History Now author: Carl Lankowski
Date written: September 2015, updated November 2015
On 30 November 2014, a draft resolution was posted to the Chevy Chase listserv to change the name of the fountain in Chevy Chase Circle by Gary Thompson, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC Commissioner) for ANC 3/G encompassing the “DC side” of Chevy Chase Circle, the round-about that originally defined the new street-car suburb from 1892. The recitations in the draft resolution were clearly about distancing the community from honoring Francis Griffith Newlands—lawyer, Nevada Congressman, then senator, and heir to great wealth through his wife—because of the outspoken racially segregationist positions he advocated during the same period (ca. 1890 to Newlands’ death in 1917) that he founded Chevy Chase (on both sides of Western Avenue, the DC/MD boundary).
Chevy Chase Circle is on land controlled by the federal government through the National Park Service. (National Park Service, 2015) The fountain was built and dedicated by an act of Congress in 1938 on a design submitted by Edward Wilton Donn in 1933. The funds came from the widow of the honoree. On February 22, 2007, DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board voted to list the Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain in the District’s inventory of historic sites. (Chevy Chase Historical Society Newsletter–Newlands Fountain Receives Historic Designation, 2007)
Thompson’s ANC action was his last as an elected member, as he decided not to stand again in the November 2014 DC municipal election. As a self-described amateur historian, he had been active for many years in local preservation causes, one of which involved commemorating the 150thanniversary of the July 1864 battle of Fort Stevens, a nearby element of DC’s civil war ring fort system attacked by Confederate General Jubal Early’s forces.
In his listserv post, Thompson referenced long-time Chevy Chase, Maryland resident, Edward Sisson as an inspiration for placing the landmark re-naming on the ANC agenda. Edward Sisson’s aunt lived in one of the big houses on Lenox Street near the corner of Connecticut Avenue, just north of Chevy Chase Circle, in the heart of the original Chevy Chase development, from 1937 until her passing in 2013. In 2009, Sisson contributed an article to the on-line journal, NewGeography, “The Chevy Chase Club: Real Estate and Racism,” in which he asserts that this country club, whose SE corner is across Connecticut Avenue from his aunt’s house, is typical of the genre in its racial discrimination, an irritating vestige of a plantation mentality. (Sisson, 2009) Francis Newlands was the founder and first president of The Chevy Chase Club. Newlands Street runs through the heart of Chevy Chase Village. In an interview with me on March 6, 2015, Sisson referenced a growing sensitivity to racial discrimination as background for his statement about The Chevy Chase Club and his Newlands Fountain initiative.
Leaders of the Chevy Chase (Maryland) Historical Society lost no time in responding to Thompson’s ANC initiative. Four days in advance of the ANC meeting, on December 4, a five-page document signed by its president, a board member and the director of its archive and research center, was sent to the ANC to clarify Newlands role and alleged inaccuracies in Thompson’s account. (Angela Lancaster, 2014) The authors formally eshew taking a position on renaming the fountain. They wanted to contextualize Newlands’ racial views: “Senator Newlands’ views on race are a matter of public record and have been well-documented over the years. And while today we, and most Americans, find those views repugnant, they were widely-held both in our area and throughout the nation during Senator Newlands’ lifetime.” They went on to contest some of the assertions in Thompson’s draft resolution. They denied the inclusion of racial and religious covenants in deeds associated with the Chevy Chase Land Company. They denied that evidence existed for the assertion that Newlands’ vision for Chevy Chase was perpetual racial segregation. They challenged the assertion that Rock Creek Park had been inspired in part by segregationist aims. They aver to Rowley’s biography of Newlands, which avers a mix of Progressive and segregationist and anti-immigration positions he held. Their penultimate paragraph summarizes their position: “None of the foregoing comments contradicts the fact that Senator Newlands was a man whose beliefs about race we find abhorrent today. These comments do, however, correct certain factual errors in your Resolution and place Newlands in the context of his time. The overall tone of the Resolution presents Senator Newlands in only one dimension, and it overlooks his many achievements, as well as the large company of elected officials, business leaders, and civic elites who shared his racist views in the Progressive era.”
Reacting to the lively listserv discussion between Gary Thompson’s original draft and the ANC meeting of December 8, he introduced a revised resolution, which provided in its recitations several examples of Newlands’ poignant white supremacist statements and eliminating references to racial covenants, resolving to support removal of Newlands’ name from the fountain and appealing to D.C. Council to support the ANC resolution and add one of its own and send both to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office for implementation. A brief discussion ensued, in which several views were expressed and after which the matter was indefinitely deferred on a 4:2 vote.
The next day, Edward Sisson sent around a reaction to the 8 December proceedings to ANC members and board members of Historic Chevy Chase DC. He was especially concerned with taking issue with the “man of his time” defense of Newlands. “When [Newlands] was born, and throughout his development of Chevy Chase, and then when he was elected to the House, and then to the Senate, and then when he was a close advisor of governor Wilson in 1912, and then nominee Wilson, President-elect Wilson, and President Wilson, the legal principle in America was that race is irrelevant to the right to vote. The principle was often undermined by stratagems such as the poll tax, literacy tests, etc., but the principle was colorblindness in the vote. That was the “default setting” on voting as regards race…Newlands tried to change that “default setting” of “his time” back to the “default setting” of an earlier time. Newlands’ position was so “NOT of his time” that he did not even get the Democratic Party of 1912 (the party was very racist in those days) to go along with him. Newlands’ “white plank” did not go into the Democratic Party platform. Newlands’ position on race was not a “man of his time” position, it was a new and extreme minority position.”
Sisson’s other point in his reaction e-mail message “is the location of the current memorial at a gateway to the capital city…My undergraduate degree is in architecture from MIT, a field to which urban planning is quite close. If a planner were to look at the city from a large-scale overview, it would immediately clear that each major entry-point to the capital city is an important symbolic location, and the symbol chosen at each entrance says something about the people in the city and about the people whose national capital is that city.”
Some weeks later, on January 23, 2015, some of Newlands’ descendants contributed to the debate in the form of a letter addressed to the ANC commissioners. (Sandia Johnston, 2015) The main argumentative thrust of the two-page document is that Newlands was honored in 1938 for a variety of accomplishments, many in keeping with positions of the Progressive movement that are still widely taken for granted today. While acknowledging racist commentary made by their ancestor, the broader picture included many praiseworthy elements that still deserve recognition. These include: Newlands’ role as primary author of the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, support for women’s suffrage, advocacy for labor unions, and of course, the visionary development of Chevy Chase. The argument is summed up with: “as with any historical figure, it is important to fully understand his story and place him within the context of his time.” When a Washington Post writer asked for a reaction to the ANC initiative from the Chevy Chase Land Company, the vehicle Newlands created to develop the eponymous residential neighborhood north and south of Western Avenue, it declined to comment. (Turque, 2015)
A Local Debate in Two Phases (as of July 2015)
The Newlands Fountain debate was largely carried out on the Chevy Chase DC listserv, although several articles also reflected it in the local press. (Klibanoff, 2015) (Turque, 2015) (Sherwood, 2015) Several dozen posts involving at least two dozen individual participants appeared between Gary Thompson’s post of 30 November 2014 and mid-February 2015. Then, the topic disappeared from the listserv until a new wave of posts were made in July 2015. Almost all participants in the summer wave had weighed in during the winter wave.
At least three discussions of the initiative to change the name of Newlands Chevy Chase Fountain were organized in Chevy Chase-DC: at the ANC meeting; at the December meeting of the Chevy Chase Citizens Association, and at the regular board meeting of Historic Chevy Chase DC in December. On December 8, the HCCDC board voted to support a name change to “the Chevy Chase Fountain,” while the CCCA and ANC did not take action. CCCA’s board members were divided on the renaming issue and decided not to take a CCCA position. The ANC deferred discussion indefinitely, giving as the reason the desirability of gathering information and community input. Another community organization, Friends of Chevy Chase Circle (FoCCC), decided to stay out of the debate altogether. (Kraut, 2015) An advocate advanced a proposal to revert to “Chevy Chase Fountain” in the HCCDC, CCCA, and the ANC. Opinion was divided in each.
Why should this issue have attracted as much attention as it did at this moment? What accounts for its re-emergence six months after a first round of debate? Several factors come to mind:
- Regarding the first wave,
- The Obama presidency and reemergence of racial incidents
- Changing demographics in DC (all-minority profile from first time since 1960s)
- Regarding the second wave,
- Racially charged policing incidents peak
- Charleston SC AME Church massacre and subsequent Confederate Flag debate
- Broadcast and print media covered the discussion that started about renaming schools tied to the Confederacy in at least one school district in northern Virginia
The first wave: December 2014-February 2015
The Chevy Chase Listserv debate drew early responses from both Chevy Chase DC and Chevy Chase Maryland.
The awareness-raising character of the fountain debate is reflected in listserv posts that expressed surprise that it had a name other than the one in common use—“Chevy Chase fountain.” “…there is no need for the fountain to have a “name” other than Chevy Chase Fountain. Never knew it had one.” Another respondent agreed and suggested archiving the Newlands plaque: “Let’s just keep the name most–if not all–of us use: “Chevy Chase Circle Fountain.” Just remove the plaque and all will be forgotten. Place it somewhere in the CC Library as a historic, teachable-moment relic. We really do not need another place in Washington named after a general. A nice generic name works perfectly.”
One listserv contributor queried the motivation for the renaming initiative: “Why has renaming the fountain after a non-racist, or someone presumed to have been a non-racist, arisen? To appease the general conscience, especially in light of the police brutality we’ve been witnessing? To give the illusion of equality, inclusiveness, or progress? Or for some other reason(s)?”
One answer to this question was given by a Chevy Chase DC neighbor living on Morrison Street and involves the challenge of new awareness about Newlands: “whatever the situation before the renaming was brought up, our community’s new awareness demands that we make a determination of some kind. What kind of response do we want to give? There are longtime members of our Chevy Chase community who will feel less welcome, less a real part of the community, if, now that we know who we are honoring, we decide that we’re okay with simply leaving the fountain and plaque as it is. There are people who are potential future members of our community, people who would add to the warmth and richness of our neighborhoods, who will see this opportunity, if we don’t take it, as a signal that they will never be a real, accepted part of Chevy Chase. The name on that fountain is not simply a memorial of a time in Chevy Chase’s history. As mentioned, the current make-up of our neighborhoods is a direct result of the very intentional and racist development of Chevy Chase, led by the man for whom the fountain is named. That racism still shapes us today. To undo these wrongs takes intentional and explicitly anti-racist actions. Our neighbors, not “them,” not “others,” not “overly sensitive people,” are hurt when we choose not to address racism. It’s not their responsibility to make an outcry, it’s our responsibility, as people who are privileged to get to choose, to choose to do the right thing.”
Some listserv respondents reflected decades of living in Chevy Chase DC and embraced the importance of fostering an awareness of community history: “I’ve appreciated reading the posts about renaming the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle. They made me reflect on the people who have made a real difference in in the lives of many in our city, some of whom we’ve been privileged to know over the almost 50 years we’ve lived here. I think we should consider Hilda and Charles Mason who lived long lives of service to Washington. An interracial couple who married in mid-life–Hilda was an activist, first a teacher, then elected to the school board, and then served several terms on the city council. Charles earned his law degree after a career in teaching and in government service. He and Hilda supported the UDC School of Law and Charles was instrumental in its accreditation. They were both involved in activities supporting children in need and donated substantial amounts of money for college scholarships. It’s fascinating to read about their incredibly productive lives and I would recommend doing a search online for even more information. I hope this effort to rename the fountain is successful. We have much to be proud of in our community and we have an obligation to young people and those new to our neighborhoods to pass on our history.”
In a similar vein, another respondent wrote: “Doing something about the Fountain name seems like a small, but necessary effort if we think of our community as one that welcomes people of all origins. Sure, most of us may never use the old (or new) name for the “Chevy Chase Circle Fountain”, and, perhaps, some in the community are not bothered by the racist history of the person honored on the plaque, but that is not a reason to disregard the concerns of community members and visitors that find it offensive. It is also not a reason to let a repugnant symbol of a shameful part of our nation’s history stand unanswered. Let’s rename the fountain in celebration of one of the other CC historical figures that truly captures the open, accepting, and neighborly spirit of our community today, and find a place for the Francis G. Newlands plaque in the CC Library or CC Community Center where it can be shown as a historical piece alongside a sign recognizing the very different perspectives held by today’s CC residents with respect to diversity and inclusion. Or keep the plaque where it is and add supplemental community statement next to it, so people can get the full historical perspective. This is not political correctness, nor is it an attempt to erase or rewrite history. It is civil decency.”
Some posts emphasized an alleged relative absence of African Americans in Chevy Chase DC: “Since most African Americans and other persons of color can’t afford to buy and maintain properties in Chevy Chase, they remain barred. “This land is your land” applies only to the rich. During my daily walks through the parts of Chevy Chase in which I live and shop, the only African Americans and Hispanics I see are servants.”
But at least one African American neighbor weighed in to challenge the assumption that people of color were not present as residents in Chevy Chase DC. “I live on the DC side [of Chevy Chase] and there are many African American families who own homes and live here. I live on a corner and going down one block there are four African American families, including mine, and going down the other block, there are two (this time not including mine, don’t want to double count). My neighbors and I are always out and about walking throughout our neighborhood, I believe that we are highly visible members of this community. When anyone sees one of us walking our dogs or pushing a baby stroller or shopping at Safeway or eating at Blue 44 or picking up dry cleaning or enjoying the trick-or-treating on Halloween or working on our lawns or shoveling our snow, please don’t assume that we are the help.”
A large minority of listserv posts took issue with renaming local landmarks, most of them objecting to the principle of renaming. Here is one such, which also offered insights about the racial and ethnic composition of Chevy Chase DC: “we can’t change history because we don’t like it. That smacks of Communism. Whether it’s good or bad, it has hopefully made us better for it and should be there to prevent us from repeating it. I don’t know what the original deed on my home said, but I do know that the deed on my uncle’s house on 31st, both built in 1934, had some strange covenants. My uncle grew up on a farm in southern Maryland and worked in the tobacco fields, side by side, with black men. They also sat at the dinner table together in my great-grandmother’s dining room, every workday. He was the kindest man you could ever meet. Contrary to what has been said, there are a lot of Asian, Black and foreign families in this neighborhood, who have lived here for more than 60 years. I have lived in the same house for 70 years and my parents moved here 80 years ago. I grew up next door to a Jewish family, who moved there in about 1949.”
A much smaller minority defended Newlands: “This seems to be pushed through post haste without advance notification to all residents in Chevy Chase. I, for one, am not in favor of the renaming because this means we will have to consider renaming many of our statues, signage, and others across the city for their racist, bigoted, prejudicial stances. This also means we’ll have to discredit President George Washington for his past as a slave owner. Mr. Thompson’s proposal is noble per se, yet in fact sets a bad precedent. Senator Newlands should neither be shunned nor decried for his racist beliefs. He wasn’t the only one in the previous generation who advocated segregation as that was the norm back then. It was not illegal, just the way of life. He should be respected for developing Chevy Chase and shouldn’t be discredited posthumously and shouldn’t be compared to the Nazis. Unfortunately, segregation was part of American history. There are behaviors of today that seem very discriminatory, which in turn, leads us to state boldly that we should allow our children and their children in the next generation to consider taking down plaques and statues of those people who perpetuate such beliefs today.”
The listserv discussion evolved, eliciting ripostes such as this one made during the second week of lively contributions, focusing on impact of new knowledge: “Many seem to be missing the point of the renaming opportunity, including people I’ve talked to who are not privy to the listserv messages. Some are in the “does it matter what the fountain is named, as no one even knows its name” camp. That might have been true before we all learned the history, and the renaming attempt made the Post…As of now, if we fail to take advantage of an opportunity to repudiate the racist development history of Chevy Chase, we will be making a strong statement about our own apathy that will reflect badly on our community. Imagine a European town that votes on a ballot to rename their fountain named after a prominent Nazi and then the renaming ballot fails to pass. Would anyone feel good about visiting that town? …For African-Americans prevented from building wealth by real estate covenants from 1860 to 1950, the impact of a racist developer cordoning off parts of DC is hard to overstate…We need to seize this opportunity to actively repudiate the part of Chevy Chase history we do not want to own.”
The charge of hypocrisy stalked some commentary. “If we want to make a difference about Chevy Chase’s future, ignoring the straw issue of the fountain name, we may have the ability among us to make that change. If Francis Newlands is really on our mind, then we should do something that changes the future rather than erasing the past.”
Elements of irony, sarcasm and humor ran through the listserv commentary. Several contributions embellished these tones with an articulated program. “I agree with those who propose to call the fountain what it is, i.e. “The Chevy Chase Fountain”. To me this is a no brainer. However, if the fountain must have a name, I propose a contest: The names of those who can successfully cross the circle on foot, during rush hour, touch the fountain and return safely, be etched onto a bronze bell. This bell is to be sounded every rush hour (morning and night) when new contestants may try their skill and bravery to have their name placed on the Chevy Chase Fountain Bell.”
Some appealed for further enlightenment. “I would love to know how to search Census data about the demographics of the Chevy Chase DC and Chevy Chase Maryland neighborhoods. I have no idea how to do that, or if it is an easy task, but I am sure it would be an interesting exercise. I have lived in this little corner of DC for over 50 years. My family purchased the home in which I live as a newly built structure in 1950. Although I agree that this small, somewhat affluent neighborhood, on both sides of the ‘line’, is still predominately white, I have been encouraged, personally, by the increase in diversity of residents here in the past years. Not an overwhelming rate of change, I am sure, but there nonetheless. But this observation, too, is subjective. Is there a way to find some objective, fact-based statistics on the demographics of Chevy Chase DC and MD?” In fact, Historic Chevy Chase DC had a project underway since the summer of 2013 to produce a community profile, the first chapter of which deals with demographics.
Second Wave July 2015
If Gary Thompson’s action-forcing draft resolution in December 2014 triggered the first round of listserv postings, then the June 2015 massacre of nine attendees of a Bible-study session at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white supremacist and the immediate and successful mobilization to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state house led to renewed postings in July 2015.
Thompson himself reintroduced his renaming proposal with further substantiation on July 10, the day the Confederate flag was moved. “Are we still ok with the Francis Newlands monument at Chevy Chase Circle? Our own neighborhood issue drew quite a bit of press last fall, nationally on NPR & elsewhere. People wondered if changing a monument like this to a white supremacist might call into question the permanence of other historic monuments and symbols? Perhaps we were a bit ahead of the curve in asking the question. Now the Confederate Flag is fading fast (good riddance) and other monuments to the historic leaders of our country’s racist past are up for reconsideration, from Rebel statues to the windows in the National Cathedral. It is a healthy re-examination. As for old Francis Newlands, recall that a major focus of his career was to advance the cause of white supremacy, with increasing fervor in the later years of his life. He sought to eliminate or restrict as much as possible the vote, education, and job opportunities for African-Americans. Here in DC, as a member of the Senate Committee on the District, he pushed for segregated and unequal education for African-Americans, restricted to vocational training for menial jobs. He wrote and spoke about African-Americans as an “inferior” race of “children” requiring “control.” His “white plank” in 1912 was part of a successful political movement that set back Civil Rights for many more decades. The “negro problem,” as he put it, “was the most important questioning confronting the nation.” Even his chief biographer, who was somewhat of an apologist for Newlands, laid it bare in an article called “Francis G. Newlands: A Westerner’s Search for a Progressive and White America” (available at http://nsla.nevadaculture.org/statepubs/epubs/210777-1974-2Summer.pdf). Thank goodness that post-Reconstruction chapter is behind us…So while we read about flags and monuments elsewhere, do we want this monument in our own backyard? On the one hand, it hardly matters in that the Circle is an abandoned place, with broken benches, glass and trash, and a now inoperable fountain (arguably the worst circle in DC). It is hard to care about a couple of old honorific plaques to a long-dead Senator whose once outspoken words are long forgotten. On the other hand, as originally proposed, it might give the old Circle a little re-start by re-dedicating the fountain to someone else that makes us inspired, and from that symbolic re-start, maybe someone might also actually improve the circle in tangible ways…For better or worse, Newlands is a part of the history of Chevy Chase, DC, and America. I have always distinguished that from the separate issue of whether we (or anyone else) would want to put up an honorific monument to the man. I can read a biography about Jefferson Davis but do I want a monument to him? Two different things. In 1935, I guess the answer for Chevy Chase was yes, we do want to salute Newlands. In 2015, maybe we have a different answer. Other examples – deciding it is time to have a woman on some of our currency (I think Susan B Anthony over Andrew Jackson); removing a saint-like depiction of Robert E Lee from a church window; renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge for someone like John Lewis. These are all fair questions for re-examination, each perhaps with a different answer. The only question for our neighborhood is whether we still want to honor Newlands in our own circle. The most persuasive reason I have heard against taking any action is that who really cares because nobody goes out there anyway. It is not like seeing a flag fluttering in the breeze. But on the merits, what if it were the Frederick Douglas fountain? That would be better, and maybe attract some attention to fixing up the circle. (The funniest idea I heard is to name it after the comedian Chevy Chase, then we could call it the “Chevy Chase” fountain, which we already call it anyway; we could set up a screen in the circle and have a Chevy Chase movie festival)…In terms of process, last December the ANC voted 4-2 to table the motion to rename the fountain for someone other than Newlands. At the time, this procedural vote came with a promise from the ANC to consider this issue in early 2015 and bring it to a vote. The practical question remains whether our ANC can even get the monument re-named, but there is only one way to find out – tip the first domino and see what can be done (next steps: DC Council Resolution, name change on the national registry, request to NPS to physically remove the plaques).”
One commentator thought that Chevy Chase Fountain was too small a matter to bother with: “If it really makes folks feel better to change the name of every public building/place named after someone whose views/actions are highly objectionable to our 21st-century sensibilities … why start with a fountain named after someone few people in our neighborhood have ever heard of – a fountain, in fact, that only a tiny percentage of people in our neighborhood even knew *had* a name?…Go big, folks…our city itself is named after a slaveholder. Let’s change that too…But in any case: is any name change really the best use of our energies if we want to demonstrate to the world (or to the city, at least) that we as a community are welcoming to all?”
The defining exchange was made immediately after the Confederate flag denouement in Charleston. “Newlands was not simply a product of his time. He and a few others (J.C. Nichols springs to mind) designed segregationist policy that spread across the country and created untold harm to generations of African-Americans, and also undermined the social fabric of the entire country…Upward mobility for both white and black populations is substantially impaired in places that are more segregated…A proposal to tear down monuments to MLK, rename our city, or dynamite Mt Rushmore is not a valid method of debate in this setting. The method works equally well against the idea that appeals to “history” should preserve any already named monument: I’m sure we can all think of monuments erected before 1945 that we would want to remove or rename if we noticed them in our neighborhood, so that we do not memorialize past actions (by e.g. Hitler or Stalin) that we now find despicable. If a form of argument works equally for and against, it is not a valid form of argument…Perhaps the politically expedient first step is to have the fountain be dedicated simply as Chevy Chase Fountain, but I agree with others who think a more intentional re-dedication should repudiate the neighborhood’s racist beginnings…To call the very reasonable requests to engage in dialog (about whether we should memorialize this kind of damaging accomplishment) a form of political correctness, and to further characterize a request for dialog as “tyranny” is morally objectionable. Engaging in debate is not tyranny; telling other people not to dispassionately discuss an issue (because you might find yourself on the losing side of the debate) on the other hand *is* a form of tyranny…A telling account from Georgia: there is an equally emotional reaction from others, particularly far right groups, who complain that the removal of such statues and renaming of various public buildings represents nothing more than political correctness gone overboard. Efforts to remove such monuments are typically met with strong resistance. And their campaigns often take years before there is any movement. In fact, Michael Hill, the head of the League of the South, a secessionist organization based in Kilen, Alabama, said it was a move by the state of Georgia showing that it was “caving in to political correctness.””
The response: “This is very well written and well-reasoned, but I think it fails to make the distinction between something that would regularly offend those who were harmed (Hitler, the Confederate flag) and someone who’s barely known and, at least prior to this debate. I doubt the statue offends any large number of people who see it and who are therefore brought to a recollection of some action against them or their ancestors.”
The riposte: “I agree that a fountain named for a relatively unknown senator and a Confederate flag flying in the circle are 2 different orders of magnitude, but the fact that virtually no one knows the backstory of the circle does not change the moral imperative to change its name, it only lowers the cost of taking action: if few know the current name, all the easier to change it…In the last round of this debate you said that proponents of change are guilty of “presentism” (judging past people and actions by today’s standards)–and I am wondering if you would make the same argument about a Confederate flag flying in the circle, or a statue of a Nazi. I think we have no choice but to judge past people and actions by today’s standards, at least in part, and especially so when we decide who to memorialize, since that choice is how we convey to future generations what we think worthy in our own past. I think political correctness is far less in play than implicit racism.”
Returning to the issue of what, if anything, the community should do, this practical suggestion for change with remembrance – in effect, the chronicling of a Rousseauesque “politics is education” moment—was advanced. It is a fitting place to bring this account to a close. “Concerns that removal of the plaque would erase history could be assuaged by renaming the circle, and hanging an explanatory plaque, such as one sees along old roadways, reminding readers whom the circle previously commemorated, what his deeds were, and why the community ultimately decided that a new name would be more fitting to our aspirations as a community. At present, most people confronting the name on the circle are at a loss to know the history, commendable or reprehensible, that Mr. Newlands represents.“
*The HCCDC board adopted a resolution on 8 December 2014 to support ANC Commissioner Gary Thompson’s motion to change the name of Newlands Fountain to Chevy Chase Fountain, but this article, authored by a board member, is neutral on that issue.
Angela Lancaster, M. S. (2014, December 4). Retrieved from Chevy Chase Maryland Historical Society: http://chevychasehistory.org/sites/default/files/Letter_to_Thompson_rename_fountain_12-5-2014_.pdf
Chevy Chase Historical Society Newsletter–Newlands Fountain Receives Historic Designation.(2007, spring). Retrieved from http://www.chevychasehistory.org/sites/default/files/2007_gala_spread.pdf
Klibanoff, E. (2015, January 2). A battle to wash away a fountain’s controversial namesake.Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/02/374621746/a-battle-to-wash-away-a-fountains-controversial-namesake
Kraut, A. (2015, July 24). Chevy Chase Circle Fountain Up and Running but Supporters want more Improvements. Retrieved from Bethesda Magazine: http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2015/Chevy-Chase-Circle-Fountain-Up-and-Running-But-Supporters-Want-More-Improvements/
National Park Service. (2015, July 26). Chevy Chase Circle-Rock Creek Park. Retrieved from National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/cultural_landscapes/snp/600261.html
Sandia Johnston, e. a. (2015, January 23). Letter from family of Newlands. Retrieved from Washington Post: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/letter-from-family-of-newlands/1416/
Sherwood, T. (2015, March 18). What’s in a name…? The Northwest Current, p. 8.
Sisson, E. H. (2009, March 20). The Chevy Chase Club: Real Estate and Racism. Retrieved from NewGeography: http://www.newgeography.com/content/00660-the-chevy-chase-club-real-estate-and-racism
Turque, B. (2015, February 17). Senator’s Descendants urge no Change in name of Chevy Chase fountain. Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/senators-descendants-urge-no-change-in-name-of-chevy-chase-fountain/2015/02/17/f5da4a46-b6c0-11e4-a200-c008a01a6692_story.html