Secretary Whitney, and Richmond Park, owned by the purchasing parties.”

“The purchasing syndicate now owns several of the most extensive and beautiful properties northwest of Washington, embracing a large part (over 200 acres) of the grand plateau about Oak View, lying nearly 400 feet above the city. It is the intention of the purchasers, after liberally improving, to subdivide their properties into large building sites, to be sold at reasonable prices to persons intending and contracting to erect upon the same residences creditable to the neighborhood.”

(“Beyond The City Limits––Nearly All The Suburban Property Is Now Bought Up––The Sale Of College Villa”, Washington Post, May 1, 1887, p.2; “A Big Real Estate Sale”, Washington Post, May 1, 1887, p.2; “The Real Estate Market”, Washington Post, May 16, 1887, p.4; “Land Investors Well Rewarded For Confidence”, Washington Post, December 6, 1927, p.D1)

 

 

 

Friendship

 

In 1898, the College Villa, and 75 acres, passed to John Roll McLean (1848-1916), the owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Washington Post, and was rechristened as Friendship.

 

 

“Hon. John R. McLean has completed arrangements with Mr. R.H. Goldsborough and other trustees, representing the Richmond syndicate, whereby sixty-three and one half acres of valuable land on the Tennallytown road are transferred to Mr. McLean”. “Mr. McLean, it is said, will build a magnificent residence upon his newly acquired possession, and it is probable that it will be otherwise improved, and it is prophesied that it will yield a handsome return. Less than ten years ago this land was acquired, for $105,000, by the syndicate which now transfers it to Mr. McLean, and a short time before that it was sold by Georgetown College, which was for many years prior to that the owner, for $60,000.” (“Valuable Properties Sold––John R. McLean Buys on Tennallytown Road and Sells Holmead Estate”, Washington Post, August 5, 1898, p.7)

“There is something aristocratic and exclusive looking in the whole appearance of the place. It stands far back from the Tennallytown pike, now Wisconsin avenue, hidden in a grove of tall oak trees. All that one obtains in passing is a flash of yellow wall, time stained and quaintly fashioned, a bit of old-fashioned lattice work, a pillared portico, white against dark box and cedar trees, overlooking an old-time garden––that is all, but quite enough to give a romantic atmosphere. Mr. McLean has made no change in the outward appearance of the villa, except perhaps a door or an extra window, strictly in accordance with the character of the house.” (“Park For The Public––John R. McLean Throws Open His Country Home”, Washington Post, May 19, 1901, p.21)

 

 

A charity fête at Friendship, 1913; John R. McLean (center), with Millicent and William Hearst. (Library of Congress)

A charity fête at Friendship, 1913; John R. McLean (center), with Mr. and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst. (Library of Congress)

 

 

” ’Tote your own packages’ was the slogan at Friendship yesterday, when society bought and sold, danced, partook of all manner of soft drinks, and had its palm read, all for the benefit of Children’s Hospital. Ambassadors and belles turned burden bearers, carrying all manner of purchases on a tour of the garden, and down the avenue to waiting motors and carriages. Mme. Jusserand went away with a large cushion she had purchased, Col. Robert M. Thompson was another democratic figure carrying a huge hat box. Miss Julia Meyer very frankly carried home, unwrapped, a fetching hat in which she had invested. Mr. and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst were interested spectators during most of the afternoon, and Mrs. Hearst presented a delightfully beautiful picture in an exquisite spring costume.”  (”Notable Society Folk Work For Charity”, Washington Post, May 13, 1913, p.2)

 

Newspaper accounts that appeared in 1901 leave no doubt that the country house bought and renovated by John R. McLean in 1898––and sold by McLean’s heirs in 1942––was the country house built by Richard Parris Pile in 1839. (It is true that the architect John Russell Pope designed a house for McLean in 1907, but that was a town house, at 1500 I Street NW.)

(“Park For The Public––John R. McLean Throws Open His Country Home”, Washington Post, May 19, 1901, p.21; “Mr. McLean’s New Home: Extensive Grounds on Tenleytown Road Open to Public”, May 20, 1901, Evening Star, p.2. col.7; Washington Post, August 21, 1942, p.12)

 

The dimensions of the wartime housing crisis in Washington may be gauged by the fact that there were seven thousand applicants for seven hundred twenty apartments in McLean Gardens! (Only white war workers, who had lived in Washington less than a year, were qualified.)

(“McLean Garden Apartments, U.S. Venture, To Open This Week or Next at Friendship”, Washington Post, March 7, 1943, p.10; “First Warworkers’ Dorm Opens at McLean Gardens”, Washington Post, June 13, 1943, p.M12. For the more recent history of McLean Gardens, see McLean Gardens Homeowners Association.)

 

 

 

 

The Last Streetcars

 

As was observed at the outset of this history, the origins of Cathedral Heights were closely connected to the development of street car service on Wisconsin Avenue, which started in 1890. The last streetcar came up Wisconsin Avenue seven decades later.

 

 

McLean Gardens streetcar loop, south of Newark Street, before 1960. (Old Time DC)

McLean Gardens streetcar loop, south of Newark Street, before 1960. (Old Time DC)

 

The last streetcar came up Wisconsin Avenue on January 3, 1960. (LeRoy King, 100 Years of Capital Traction)

The last streetcar came up Wisconsin Avenue on January 3, 1960. (LeRoy King, 100 Years of Capital Traction)

 

 

An interactive map of every structure in the city, showing square and lot, year built, original owner, and other useful information, was made available by the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office in 2016.

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.

 

 Questions and corrections may be directed to

carlton@gloverparkhistory.com

 

The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.