Grace Powell Cochran: Let’s Look Back


(Excerpts from “Let’s Look Back”, by Grace Powell Cochran (with help from Ludger Charest, Dorothy Wimbush, and Evelyn Spencer Money); typescript, [no date], Washingtoniana, Martin Luther King Library.)



On July 8, 1918, C. Albert Johnson, a builder, was granted a permit to build three two-story buildings on Tunlaw Road at a total cost of $13,500. Each lot has approximately 23 ft. frontage and 187 ft. depth. George Santmyers was the architect. These three houses – 2447, 2449 and 2451 – were the first townhouses to be built on this street. Tunlaw Road (walnut spelled backward) was named after walnut trees on Tunlaw Farm, which became the Wesley Heights subdivision.

The builder was from Pennsylvania. He pitched tents on the vacant lots between 2451 and Schneider’s Lane and they slept there in sleeping bags to protect their materials. At that time there was a cornfield across the street – part of a farm where the children played. There was a pond where they caught frogs in the summer and skated in the winter.

On September 28, 1928, we moved through the muddy Schneider’s Lane (now Calvert Street) to 2449 Tunlaw Road. We had purchased it from Edith Barrow, widow of Frank Barrow, who lived there with her son Robert. She was a newspaper correspondent, and Robert later became organist and choirmaster at the Washington Cathedral.

On the northwest corner of 37th Street and Schneider’s Lane, where the Carillon House now stands, was a red brick duplex house – Schneider and Jones – and above that another house, and then Mt. Alto Hospital. When we first moved here, many of us enjoyed the band concerts on the hospital grounds in the lovely summer evenings. On the back of the lot near Tunlaw Road was a frame building which was known as Schneider’s Slaughter House.

An Amoco station was built at 37th and Wisconsin Avenue and opened in January, 1926. This station is still operating at the same location. Adjoining it to the south was Paul Pearson’s Pharmacy, then the Gadget Shop operated by Mr. and Mrs. Nelliger, a gracious old couple who always had a spool of thread and other notions one needed. There was a Piggly-Wiggly Store – which later was the Sanitary Grocery Store – where most people marketed. There were several houses along Wisconsin Avenue, Hackley’s Grocery Store, and a good hardware store. The Calvert Motion Picture Theater opened in April, 1936.

When we first moved here there were petitions to get street lights, an extension of the bus line (which only ran to Burleith), improvement of the streetcar service on Wisconsin Avenue, shade trees, and paving of the streets. Through the diligent efforts of the Citizens Association, these projects were soon accomplished. Schneider’s Lane, a narrow unpaved road, was eliminated when Calvert Street was completed and opened to traffic on November 23, 1932.

At the northwest corner of Tunlaw Road and Calvert Street there was a high hill on which stood a large farm house. Some town houses had been built on Tunlaw Road south of Beecher Street, then there were vacant lots, and then the large house with the holly tree at the northwest corner of Benton Street and Tunlaw Road. Behind our house and facing 37th Street, on the property where the bank is now located, stood a red brick house owned by Mr. Dulin, and a large frame house in which the Duvall and Rhodes families lived.

The mile walk along the narrow dirt road to American University was beautiful, with lovely trees, and many birds. At the bend in Tunlaw Road was the Nurses’ Home for Mt. Alto Hospital. Two houses had been built at about 3900 Tunlaw Road, and the two families had a sunken garden which was a delight to all passers-by.

During our first years here most of the houses in the area had an extra room – the front porch. We had an awning and pretty porch boxes, a comfortable glider, chairs and a tea table. Here we read, and entertained friends and neighbors. There was very little traffic, and pollution and crime were not household words. The automobiles were required to have a parking light on the left fender, which was lighted when the car was parked on the street at night.


The James C. Dulin house at 2568 37th Street, circa 1898. In the background, the Schneider house, at the present intersection of 37th and Calvert Streets. (James C. Dulin Collection, Historical Society of Washington)

The James C. Dulin house at 2568 37th Street, circa 1898. In the background, the Schneider house, at the present intersection of 37th and Calvert Streets. (James C. Dulin Collection, Historical Society of Washington)




Carlton Fletcher

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