Georgetown and Glover Park


Laid out in 1751, the city of Georgetown was expanded in 1770 by Beatty & Hawkins’ Addition to Georgetown, three hundred new lots on either side of Wisconsin Avenue, from what is now N Street, all the way to the Russian Embassy. During the seventy years that Georgetown was a separate municipality within the District of Columbia, the families whose houses were here before Glover Park was developed all appear in Georgetown directories and tax assessments.

District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 revoked the charters of the City of Washington, the City of Georgetown, and of Washington County––to which, judging by the editorials of the Georgetown Courier, Georgetown had no objection. Georgetown was renamed West Washington some time after the Organic Act of 1878. Renaming of Georgetown streets by the Commissioners appears to have happened in 1879. In January of 1881 the Evening Star began to run articles on the news from “West Washington, nee Georgetown.”  By degrees the former city of Georgetown, with neighborhoods of its own––Brick Hill, Herring Hill, Holy Hill––came to understood as no more than a neighborhood of Washington, and by no means the best. Descriptions of slum conditions in the District of Columbia routinely mentioned Georgetown.

(“Renaming the Streets and Renumbering the Houses in Georgetown”, ”Evening Star, June 18, 1879, p.1; “West Washington nee Georgetown”, January 1-8, 1881, p.8; “City Talk and Chatter”, Washington Post, January 2, 1881, p.4; George M. Kober, Report on the Housing of the Laboring Classes in the City of Washington, D.C. (1900); Charles Frederick Weller, Eugenia Winston Weller, Neglected Neighbors: Stories of Life in the Alleys, Tenements, and Shanties of the National Capital (1909), pp.223-231; Barbara Gale Howick Fant, Slum Reclamation and Housing Reform in the Nation’s Capital, 1890–1940 (1982); Dennis Earl Gale, Restoration in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., 1915-1965 (1982))


“Poor white hallway, Georgetown, D.C. Seldom do these people have even the desire to clear up rubbish, and the broom shown here seems to be out of place.” 1935, Carl Mydans (Library of Congress)


Street scene near 36th and O Street, Georgetown, 1935 (Photograph by Carl Mydans, Library of Congress)


Street scene near 36th and O Street, Georgetown, 1935 (Photograph by Carl Mydans, Library of Congress)


A Georgetown Street Scene – 28th St., NW, 1940, Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives. (Research by Old Time D.C.)


As Georgetown was associated with decline, newer neighborhoods, such as Glover Park, were associated with progress and modernity. Indeed, the first generation of Glover Parkers included many Georgetowners, for whom the move up Wisconsin Avenue represented a step up in the world. “Our life in Glover Park was more comfortable in many ways than our life in Georgetown had been. Mainly because we had electricity. And indoor plumbing.”  The subsequent gentrification of formerly blue-collar parts of Georgetown was of no benefit to them, and is now more likely to inspire annoyance than awe among those who used to live there.  (“A Georgetown Childhood In Mid-Century”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 1996-97)

The original northern extension of Georgetown, from Whitehaven Parkway to the Russian Embassy, is long forgotten, and the scattered frame houses built a century before Glover Park was born––and the Victorian houses that later lined Wisconsin Avenue––were all torn down well before they could become historic. The tannery that operated where the Georgetown Safeway is, and the numerous slaughterhouses that stood between Whitehaven Parkway and Fulton Street, probably had no mourners. By 1950, when Congress drew the boundaries of the Georgetown Historic District, there was nothing left north of Whitehaven Parkway that was deemed worthy of historic preservation.




Carlton Fletcher

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