A Centennial ‘Glocal’ History, 1919-2019
By Carl Lankowski
This house history is about one bungalow in Washington DC, property square No. 1996. But it also addresses the questions of where the bungalow came from as an architectural style, why the structure was built where and when it was, and how the structures in Chevy Chase DC relate to the rest of the city. Finally, it is about how the neighborhood developed, who lived in the house, the block, the community, what their interests and concerns were and how these interests evolved over the course of a century.
Developers and development
African American displacement
3506 McKinley Street in a segregated neighborhood
Epilogue and acknowledgements
The intellectual journey defined by the question “what is the history of my house?” rapidly subdivides into numerous paths involving topics, timelines, and disciplines. At one level, the quest is about the type of building on the lot. “Bungalow” is an elastic term, but the structure erected at 3506 McKinley Street in 1919 is incontestably of the genre. How did this kind of building come into its own? Who was designing bungalows and when? At another level, the issue is why the structure was built where and when it was. It is about the development, the neighborhood, and this genre of structure in it. This involves spatial planning by decision-makers at a level removed from individual purchasers of privately-owned accommodation. At this point, the question is about the regional specificity of the neighborhood, how it relates to the rest of the city. What sort of role did the status of DC play as the nation’s capital and the capital of a rising global power? And then there is the question of how the neighborhood actually developed. Starting from 3506 McKinley, who lived in the house, the block, the neighborhood? What were their interests and concerns, and how did these interests and concerns evolve over the course of a century? How typical were the inhabitants of 3506 in these respects?
The history of a house is a lens through which we can study our city and our time. The house at 3506 McKinley opens a window into the conversion of farmland to urban suburb, from mixed to all-white neighborhood, to a middle class enclave evolving slowly as the country moved though the civil rights era. The bungalow on that site came into being at a remarkable moment. In 1919, as the permit was issued to build the house, the triumphant Woodrow Wilson was in Paris orchestrating the peace following the Great War, presaging America’s rise to global power and the attention that would bring to the District of Columbia as the seat of that power. Astronomers and physicists were substantiating Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity by making observations of stars during a solar eclipse. Architectural and design modernity leapt forward with the founding of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. Closer to home the lethal local effects of the global “Spanish flu” epidemic left over 2,000 fatalities in DC alone. Overall, more American soldiers died from the flu than fell in combat in World War I. And a nervous America sought psychic relief from its first taste of global engagement: opinion turned against immigration; a red scare panicked the nation; the vise of Jim Crow tightened and pogrom-like violence was directed at African-American neighborhoods in the nation’s capital.
Opening the aperture of historical retrospection further, the era in which the house at 3506 McKinley Street NW came into being bears comparison with present-day preoccupations in 2019. The McKinley Street bungalow is already an architectural expression of America’s encounter with the world during a period of globalization. The bungalow style first bloomed during a period of optimism about the application of science and technology in perfecting social arrangements and the deployment of state agencies to achieve that aim. But as the bungalow boom continued, the mood was transformed, giving way to pessimism in the wake of the industrialized carnage of war. The bungalow on McKinley Street is part of the Chevy Chase subdivision and should be viewed in light of the utopian aspirations of the developer during the Progressive era. It was a community by design selectively connected to a broader space. It was conceived and implemented during a period of unprecedented reshaping of the population through immigration from abroad as well as internal migration. In that context, it was an expression of “a nation by design” (Zolberg 2008). From this point of view, the question of belonging is unavoidable. Who was Chevy Chase for? Who was it meant to exclude? (O’Niell 2019)
The questions raised in the opening paragraph are addressed in four sections below. This house history opens by focusing on the physical structure. In the first section, we will find that the house at 3506 McKinley Street is an adaptation of the bungalow, a building type developed over centuries in British India that captured the imagination of an entirely new class of home-buyers in Britain and America from ca. 1900 to 1930. The house at 3506 McKinley Street is part of a development conceived and executed by Francis Newlands and his associates. In the second section Newlands’s vision and plan are described, a key feature of which was its social definition as a white enclave. There follows in the third section a discussion of the African American population that was subject to removal in conformity with the intention of the developer. In the final section, the issue of enforcement of the color line in the neighborhood is taken up. Here, we return to 3506 McKinley Street. Its longest inhabitant presided for a time over the Citizens Association of Chevy Chase, a central mechanism of racial segregation, even as that system was beginning to break down in the context of the emergent Cold War, a global contest between systems that highlighted the hypocrisy of racial injustice and undermined the legitimacy of the claim made for the District of Columbia to be the capital of the free world.
Maps and landowning records suggest that the house which is the subject of this essay was the first structure to occupy its space, as suburban dwellings encroached on farmland.
The footprint today is virtually identical to the design permitted by the District of Columbia Inspector of buildings and executed in May 1919 and the months following. The plan conforms almost exactly to The Chevy Chase model exhibited over two pages of “Homes of Character,” the 1920 catalogue of Lewis Manufacturing Company, Bay City, Michigan. It is a two-story structure whose main level comprises a living room (25X15) with stone chimney, dining room (16X13), kitchen and pantry, a full bath, two bedrooms and a sleeping porch, and two closets. Dining room, bath, and two bedrooms are connected by a hall, which also has a staircase to the upper floor. Under the roof are three additional bedrooms and a full bath, with a closet in each of the bedrooms. The sleeping porch sat atop a garage. The foundation is made from granite blocks, very likely from a local quarry.
Apart from the chimney and veranda supports, all other parts of the house are wood-frame. The exterior is covered with cedar shingles. Stairs lead from the main floor pantry to the cellar. Over the years, the cellar had been fitted out as a self-contained apartment with a bedroom, living-dining-kitchen area, and full bath with its own outside entrance via a common space for clothes-washing. Built into the hill gently sloping from front to back (north to south) and east to west, the gradient is such that five windows were installed in the lower (cellar) level. The street-facing aspect of the house is defined by a roofed (26X9) porch (veranda) supported by two stone columns.
Etymology and empire
The structure is instantly recognizable as an adaptation of “classical” bungalow design: low to the ground despite its two stories, rooms under the sweeping gabled roof with overhanging eaves, open plan, veranda. But where did the genre come from? Anthony King, professor emeritus of Art History and Sociology at the State University of New York-Binghamton, produced an answer encompassing 400 years of colonial history in a framework inspired by the world system theory introduced by his colleague at Binghamton, Immanuel Wallerstein.(Wallerstein 1974) In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a monopoly trade charter to London-based merchants as the East India Company. Their agents in Bengal became familiar with a local form of habitation, which over the centuries was adapted for European colonists. Derivation of the term begins with 17th-century references to bunguloues, by the early 19th-century banggolo, peasant huts made from bamboo with pitched roofs and sometimes with an extension to facilitate working outside under protection from rain and sun. Gradually for many decades and then in an accelerated fashion as the British state assumed direct governance, the basic design was expanded and set off in spacious cantonments separated from the cities to which they were nevertheless functionally attached. Hundreds of thousands of subjects from the British Isles made their careers and fortunes in the sub-continent under the Raj and experienced these living arrangements. Many stayed, but many returned, bringing with them notions that would find their way into architectural adaptations there. (King 1995)
In the United Kingdom, a large new and well-endowed middle class, the availability of land for development outside the urban core, and the yearning for life closer to nature formed the conditions within which a booming market for bungalows could develop.
The fabulous wealth generated in the 19th century by industrialization and associated urbanization supported by the British Empire gave rise to a new middle class increasingly eager to take time off from London, Lancaster, and other urban-industrial centers. Urbanization also meant the emptying of the countryside and the shrinkage of agricultural acreage as the terms of trade favored massive increases in the importation of food. The modern bungalow was born first as a vacation home, in the first instance at the sea-side (e.g., along the Kentish coast facing the English Channel) in the 1880s. Twenty years later, as transportation options improved (trains, cars), the vacation-home market expanded to include middle-class folk with lesser incomes, and their explosive growth ensued. But strict planning legislation established rural boards dominated by interests that contained the diffusion of bungalows in particular and home ownership in Britain more generally, in contrast to the suburbanization of America.
A global movement?
A similarly vertiginous industrialization cum urbanization was unfolding in America. The bungalow was as much about space and function as it was about a building type. Thanks to cheap and extensive land and the advent of the cheap passenger automobile, Los Angeles became the epicenter of bungalow development in the period 1900-1925 and leaped ahead of British usage as year-round accommodation. In its explosive growth, Los Angeles became the leading edge of a global counter-urbanization taking shape beyond the city limits.
Plentiful available space made for exponential suburban growth in Los Angeles. But the desire to be “of” but not “in” the city was the other crucial element not only in LA, but increasingly in every urban setting. In important ways, the bungalow symbolized a transformation in attitudes towards modernity in fin-de-siècle Europe and America. Back-to-nature, open-air movements swept across industrializing northern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, echoing the 18th-century romantic reaction to the Enlightenment represented by the organic polarity of Voltaire and Rousseau. Just over a century after their passing of these sages, industrial cities became the setting for a reaction against the conflation of economic growth with progress. Victorian propriety was perceived as stifling; the office-grind philistine. People were making money, but they wanted separation from their urban golden goose. Flight from the city was an emancipation not only from the human density, noise and pollution, but an avenue to a more authentic self. People wanted to be close to nature. A park-like environment with ample opportunity for gardening was an important feature of the evolving dream. And the form of their suburban refuge should be defined against typical urban structures. If urban housing economics emphasized the vertical in terraced housing estates, then the escape involved horizontal designs, close to the earth, featuring wood construction and a rustic interior to create the ambience of ‘roughing it.’ The sleeping porch was one indicative feature. Use of local materials for a large stone hearth was another.
American circumstances and traditions imparted a special flavor to the bungalow boom on this side of the Atlantic. The arts and crafts movement associated with John Ruskin and William Morris in Britain was taken up in America and exemplified by Gustav Stickley, who launched the publication of The Craftsman in 1901. The movement inspired the Chicago School around Frank Lloyd Wright as well, whose members rejected the neoclassical style dominating the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and were motivated to discover an authentic specifically American architectural expression. But that quest led down a rather different path; Wright’s prairie style, whose apogee came in the first decade of the 20th century, shared a penchant for horizontality ‘married to the earth’ of the bungalow, shared the overhanging eaves, and embraced building in a natural setting, but Wright houses preferred brick and concrete to wood, except in the interior, and often required steel support to achieve the natural effect.
3506 McKinley Street NW
The bungalow at 3506 McKinley Street offers a case-study in how developers, manufacturers, architects, real-estate agents and builders interacted to create a novel, eclectic built environment. Constructed in 1919, this structure is located on the outer perimeter of the Chevy Chase Land Company’s 1918 Chevy Chase Grove subdivision. It is among the first of several dozen bungalows in the neighborhood.
The bungalow at 3506 McKinley Street is just one of several different bungalow designs represented in Chevy Chase DC, most of them kit houses produced by Lewis Manufacturing Co., Aladdin, Gordon-Van Tine, or Sears Roebuck and Company. The kit house phenomenon belongs to a moment in time defined by surging demand for suburban housing by a new middle class, a new breed of land developers willing and able to put down modern infrastructure, new mass-marketing strategies, and extensive rail networks as well as improved roads for truck haulage. The mental landscape alluded to above was equally important. Bungalows were only one of a variety of architectural styles offered as kit houses. All of them aimed at aspiring new suburban freedom-seekers who desired to express their individual tastes. The response was a diverse palette of styles adapted by architects eager to satisfy the creative urges of their clientele.
The Lewis Manufacturing Company was in business from 1879 to 1973. George Lewis (1827-1897) was an entrepreneur who relocated from Orange County, New York, to Michigan in 1857, eventually settling in Bay City. He partnered with Albert Miller in 1879 to establish the forerunner of the Lewis Manufacturing Company. The company first produced kit houses for the Aladdin Company, incorporated by the Sovereign brothers in 1906, also in Bay City. Aladdin’s first catalogue was published in 1908. The mail-order behemoth, Sears Roebuck and Company, had already followed Aladdin into the market in 1908. Sears’ catalogue reached an astonishing one-fifth of American consumers at this time. Eager to enter the burgeoning market, Lewis Manufacturing Company began selling kit houses under its own name in 1913. The Gordon-Van Tine Company, established as a subsidiary of the UN Roberts millwork company in 1907, launched its kit catalogue in 1916. Gordon-Van Tine also supplied Montgomery Ward with its Wardway line during the 1920s. Most kit houses were sold between 1910 and 1930 and the companies mentioned struggled to continue this line of business thereafter.
The 1920 Lewis Manufacturing Company catalogue offers 96 different designs, from various styles of colonial revivals, bungalows (including the Chevy Chase model) and semi-bungalows, to chalets and variants of 4-squares. It opens with this text:
Everyone recognizes that a man’s home is almost a part of himself, as vital to his spirit as his heart is to his body.
When a man builds a home he feels that his chance has come to transform this significant part of his environment into a real and satisfying expression of his personality.
And the best modern home building keeps this individual ideal honestly in mind. Less for ostentation and more for comfort; less for the passerby or occasional visitor and more for family life; less for purse pride and more for real artistic effect and community attractiveness.
The ugly facades of costly stone and the distracting ornament and jig saw decoration of the houses of the last generation are gone. In their place are come an appreciation of the true beauty of homes of our own colonial period, of the artistic worth of wood as a building material. We know now that simplicity with good lines is more to be prized than ornament without them.
Nowadays we consider the site upon which the home is to stand, recognizing that a perfect setting is an intrinsic part of the charm of a beautiful home…
As we shall see, diversity of styles was a constitutive feature of Chevy Chase—not only from house to house, but in the appropriation of style elements from different architectural traditions combined in individual structures. Bungalows built in Chevy Chase were on the whole less marked by stylistic admixtures. The main departure from the classic form was surely the addition of a second story. That departure can be seen as a concession to evolving conceptions of space requirements for middle class families in the new suburban setting in which land was relatively expensive and lots correspondingly small.
Contemporary DC metropolitan Realtors Catarina Bannier and Marcie Sandalow have undertaken an extensive survey of kit houses, including bungalows, in DC and environs, revealing many dozens of examples, indicating surprisingly broad local market penetration. (Bannier and Sandalow 2017)
The dimensions of the lot for 3506 McKinley are average for properties outside the original showcase core of Chevy Chase on Connecticut Avenue just north of Chevy Chase Circle across the District line in Maryland. 3506 McKinley measures 130 feet from sidewalk to the alley; 65 feet from side to side, for a total area of 8,450 ft². At 1,900 ft², the house footprint comprises 23% of the lot’s area. On this block of McKinley houses were set back from the street, 25-30 feet as a rule. In the case of 3506, 36 feet from the curb and 26 feet from the sidewalk. They were nevertheless built in close proximity, generally 20 feet. One distinguishing feature of 3506 McKinley is its eastern side garden, incorporating a generous slice presumably of what originally had been the adjacent lot. The view afforded by this adjustment provides visual delight the year round and the overall effect is a structure well proportioned to the landscape with ample space for gardens on three sides, though with less space on the fourth (western) side.
The bungalow at 3506 envelopes a surprising amount of interior floor space, spread over three levels. An appraisal in 2009 calculated 2312 ft² of living space above grade, apportioned into nine rooms. The basement apartment adds another circa 900 ft² and the garage 450 for circa 3,950 ft² overall.
Architects were required for the construction boom before and after the First World War. They were needed to develop the prototypes that might then be mass-produced by kit companies and again to accommodate the whimsy of clients with a taste for eclectic designs. The architectural firm Speiden & Speiden are listed as the architect in the permitting documents for the several “Chevy Chase” models erected in the neighborhood. The fact that in at least one instance the designation of architect is shared between Lewis Mfg. Co and Speiden & Speiden encourages the speculation that kit house manufacturers adopted designs developed by local architects, which would then show up in their subsequent catalogues. That seems likely in the case of “The Chevy Chase.”
Speiden & Speiden was a partnership of brothers William and Albert, which had its offices at 705 G Street NW. William died in 1914 at age 50, but Albert continued to practice until his death in 1933. By 1901 he had moved to Manassas, Virginia, and became a commuter to his downtown offices via the Southern Railway. (Speiden 2019) The idea of a trolley-car suburb would have been entirely familiar to him. The firm designed more than 2,000 houses, municipal buildings, churches and other structures. That Albert developed an Arts & Crafts sensibility is clear from his decision to build his family home in Manassas (1905) in that style. Speiden & Speiden is well represented in Chevy Chase DC. Within five blocks of 3506 McKinley, several near replicas that were built in 1918 and 1919 are cited in the permits as Speiden & Speiden creations. The firm is listed as architect for a further five bungalows built in 1919 on Chevy Chase Parkway, as well as a 4-Square two blocks away on Nevada Avenue. On the south side of our block of McKinley, Speiden is listed for houses built in 1913 (4-Square), 1919 (the author’s), and 1922 (bungalow). On the north side of the block, the firm is listed for houses built in 1925 (eclectic). Looking beyond our block to the east, Speiden has two houses in the 3000 block, both built in 1926. Looking west towards Connecticut Avenue, he has a 4-Square at 3607 built in 1919 and the magnificent 4-Square at 3770 McKinley built in 1918, today the closest house to Connecticut Avenue on McKinley Street and part of Chevy Chase Land Company’s first subdivision in DC in started in 1907.
The builder and initial owner of 3506 was James Gordon, who gave his work address as the Colorado office building (1341 G Street NW, two blocks east of the White House). He may have been a real-estate broker who saw an opportunity to make a profit by ordering and building several properties in the neighborhood. Gordon became a member of the Citizens Association of Chevy Chase in November, 1930.
3506 McKinley has had eight owners in its first 100 years. There were four owners in the 1920s: a contractor for the US Government Printing Office, two officers of the US Army Air Corps and their families, and from 1928 to 1991, a lawyer and his family. Minimal alteration of the structure was undertaken over this period.
The first major renovation of the structure was undertaken by Harold Voorheis, who acquired the property from Helen Fowler in 1991. She had lived there since 1940. Voorheis was a real estate broker at that time, affiliated with Prudential, then later managed the Dupont Circle residential sales office for Shannon & Luchs Real Estate. Prior to his real estate career, he was a Vice-President with the Psychiatric Institutes of America (PIA), headquartered in Washington, DC, performing market feasibility studies to establish new program locations to treat drug/alcohol addictive disease all over the U.S.
Voorheis was in the market specifically for an Arts & Crafts home. This one offered a larger yard than many houses in the neighborhood and it offered possibilities for a rental apartment on the lower level.
By the time Voorheis acquired 3506 McKinley, the association, Historic Chevy Chase DC, had come into existence thanks to the work of neighbors Mary Rowse and Reena Racki. Voorheis signaled his interest in the neighborhood’s architecture when he became a member and later joined the organization’s board of directors.
Voorheis’s renovation was also a modernization. In addition to interior cosmetics such as floor sanding and painting, a rental apartment was created, central air conditioning was installed, a new kitchen and exterior deck were put in. The roof was replaced and the sleeping porch was opened and extended to become a solarium and family room.
Voorheis took a special interest in landscaping and transformed the parcel. He wanted the landscaping to flow with the style of the house and not overpower it. The street frontage was open, but wood fencing provided privacy from the street and alley, and two arbors admitted passage to the side yard. Hollies were planted along the eastern and southern perimeters for screening, and extended on the east with a row of arborvitae and the west with a row of Leyland cypress trees.
In 1997, Voorheis relocated to the southern California San Jacinto mountain range, where he developed his love for landscaping/gardening, created native plant gardens for many properties, and designed and installed the garden for the local museum. He went on to become the president of the Idyllwild Garden Club.
When the house was on the market in 1997, Helen Fowler, owner 1940-1991, came by for an open house, curious about what improvements had been made. It just so happened that the next owners, Jeffrey Landis and Julia Monk Landis, were there at that moment, creating a unique encounter among past, present, and future owners. On Sunday, May 4, 1997, Jeffrey Landis and Julia Monk Landis were a year into their house search, relocating from Capitol Hill. Julie writes that halfway up the walkway to the front door they said in unison, “I think this is it!”—a reaction similar to the one experienced by the present owners, the difference being that on October 31, 2009, it was the first house Carl Lankowski and Pam Hutchinson Lankowski visited.
Jeff and Julie were professional architects. Jeff worked for Coakley Williams Construction as the Head of the Design/Build sector. Julie was a partner at BBG-BBGM, an architectural and interior design firm that specializes in hospitality design. Writing from Hong Kong, Julie responded to my query about her familiarity with and love for craftsman style with this statement:
I believe that every architect of my generation loves Frank Lloyd Wright, arts and crafts and bungalow style. Our house has this flavor with the stone fireplace, moldings and floors. Then we added to it with the selection of the Stickley furniture, antiques, rugs, artwork and color palette. It’s a comfortable, welcoming, homey style, strictly not pretentious, yet sophisticated. We really loved the scale of the house: the height of the ceilings, the size of the rooms, the flow of the circulation and the placement of the house on the site. The house was the perfect size for us.–Julia Monk Landis
Jeff and Julie put their métiers to work in the redesign and renovation of the bathrooms on the main and upper floors. Julie designed both spaces and Jeff did most of the work, though Edward Thompson, ETC Woodworks, a sculptor from Sioux Falls, fabricated all the millwork for the bathrooms from Jeff’s shop drawings and sent it to Jeff for installation. Four Brothers LLC did the buildout for the downstairs bathroom. Hanging over the ample but light dining room table is a magnificent Tiffany-type light (most likely from Quoizel), which Julie had installed after finding it in Manhattan, the pièce de résistance that definitively confirms the dwelling’s arts and crafts ambience.
Developers and Development
Bungalows were part of the much broader spatial reorganization of metropolitan areas in the final quarter of the 19th century—semi-autonomous satellites connected by new forms of transportation to industrializing urban centers. They were a response to a proliferating middle class able to afford suburban accommodation and with work routines permitting separation between work and leisure. Anchoring the farmland that became the core of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the new capital were the Potomac River ports of Alexandria and Georgetown. L’Enfant’s federal city stopped at Boundary Street, today’s Florida Avenue. Seeds of suburban development were sown with a new rail line in the 1880s east of what was to become Rock Creek Park. Early developments beyond Boundary Street were LaDroit Park and Mount Pleasant. What set Chevy Chase apart was that it was built specifically for purpose, an idyll of a new way of living. Far from benefitting from transport infrastructure created by someone else, in the case of Chevy Chase, the trolley line was deliberately built for it. It was a planned community for the well-to-do, “a home suburb for the nation’s capital.” (Lampl and Williams 1998)
Washington DC has always been distinctive in having been created de novo as a national governmental center. Regarding economic structure, this implied a greater role for services and office work rather than manufacturing industry. National politics also accounts for the District’s historically unusual demographic profile: DC’s African-American population increased dramatically during the Civil War and produced a significant middle class by the turn of the century. A large middle class and racial politics are key factors in making sense of patterns of suburbanization in DC.
Development requires investors. No one exemplifies the close connection between political position and profitable investment in the nation’s capital more than Francis G. Newlands. The house at 3506 McKinley was part of a development launched in the late 1880s by Newlands, undertaken before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada (serving 1893-1903) and subsequently U.S. Senator from that state (1903-1917). Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Newlands moved while still a youth with his family to DC, attended Yale University for two years until the money ran out, and returned to DC where he graduated in law from Columbia College (later renamed George Washington University). Joining the wave of Americans drawn by opportunities in the west, Newlands decamped to San Francisco to practice law. In their novel, The Gilded Age (1873), authors Charles Dudley Warner and Mark Twain describe and excoriate the routine exploitation by insiders of privileged information in institutions of government to make or enhance their fortunes. Newlands married into wealth in 1874, becoming the husband of Clara Sharon, daughter of William Sharon, who made a fortune in Nevada’s Comstock silver mines. The elder Sharon had himself elected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada, serving a single, undistinguished term from 1875 to 1881, residing in San Francisco and spending just enough time in the nation’s capital to invest in DC property near Dupont Circle, the forerunner of later investments that resulted in the development of Chevy Chase. Clara died in childbirth in 1882. Her father died in 1885. Newlands became the trustee of the immense estate.
With the means to chart his own course, Newlands decided on a political career. Rowley’s remarkable biography (1996) provides a rounded picture of a man animated by a Progressive agenda whose signal achievement was helping to enact legislation to govern the use of natural resources, above all, water rights, at the national level. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada in 1892 and served five terms. He purchased Woodley House (now Maret School) and moved there in 1898 with his second wife, Edith McCallister, to be closer to Capitol Hill. In 1902 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he finished his career, dying in office in December, 1917. In Rowley’s judgment, despite his Progressive outlook, Newlands was ultimately unable to transform Nevada politics nor shake the impression of wealthy interloper, whose heart, mind, and interests lay elsewhere.
Racist ideology was a key element in the outlook of many Progressives, including Newlands. The American republic was envisioned as a whites-only enterprise. In this, Newlands’ politics combined national sectional preoccupations with immigration and race—western concerns about Japanese and Chinese immigration—and Filipino and Hispanic immigration in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War—with southern concerns about the emancipation of slaves and their formal incorporation into the body politic via the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Thanks to his wealth and investments in real estate, Newlands was in a position to influence the nation’s capital in accordance with these beliefs even prior to his election to Congress. His position on the U.S. Senate committee on the District of Columbia provided additional opportunities to do so.
Newlands’ essential business partner was U.S. senator from Nevada William Morris Stewart. For at least five years prior to his first election to Congress in 1892, Newlands had lobbied for legislation to organize the extension of the District’s street grid in accordance with his vision and enlisted Frederic Law Olmsted’s support for the project (Lampl and Williams 1998, 46-47). In parallel, working with the knowledge that the establishment of a federal park along Rock Creek would create an immense profit opportunity to its west, he founded the Chevy Chase Land Company and began, quietly, buying up large swathes of farmland along what was to become Connecticut Avenue in Washington County and extending two miles into Montgomery County across the DC/Maryland border. Newlands and his partners mobilized capital to extend the new electric trolley line beyond Washington City and up Connecticut Avenue, build a trestle bridge across Rock Creek, and have the Avenue graded. The first houses were built in Maryland north of Chevy Chase Circle starting in 1892. For several years, Newlands and his second wife, Edith McCallister and children lived in the grandest house on Chevy Chase Circle on the Maryland side between Western Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, residing there for several years after its completion in 1894. A second wave of development came in 1907, when the company started building houses just below Chevy Chase Circle in the District of Columbia. The lot on which the bungalow at 3506 McKinley Street was built shows up on Baist’s 1919 map as having been acquired sometime prior to that year by the Chevy Chase Land Company, on the outer ring of the Chevy Chase Grove 3 subdivision.
As a land baron in suburban Washington, Newlands was part of a nation-wide wave of “sub dividers” who worked both the supply and demand sides of the evolving market for housing. As with many others, his return on capital was, paradoxically, determined by imposing restrictions on how the land he was trying to sell could be used. Restrictions ran the risk of reducing the breadth of the market, thus reducing demand, but they also potentially allowed for premium pricing. The main purpose of restrictions in Chevy Chase was racial exclusion. But it was not the only one. Lampl and Williams’ (1998) careful study identifies three phases of development from the point of view of business logic. Newlands had in mind a core development featuring grand homes along a broad (Connecticut) avenue and the most modern infrastructure (the street car, sewerage and indoor plumbing, electricity and telephone service), an elite enclave. The earliest houses were all unique and stylistically eclectic. The look was established by defining minimum prices and setbacks from the streets and by denying any commercial use. The sole exception for commercial establishments were three blocks south of Chevy Chase Circle in DC on the west side of Connecticut Avenue. Newlands’ wealth allowed him to defer sales through the economic trough of the mid-1890s and other downturns. During this period control was exercised by inspection of the plans of buyers. Speculative development was to be ruled out. By 1916 a second phase begins that relaxes some restrictions that seem aimed at inviting settlement by middle-class home-buyers. A third phase begins after Newlands’ death (December 24, 1917) reflecting a concern by the CCLC to generate income. By the early 1920s properties are sold to sub-sub dividers willing to construct houses on speculative grounds, a practice Newlands had resisted. This phase was enabled by the diffusion of automobile ownership after 1908, which decoupled the suburb from dependence on the streetcar.
Race was a key restrictive criterion for Chevy Chase as a whole as well as for 3506 McKinley specifically. However, race was an elastic concept when Chevy Chase was being developed, and exclusion was selective. African-Americans were definitely to be excluded, but even among this population it was difficult to establish race in some cases. In many instances, developers resorted to identifying the desired residents instead of those to be excluded, and the term “Caucasians” was normally employed for that purpose. The restrictions were designed to keep out non-whites, but often enough Jewish people as well. Newlands’ exclusive Chevy Chase community straddled the DC/Maryland line. The first construction was in Maryland, perhaps because of the risk that DC courts would be less forgiving than Maryland ones in enforcing the racial exclusions. It seems likely that unsettled federal law led him to avoid explicit references to race on the Maryland side in the 1890s. It was not until Jim Crow arrangements hardened in the 1920s that the Chevy Chase Land Company began introducing racially exclusive covenants into the deeds for DC properties. (Folgerson 2005) Until then, exclusion was achieved by non-racial restrictions: the price of the lot and house to be built on it, set-backs from the street, and alley restrictions. As we shall see below, the desired results were achieved.
One compelling portrait of Newlands’ impressive performance as senator and businessman provides a succinct statement of his intentions for Chevy Chase in his own words: “establish a suburban town, connect it with Washington by a railroad line which will furnish quick transit and then let the improvement in value at both ends build up the immediate property.” (Lampl and Williams 1998, p.154 fn 1) But as the authors demonstrate, Newlands’s vision was much broader than that. In the U.S. Senate, Newlands took a keen interest in planning and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Senate Park Commission and its plan (McMillan Plan) for the District’s development. Inescapably, then, Senator Newlands’s vision for Chevy Chase was about how his home suburb for the nation’s capital fit into the city’s overall plan for development. In this, the central question was race politics. Chevy Chase was not created for an undifferentiated middle class. There was, from the turn of the century, in DC a burgeoning African American middle class, the first and for a time the largest in the nation. Chevy Chase was not created for them, but against them.
Rowley (1974, p.71) provides this précis of Newlands’ views on race and their relationship to progressivism:
The national government was to be the great engine of American Progressivism, bringing efficiency to many phases of American life. The existence, however, of racial diversity in the society produced what Newlands referred to as “race complications.” Racial complications struck directly at Newlands’s vision of a harmonious, homogeneous society by introducing conflict. The entire racial question bore with it portents of industrial disturbance and hostility repugnant to the efficient, modern state. To meet the threats to the developing society posed by racial and cultural diversity, the national government must rise to the occasion by restricting immigration on the foreign front and eliminating black men from the political process on the domestic front. To the latter end Newlands called for a repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution and national prohibition of black suffrage rights at the Democratic National Convention of 1912.
In pitching development to potential buyers, Newlands set exacting standards to appeal to buyers with rising middle-class status. Today, Newlands is celebrated as a visionary who set exacting standards in the design of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Chevy Chase DC. Once the streetcar had been put in,
The next step was to create an attractive subdivision, one consisting of fine residences, evocative natural landscapes, the latest technological services, and community institutions. These were the elements that would ultimately transform Chevy Chase into the “home suburb” of the Nation’s Capital. (Lampl and Williams, p. 34)
Fisher & Co.’s 1916 brochure, Chevy Chase for Homes, reflects the Zeitgeist of urban concerns about density, health, nature, individuality and planning. It appeals to the middle class, an aspiring business and professional group sharing this vision and able to invest at least $5,000 in a home. Row houses were not permitted until the core subdivisions were already built. Landscaping was planned. A school (E.V. Brown) was built and opened in 1898 at the NE corner of Connecticut Avenue and what was to become McKinley Street, though the first CCLC house south of Chevy Chase Circle only came in 1907. In deference to park-like aspirations, at least two streets were cut to curve across the extension of L’Enfant’s grid (Chevy Chase Parkway and Reno Road). Houses were required to be set back from the street, and no driveways were permitted on the sides of properties facing the street. Alleys were part of DC (but not Montgomery County) requirements, but they were deliberately narrow in order to avoid the experience in DC’s urban core, where substandard housing was built in alleys to meet the demand of the city’s poorer residents.
Newlands’s ambitions for an idyllic subdivision were complicated by the presence of African American staff serving Chevy Chase homes. In 1903, one enterprising developer tried to create a place at the edge of the tract, an area called Belmont, near the intersection of Western Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue for the mainly African-American service staff required by Chevy Chase residents. The Chevy Chase Land Company successfully intervened to thwart the effort and had reclaimed the land by 1909. (Fisher 1999)
In 1900, most of DC was still farmland above Boundary Street (later Florida Avenue), which divided the federal city planned by Pierre L’Enfant from its hinterland, Washington County (Williams 2018). Georgetown was until 1871 a separate municipality within the federal diamond and its legal merger was not entirely effected until 1895. The street grid of today in Chevy Chase DC was conceived in legislation in the 1890s and motivated by developers like Newlands, who wanted to invest. The new grid—an extension of the scheme defining the federal city—would not be built until housing went in, starting in 1907. This extension overlapped pre-existing country roads, some of which are still present in the neighborhood. Belt Road is one legacy road running through Chevy Chase DC, connecting Tenleytown to Col. Joseph Belt’s (18th century grantee of Lord Baltimore and major landowner in the area) house, located just off Connecticut Avenue on Oliver Street. Belt’s house was demolished soon after CCLC development began on the DC portions of Chevy Chase. Another legacy street is Broad Branch Road, which runs NNW to SSE along the tributary to Rock Creek. 3506 McKinley Street is located between Broad Branch and Nevada Avenue, the street that paved over part of Broad Branch tributary.
In 1919, the same year 3506 McKinley was under construction, John Sauer established a country store just around the corner on the west side of Broad Branch Road at the intersection with what became Northampton Street (Myers 2014), just before the intensive phase of housing construction began. In 1925 it was purchased by the Bondareff family and became Broad Branch Market, a community focal point for generations of neighbors. Across the street, just to the north of the Sauer/Bondareff market, was a cluster of half-acre properties and houses belonging to African-American families descended from “Captain” George Pointer, a slave who bought his freedom and once worked for George Washington on the precursor to the C&O Canal. These families were removed by eminent domain in 1928 to make room for the all-white elementary school—Lafayette—which opened in 1931.
Haas’s architectural survey of structures in the first subdivisions built under Chevy Chase Land Company auspices south of Chevy Chase Circle (Haas 1991), and undertaken to support an eventual campaign to establish a historic district under DC law, demonstrates that stylistic variety was a constitutive feature of the neighborhood. The houses were designed by members of the evidently thriving architectural profession in DC. The CCLC through its agent, Thomas J. Fisher & Company, engaged architects Lindley John and Leon Dessez to design the first homes to be built in the Land Company’s DC subdivision. Even a cursory examination of building permits from houses in the neighborhood make references to at least two dozen architects who followed, including E.D. Ryerson, George Santmyers, AM Schneider, Sonneman & Briggs, Louis Sholtes & Co., Speiden & Speiden, William H. Spignal, WC Braslears, Harvey Givens, and Louis Moss [just to name a few.]
Chevy Chase-DC was built over the span of about 20 years, ca. 1910-1930. And it was built in an array of styles, but it is not at all clear that the eclecticism was planned. As likely as not, stylistic diversity was allowed in a concession to generate sales. Haas’s survey distinguished seven styles situated within the CCLC’s first DC subdivision and Haas’s survey area, as follows:
- Colonial Revival 36 31% of the sample (116 houses)
- Tudor 2 2%
- French Renaissance 1 1%
- Italian Renaissance 2 2%
- Mission 2 2%
- Prairie (4 Square) 39 34%
- Bungalow Craftsman 15 10%
- Eclectic + other 15%
Haas’s factual account mirrors the vision projected in the Lewis Manufacturing Company’s 1920 catalogue, extolling the virtues of variety and adaptability according to individual taste.
How did the McKinley block between Nevada Avenue and Broad Branch Road develop? Antedating the new development, there was a house on Broad Branch Road on the northwest corner of what was to become McKinley Street belonging to HA Burrows. It was replaced in 1928 by a brick house. In 1913, the first houses to be built on the block were two 4-Squares, both on the south side of the street: 3412 McKinley, and next to it one of the Speiden houses. Speiden’s bungalow at 3506 was built in 1919, the third, followed a few months later that year by another bungalow two lots to the east. Aside from HA Burrows’ legacy house on the McKinley/Broad Branch corner, there were no houses built on the north side of the street until 1923. Eleven houses were constructed on the block during the 1920s. More filled in the already populated south side (houses facing north) first: a bungalow next to 3506 in 1921, another bungalow on the other side in 1922 and the colonial revival corner house, SE corner of Nevada and McKinley that same year. In all, seven of the nine houses standing today on the south side of the block were built between 1913 and 1922. The rest of the ‘20s belonged entirely to the North side of the street: two bungalows were built in 1923 at 3505 McKinley and 3513, respectively. Another Speiden (eclectic) was constructed in 1925 between them at 3509, and the two Lewis kit houses were constructed next to each other just to the west of the northwest corner house. In 1926, a house in Mediterranean style finished in stucco occupied the center of the block and the house on the NE Nevada/McKinley corner went in. In 1930 the SW corner house at Broad Branch/McKinley (3400 McKinley) was built. The building era came to an end in 1941 when a brick federal-style house was constructed at 3420. All the structures just described exist today, with nothing save minimal changes in their street-face. It was not until 2014 that another new house was constructed on the block, occupying the gap between the Lewis “Ardmore” model and the corner house on the north side of the street—the 18th and final house on the block. Aside from a dozen or so legacy structures spread around Chevy Chase DC, just about the entire neighborhood was built between 1910 and 1940, including the block of McKinley Street between Nevada Avenue and Broad Branch Road.
The 1940 census provides a good sense of the block’s social composition in its first generation. As a first observation, reflecting the transient character of DC, ownership and resident turnover was common. For example, 3506 McKinley changed ownership four times in the 20 years from its construction to 1940. Second, with the onset of the Great Depression in 1930, this McKinley block was virtually complete, but housing starts slowed dramatically overall. One response to the relative scarcity of housing during the New Deal came in the form of taking in boarders. Nine inhabitants are listed in the 1940 census for 3500 McKinley Street: five were boarders and one was an African American domestic servant. The house was rented. The head of household was a woman 53 years old, whose occupation was listed as lodging housekeeper. Also living at 3500 were her daughter, 25, a typist working for a railroad association, and son-in-law, 24, a bookkeeper at the US Treasury. Occupations of the five lodgers are listed as decorator, mechanic, taxi driver, secretary, and clerk typist—the last two employed by the federal government. Two were foreign-born (United Kingdom, Italy). At least two other houses on the block listed lodgers. One gave his occupation as messenger for the Department of Justice. The corner house (5535 Nevada) listed two lodgers; head of household was an executive accountant for the US Maritime Commission with his wife and three children. Three other houses on the block were rentals, whose heads of household, respectively, were a furniture buyer, an engineer with the War Department, and a Major in the US Army. Thirteen of the 17 houses on the block were occupant-owned in 1940. Half had children in residence. Occupations ascribed to the heads of household ranged from a professor at George Washington University, to plumbing contractor, federal fuel yard superintendent, Commerce Department geographer, and manager of a construction firm. Two houses were home to retired couples–the bungalows at 3502 and 3513. Ours at 3506 had as its head of household, Henry Fowler, a lawyer in private practice, who was a widower with a 17-year-old daughter at the time.
The Market—DC demographics
With a view to understanding how DC could emerge as a pioneer of suburbanization, it is worth considering why it was built in the first place. In contrast to the nearby cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia, the occupational structure of the District was dominated by service industries, at the epicenter of which was the rapidly expanding federal government. Overall, a middle-class tone distinguished Washington from other American cities as well as from capital cities in Europe. Meanwhile, Washington also started to emerge as a diplomatic center in this period, further reinforcing the non-industrial ambience. This is undoubtedly a factor in defining Washington’s social experience. As we shall see, in key respects DC was defined more by race than class.
The population growth of DC provides a major clue about the commercial success of Chevy Chase and other early suburban developments. From 1900 to 1940, US population grew by 72%, from 76 million to 132 million. DC grew by 153% over the same period (from 273,000 to 690,000). Federal employment grew by 203%. But the story is about more than numbers. Transformation of transportation infrastructure in the form of electric street cars was a distinguishing factor in the formation of the Chevy Chase suburb on both sides of the DC/Maryland boundary. More generally, the period saw the advent of the consumer society, made possible not only by a growing population, fueled in part by European immigration, but by rising productivity and wages, and standardized consumer products on offer. Standardization was obvious in the vertiginous rise of the automobile industry (e.g., Ford’s Model T) and household appliances. It also affected the housing market, most clearly for the purposes of this study in the form of kit houses. Cost to the consumer was a decisive factor in explosive suburbanization.
In reducing the price of home ownership, kit houses brought the possibility of pursuing the trendy suburban lifestyle to new strata of the emerging middle class. All of the forces described combined to create a building boom in the decade after World War I, not only in the DC metropolitan region, but in several regions in the U.S. and also abroad.
At a given budget, the core trade-off was space versus distance from work. Manufacturers appeared to reduce costs by scaling up production in standard models that were made of wood and pre-cut, delivered by train to big markets, then off-loaded onto special trolleys or trucks to the final destination from rail yards. Kit houses are to be distinguished from prefabricated structures. Kit houses were nearly the opposite in intent from prefabricated structures, in the sense that standardization permitted lower costs for superior quality of building materials, but modifications to the standard design were also on offer, providing a degree of customization. From the Lewis catalogue:
The Lewis System] saves money, for it brings about a 40 per cent decrease in labor costs, and hundreds of dollars on lumber. When a man builds the Lewis Way, he knows beforehand just what his house will cost him, just how it will look, that every detail of construction and arrangement has been tested and found satisfactory.
Investors serving a middle-class market could work close to the customer base and need not take on huge risks—i.e., small-scale investors abounded. We think the investor for 3506 was a limited operator in this sense, ordering and putting up a half dozen or fewer houses, perhaps to supplement other income. These types of investors were likely sales agents for real estate brokers, but others were probably able to get into the act. There are several examples of the Chevy Chase within a ten-block radius of 3506, as well as many other “kit house” designs in the neighborhood.
DC building permit applications asked for an estimate of the cost for putting in the house. The figure for 3506 McKinley (May 1919) was $8,000, a figure that was in the middle of the range for our block of McKinley Street, but significantly more than other Speiden & Speiden houses around the corner on Chevy Chase Parkway, also permitted in 1919.
We have already seen that the special allure of the bungalow was about a flight to a perhaps vaguely defined alternative way of living. But it was also one aspect of a broader flight from a bundle of urban problems: noise, congestion, safety and health concerns. It is likely that the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, experienced with particular intensity in DC, reinforced the prevailing desire to move away from the urban core.
African American Displacement
The District’s status as the nation’s capital is a unique feature that frames what happens, down to the neighborhood and even household level. Because of the politically proprietary interest of the rest of the country in DC, it is not surprising that external political actors, particularly the U.S. Congress through its District committees, have almost always played a significant role in shaping local experience. Reinforcing that general connection, Chevy Chase developer, Senator Newlands, sat on the Senate committee for the District of Columbia.
The 19th Century
The Civil War, as the most traumatic episode in our national history, impacted the city in many ways, not the least of which was the dramatic increase of an African American settlement comprising between a quarter and a third of the population by the 1890s. Uniquely in the American context, it came into its own as a self-conscious community, the first black bourgeoisie with a growing pool of talent directed toward the realization of the promises of this country’s founding documents. Despite discrimination, African Americans were able to enter the federal workforce in the first phase of the period under consideration here. The capacity of that community to call out and resist attacks on the rights of the individuals belonging to it varied over time. For that reason, it is impossible to conceive of the dynamics of neighborhood formation across the capital city without reference to DC as a racially defined and contested space. (Asch and Musgrove 2017, Lewis 2015, Green 1967) In accordance with a deal worked out by the republic’s founding fathers in 1790, it was determined that that the permanent home of the federal city was to be located in the south. By the same token, because of its connection with the rest of the country, DC was never an entirely southern city.
Pressure to increase invidious racial discrimination and segregation was intense in Washington in the early 20th century. In this, political leadership mattered, and signals were sent from the Wilson White House itself to restrict African American access to jobs in the federal government (Yellin, 2013). There was little capacity to resist various forms of racial discrimination and Jim Crow practices. After an initial wave of emancipatory politics following the Civil War, a backlash developed, shrinking opportunities for those willing to embrace diverse neighborhoods. With the end of Reconstruction in the mid-1870s, home rule in DC had been revoked, inaugurating a century during which U.S. citizens living in the District were denied the vote for any office. They could not vote for president. There were no other offices for which to vote—no mayor, no city council, no advisory neighborhood commissions. DC was governed by three commissioners, appointed by the president, who worked with committees of Congress. By the time the Chevy Chase Land Company built its first houses south of Chevy Chase Circle in 1907, Congress’s DC committees were chaired mainly by lawmakers from the south committed to Jim Crow. It is a pattern that persisted into the 1970s.
A free black population had lived in DC since its launch as the nation’s capital in 1800. Torrey and Green (2016) document its growth from 168 in 1820 to 564 in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. By 1870 (after emancipation) the figure was 4,678. The enslaved inhabitants of Washington City numbered 834 in 1860. The increase in the number of free Blacks from 1860 to 1870 was made up mainly of the many who fled slave states during the war. Seeking work, a portion of these refugees settled around the ring forts built by the Union Army to protect the federal city. A thriving community sprang up around Fort Pennsylvania (later named Fort Reno). The George Pointer descendants mentioned earlier lived near Broad Branch Road from 1850 and had established themselves by 1855. Two Pointer descendants served in the Union Army’s first Black regiment; one was discharged in 1865 as an invalid. After the war, individuals in Tenleytown were connected to the Broad Branch Road families through kinship and professional networks. One strand of that network encompassed a cemetery along River Road about a mile northwest of the DC line in Montgomery County (Rotenstein 2018). These communities became subjects of racialized social engineering, with the CCLC playing its part in their displacement during the Progressive Era. Following the displacement from Broad Branch Road, at least one of the related family members, Mary Moten, moved to the closest integrated neighborhood, Reno City, just beyond Chevy Chase DC, flanking the Civil War ring fort, only to face displacement again when that neighborhood was razed in the 1930s to make way for two more white schools, Alice Deal Junior High and Woodrow Wilson Senior High Schools. Chevy Chase DC resident and member of the Citizens Association of Chevy Chase, Proctor Dougherty, spoke out in favor of the removal of the black community there in a U.S. Senate committee hearing on June 2, 1926. He was subsequently appointed one of the three Commissioners governing DC, increasing the Chevy Chase connection in the matter still further.(Flanagan 2017)
It is possible to capture the consequences of these targeted displacements by examining data from the 1940 census. This census offers an important snapshot of a city neighborhood at the end of its first generation of development. Enumeration sheets were organized by street and household. They contained a race identification column coded W/Neg. With respect to the census enumeration districts that define Chevy Chase DC, a clear pattern emerges: the only African Americans in households in Chevy Chase DC were servants living with their employers (and maintenance personnel living in the several apartment houses along Connecticut Avenue). Domestic servants were engaged less and less over the course of this founding generation, thanks in part to labor-saving technologies built into new house designs. And there were undoubtedly more servants at work than captured by the census, as many preferred to “live out” and commute to work. (Clark-Lewis 1994) So, it is revealing that four live-in African-American servants can be identified from the data in the 3500 block of McKinley along with the two blocks directly to its west.
3506 McKinley Street in a segregated neighborhood
Three families inhabited 3506 McKinley Street between 1920 and 1928. The first we have from the 1920 census: Oliver Moore, age 28, with his wife, Ruth and three children—Robert, Oliver and Ruth—and their au pair, Hazel Nause. Moore gave “privater” as his occupation, probably a printer working on government contracts. At this date, the property was assigned the street number 3614, only later changed to 3506 after James and Catherine Fechet purchased it in 1920.
James Fechet was one of the pioneers of the U.S. Air Force, in those days called the Army Air Corps. Military personnel were frequently in search of accommodation and composed a significant portion of the residents in the burgeoning housing development of Chevy Chase DC. The son of a cavalry officer, Fechet was born at Fort Ringgold, Texas, in 1877. He enlisted in the Army in 1898 for service in the Spanish-American war while studying engineering at the University of Nebraska and was wounded in the engagement on San Juan Hill in Cuba. In 1916 he saw action under General Pershing’s command in Mexico and transferred to the fledgling Air Corps in 1917. By then, he had been married 10 years to Catherine Luhn. After World War I, with the rank of Colonel, Fechet served as Assistant Chief of Air Service and then as its chief from 1920 to 1931. Fechet retired a Major General in a senior position in the US Army Air Corps in 1946. He died two years later and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Fechets lived in the house with their two daughters from 1920 to 1924. When he was reassigned in 1924, the house was put on the market. From the for-sale advertisement published by the Washington Star in April 1924, we learn an interesting detail about the house—provision for servant quarters:
Movement is endemic to military service, and military personnel are one occupational sector of many that have imparted a transient feel to the District of Columbia. When the Fechets moved away from McKinley Street in 1924, it is likely that the next occupant found out about the impending marketing of the property through a professional network. For the next occupants were Ralph Hudson Wooten and his wife, the former Katharine Wallace. Born in Independence, Mississippi in 1893, Ralph graduated from Texas A&M in 1916; was commissioned second lieutenant of Infantry in August 1917; and became a pilot the next year, transferring to the Air Service in 1920, then serving in Hawaii. He was transferred to Langley Field, Virginia, in 1922, and in 1924 was assigned to the Supply Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Service at Washington. He and his wife lived at 3506 McKinley Street during this service. Ralph Wooten was 31 when they moved into 3506 McKinley to begin their residency of four years. He was transferred to Fort Crockett, Texas in 1928. Wooten rose through the ranks, with tours of duty as a military attaché in Chile and Bolivia and retired after the Second World War as commander of the Pacific Air Command with the rank of Major General. He died in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1969.
Henry M. Fowler lived at 3506 McKinley for 48 years, from 1928 to his death in 1976. He was born in 1891 into a family native to DC for at least two generations previous. The family home was in the 700 block of Quebec Street NW, just to the north of the current campus of Howard University.
Henry graduated from Georgetown law school in 1915. His professional development was interrupted by war. He was assigned to the headquarters of the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, General John “Blackjack” Pershing, in Chaumont, France. Pershing lodged for some years during the 1920s in the Chevy Chase DC home built by Henry Corbin. The mansion, called Highwood, was erected in 1907 near the corner of what was to become Rittenhouse and 33rd Streets. Further suburban development led to its demolition in 1938. Meanwhile, in May 1922, Henry Fowler married Washington native, Gertrude Langford. They had a daughter, Dorothy, in 1924 and purchased 3506 McKinley in 1928, about six blocks from Pershing at the Corbin estate. It was a neighborhood that was home to several members of Congress (e.g., Senator C.B Hudspeth (D-TX) and Representative John Smithwick (D-FL), diplomats and high-ranking federal officials (after Pershing, Japanese ambassador Tsuno Matsudaira lived at Highwood, and after him, FDR’s future secretary of war, former Utah governor George Dern). At least two DC commissioners lived in Chevy Chase: President Calvin Coolidge appointed Proctor Dougherty to the Board of Commissioners in 1926; President John F. Kennedy appointed Walter Trobriner to the Board in 1961. Trobriner was President of the DC Board of Education in the years following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court judgement in Brown v. Board of Education, which mandated desegregation of the nation’s schools.
Fowler established a successful practice focusing on family law. He set up office downtown near McPherson Square at 1511 K Street. Many of the divorce cases he managed were reported in the local newspapers over the five decades he was engaged in that profession. He was at work until a few weeks before his death in 1976 at age 84.
Newspapers were the FaceBook of the first half of the 20th century in DC; social doings were widely covered, down to parties held in middle-class homes. On the basis of several dozen mentions of Henry Fowler in Washington’s local papers, he comes across as a congenial man who valued company.
Henry was a civic presence, a man with an exceptionally busy associational life. He developed a love of the outdoors and was a member of the Washington Canoe Club for 58 years. He was actively engaged in his church parish at the Wesley United Methodist Church. He was a Mason with Joppa Lodge No. 35 and belonged to the Veterans of World War I, serving as Commander of American Legion Post No. 10. And he became a fixture in The Citizens Association of Chevy Chase DC, especially in the decade beginning in 1945.
Local governance: Chevy Chase DC before restoration of home rule
The system of citizens associations in DC was the central avenue for civic engagement for a century after Congress cancelled home rule and put in place a triumvirate of commissioners answerable to it (see Green 1967 and Asch-Musgrove 2017). Geographically defined, the citizens associations engaged in a vast panoply of public issues, but they were all refracted through the lens of the neighborhood. And as we have seen, real estate developers, in turn, played a central role in shaping the neighborhood—in the case of Chevy Chase DC, inspired by Francis Newlands, the Chevy Chase Land Company and its agent, Thos. J. Fisher & Co. When the city of Washington, DC pushed out beyond the boundary of Florida Avenue in the 1880s-1890s, developers promised relief from urban problems; a new aesthetic arose valuing separation from the workplace, an arcadian idyll. It seems likely that for many, race was part of what defined the urban malaise. Chevy Chase was created to keep out African Americans and other “undesirables” in an increasingly segregated society. In this way, DC partook of the more general pattern in which progressivism and racism were conjoined (see Lears 2009, ch 3, Lewis 2015, ch 8). The racialized pattern was followed city-wide and formalized with the creation of a whites-only Federation of Citizens Associations in 1910, when delegates of the whites-only associations voted to exclude any associations representing predominantly African American or racially mixed populations. Thus excluded, the racially open associations responded by establishing a federation of their own in 1921.
Chevy Chase DC had a citizens association since the earliest years of its planned development as a residential district. The Chevy Chase Land Company started building homes and selling lots north of Chevy Chase Circle in 1892; the first development south of the Circle came in 1907. The Citizens Association of Chevy Chase (CAoCC) was launched by the first inhabitants of the new subdivision in 1909. Its constitution and bylaws stipulated only two qualifications for membership: that the applicant be an adult and that he/she be white (see for example the publication of the Constitution/Bylaws in the organ of the association, The Chevy Chase News, in the 15 November 1930 issue, Article III). Whiteness was notoriously difficult to determine. (Cashin 2017) That is probably one motive for making membership contingent on approval by a 2/3 supermajority of the meeting quorum. The constitution/bylaws were amended on a number of occasions over the two generations between 1907 and 1954, the year in which the US Supreme Court mandated desegregation of the public school system, but none of the amendments touched these membership qualifications.
As we have seen, when Henry Fowler moved to Chevy Chase in 1928, the neighborhood was being cleared of its African-American citizens; they were being expelled to make room for whites-only schools. The process was drawn out over more than two decades. The Blacks of Reno City, adjacent to Chevy Chase, suffered a similar fate. In 1950, the small Reno School, built in 1903 for non-white children, was closed. The 1940 census shows that one generation into the new settlement of Chevy Chase, the only African Americans living in the neighborhood were live-in servants or maintenance personnel in the recently built Connecticut Avenue apartment houses (for the experience of domestic servants during this period, including some working in Chevy Chase, see Clark-Lewis 1994).
Chevy Chase was built as a white enclave. The absence of discussion of racial issues in the Citizens Association is therefore remarkable, a passive, indicator of the efficacy of mechanisms supporting racial segregation. Quite aside from any visceral or ideological attachment to racial segregation, an economic motive loomed. A central, if officially unspoken, mandate of white citizens’ associations across the city was to maintain property values, which were believed to be fatally undermined by the intrusion into the neighborhood of even a single black family. This sense was both promoted by real estate developers and brokers and functioned as a hard, though pliable, constraint in the planning of new subdivisions and the building of new houses. Maintaining pressure on the community to conform included the tactic of expanding membership in the association, and membership drives were systematic to the point of militancy, as neighbors were goaded into membership street by street. Membership figures waxed and waned over the decades of the Association, and membership was enshrined at an early date as an ongoing concern, as reflected in its status as one of the association’s dozen standing committees. Recruiting drives were organized and membership reached a peak of roughly 3,000 of the roughly 20,000 (white) adults within its jurisdiction (which in the interwar period expanded to encompass everything north of Albermarle Street, west of Rock Creek Park and east of Wisconsin Avenue and Tenleytown). That is an exceptional figure, and for most of the period it was much lower, which naturally raises the question about why people did NOT join, despite “friendly inducements” to do so. The most likely reason is that people were too busy to do so. Other non-joiners may have been boarders and/or had a more transient status in the community and felt less of a stake in the community. Still others may have stayed away because they did not wish to be complicit by choice in segregated institutions. (There is a long tradition of this in U.S. history going back to the antebellum abolitionist movement and the “comer outers” who left segregated churches and associations to protest slavery—see Mayer 2008) Moreover, as regular appeals by association officers recorded in the minutes of association meetings or in separate statements or articles in The Chevy Chase News (house organ of the association, for some years called The Chevy Chase Citizen) attest that membership did not translate into attendance and, aside from exceptional events, membership was nominal in most cases.
The first mention of Henry Fowler in the context of the CAoCC was in 1930 (CCN vol.14no.8 April 1930, p. 12), less than two years after he moved into the neighborhood. It was simply a reference to his presence at a meeting. Fowler was a joiner, so his decision to join and become an active member of the Citizens Association of Chevy Chase comes as no surprise. One can speculate that the encouragement of his next-door neighbor at 3510 McKinley Street, Alton Grinnell, could have played a role. Built in 1921, Grinnell’s bungalow may also have been from a kit catalogue. Like Fowler, he was not its first owner. Grinnell joined the CAoCC and served as the chairman of its standing committee on membership during the 1930s, a key post in policing the whiteness of the organization. During the war years, Grinnell served as a member of the standing committee on auditing and budget and was then elevated to secretary of the Association (1944-45). He contributed many columns for the association’s monthly newsletter extolling democracy (!) and patriotism during the war years.
No published statement has been found about Henry Fowler’s racial views, but to have been a leader of the Association before 1954 was to have embraced the fundamental role of the association system in perpetuating racial segregation.
Henry Fowler rose to leadership of the CAoCC, though it was a halting process, interrupted by the death of his wife, Gertrude, in January 1937. At that time, their daughter, Dorothy, was 14 years old and went on to become an early graduate of the recently opened Wilson High School in the class of 1941. In June, 1940, Henry married Helen Iseli. She and Henry had two boys, John and Richard. Helen’s father was born in Switzerland, her mother in Posen (Prussia). Helen (1906-2006) was a lifelong resident of Washington, including 66 years in Chevy Chase DC. She attended Eastern High School and the old Business High School in DC and worked as a stenographer starting at age 14. In 1921, she joined Die Stauffacherin, a Swiss women’s heritage organization and held every major office of the group over her 85 years of affiliation. She worked for many years as a legal assistant in Henry’s law office and joined his church, Wesley United Methodist. She served on the board of the church and also on the board of the Methodist Home (nowadays called Forest Hills).
Henry Fowler leapt from relative local obscurity to leadership of the CAoCC in 1945, in the sense that, contrary to standard practice, he had not been co-opted to the chairmanship of a standing committee or federation delegate prior to his election as president. His service as head of an ad hoc committee organizing a Halloween event in the January 1945 minutes was the only reference available. If Fowler’s next-door neighbor may have motivated him to take on an active role, it is also likely that Grinnell vetted him as a candidate for the presidency of the association in 1945.
In this context it is impossible to avoid the question of what motivated individuals to seek leadership positions in citizens associations and how they reconciled their motives with the structural role of the associations in perpetuating racial segregation. Clearly, for white supremacists or those otherwise convinced that segregation was somehow for the best, there was nothing to reconcile. These were the poster-children for the fusion of Progressivism and racism. Others were officers and committee members who deplored segregation or thought it in bad taste, but rationalized their service with the thought that they could do some good for the community in spite of the association’s complicity in it. Some may have harbored thoughts of reforming the system, but they were not part of the public record until the white citizens associations came under siege in the 1960s. Benefits accrued to those who did serve, at least as long as it appeared that segregation would persist. They earned recognition and social status. Men of high standing lent their names to the Association as members, such as Gen. Pershing when he lived at Highwood, thereby encouraging others. Congressmen such as Senator C.B. Hudspeth (D-TX) and Representative John Smithwick (D-FL) lived on Livingston Street and attended and spoke at meetings. In that context, active members could hope for recognition and advancement. Soon after moving to 33rd Street, Walter Tobriner appears as chairman of the CAoCC standing committee for Maryland and Memorial. Three decades later he was appointed by President Kennedy as the last DC commissioner before the transition to limited home rule. In 1965 Tobriner publicly excoriated the Federation of Citizens Associations after it expelled the Lamond-Riggs association for admitting non-white persons. (WaPo 16 May 1964) Civic engagement was celebrated as a key virtue. The elephant in the room during all such engagement, constitutionally prescribed, was racial segregation. In the minutes of meetings and statements and reports over the decades since the founding of the CAoCC, segregation is not mentioned until after World War II, and then only elliptically. No trace of any discussion of the topic with respect to challenging, let alone ending, the practice in Chevy Chase itself could be found from the launch of the subdivision through the 1940s. By the terms of the CAoCC’s own constitution, such a discussion was out of order.
What can be established from the records that remain, at the time of this writing in 2019, is that Henry Fowler devoted much of his free time to the Association, with particular intensity during his two-year presidency (1945-1947) and the decade thereafter, when he held the position of delegate to the Federation of Citizens Associations.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood was being transformed from within. It is likely that the balance between enthusiastic supporters of racial segregation and non-supporters in Chevy Chase DC (even if passively accepting of it) began to change in the latter half of the 1930s, reflecting the waves of new residents hired during the New Deal flowing in from every state in the union. African Americans served with distinction and in many cases gave their lives in every branch of the military after Pearl Harbor. And continued segregation undermined a premise of America’s moral position in the looming Cold War with the Soviet Union. Moreover, Washington DC had the distinction of generating a large and distinguished black middle class, qualified and willing to challenge inequalities associated with the system of racial segregation. The 1954 Brown vs. Board Supreme Court decision resulted from the joining of several cases from lower courts, including one from the DC school system litigated by lawyers trained at Howard University Law School (Ruble 2012, Asch and Musgrove 2017).
From the point of view of race relations, the District of Columbia had been contested terrain since the 1830s (see Green 1967, Asch & Musgrove 2017). In 1909-1910. The Citizens Association of Chevy Chase and the Federation of Citizens Associations were launched at the nadir of repression and inequality as part of the machinery of this awful system. Some 35 years later, Henry Fowler assumed the mantle of leadership of the citizens association just as a new wave of resistance to discrimination was gathering steam. Already in 1940-1941, there was a sign of things to come, with a campaign that sought to create a city-wide, multi-racial assembly (Municipal Assembly) to influence the District’s governors, i.e., the appointed commissioners and relevant committees of Congress. CAoCC’s observer, Harry Wender, chairman of the standing committee on law and legislation, wrote a detailed refutation of the plan. Remarkably, referencing the underlying issue, his refutation averred that “There has never been the remotest conflict between [the (white) Federation of Citizens Associations and the (non-white) Federation of Civic Associations] and on many occasions they have cooperated through their respective officials for civic betterment” (CCC April 1941). Later that year, under threat of a mass march for racial equality on Washington, President Roosevelt took limited action to undo the toxic racial legacy of President Wilson in federal personnel policy (see Yellin 2016). FDR would then steam to Halifax to meet Churchill and—four months before Pearl Harbor—proclaim our war aims in the Atlantic Charter. That document is silent on the treatment of citizens by their own governments. But over the course of the war, Americans came to understand that the victory over Germany was also a victory over Nazism. The Nürnberg Tribunal (1945-1946) tried and punished German state officials for genocide and crimes against humanity, crimes committed against Germany’s own people (Sanders 2017). A growing number of Americans demanded that their capital city reflect the democratic promise of our worldwide campaign. Though not yet ready to challenge Jim Crow in the deep South, they joined with those in DC determined to overthrow the system in the District of Columbia.
Reversing Wilson’s policies of the previous generation, in 1946 President Truman took steps to end racial discrimination in the U.S. Employment Service for federal employees, transforming the experience of white employees, many of whom lived in Chevy Chase. In 1949 Catholic schools were told by the diocesan hierarchy to desegregate, a mandate that directly affected Blessed Sacrament School, whose parish has been a mainstay of the community from the beginning the new subdivision. Congressmen such as Senator Authur Capper (R-KS) and Representative Charles LaFollette (R-IN) spoke out against segregation, and some of their colleagues attempted to introduce corresponding legislation.
The issue of race relations could not be suppressed. The edifice created to prevent racially diverse neighborhoods, the network of citizens associations, began to crack under the pressure to end Jim Crow. In this context, neighborhood leaders had choices. They could embrace the change. They could try to ignore efforts to address racial discrimination. They could elect to fight it. The CAoCC mostly avoided the issue and sometimes resisted change. No evidence can be found to suggest that the Association embraced change in the period 1940-1960.
So, in the decade after World War II, many DC citizens associations, as well as the all-white federation, deflected the most important and pressing issue of the time. This was certainly the case during the period of Fowler’s presidency, 1945-1947. Instead, the CAoCC deployed the tried and until then effective tactic of pretending there was nothing to discuss and directing the energies of DC’s largest citizens association to other concerns. Some of them were laudable—above all, the repurposing of E.V. Brown School, built in 1898 on land donated by the Chevy Chase Land Company. This was a notable achievement that came to fruition in 1948 after a broad-based community campaign involving a new council of neighborhood organizations, led by the owner of Higger’s drug store, changed the mind of the Commissioners, who had wanted to privatize the building. The outcome was transformation of the building into a community center and branch library. Other priorities during this period dominating the Association’s agenda included addressing a beetle infestation; proliferation of rats; and vandalism by adolescents and young adults (“juvenile delinquency” in the argot of the time); and traffic problems.
Fowler served as Chevy Chase DC’s delegate to the Federation of Citizens Associations for several years after his tenure as president. CAoCC continued as the largest member organization in the Federation and expected the deference implied by its weight. The Federation, in turn, was well connected to Congressional committees responsible for governing the nation’s capital. As a consequence of the seniority system, the District committees were chaired by southern Democrats sympathetic to racial segregation. Not surprisingly, then, the Federation opposed it and the District committees would not permit home rule, because a more representative system would likely end segregation. The neighborhood associations and the Federation were fiercely defensive about property rights in particular. The Federation went on record in May 1966 in attempting to excise sections of the federal civil rights bill which “would force an individual home owner to sell or rent his property against his desires.” (Star 14 May 1966).
In 1950, the all-white Federation had 65 member associations. In some of them the issue of racial discrimination proved contentious well before Brown vs. Board. By 1965, the Federation’s membership had declined to 35, reflecting both changing attitudes towards segregation and the District’s evolving demographics. When the Federation was launched in 1910, DC was about 25% non-white; 50 years later the city was majority African-American. The Burleith association, whose jurisdiction was just north of Georgetown, contended with the impending expiration of 20-year restrictive covenants written into the large portion of housing stock in 1938 by developer Shannon & Luchs (Burleith 2019).
In the Bloomingdale neighborhood (east of North Capitol Street between Florida and Michigan Avenues), exclusionary practices had always been contested, and the all-white Bloomingdale Citizens Association (established 1887) eventually precipitated the formation of the Bloomingdale Civic Association for everyone else in 1921. Racial covenants had been in place for 50 years when they began to expire in the late 1940s, presaging a transition to a predominantly Black neighborhood (Holliday and Cerruti 2015, Bloomingdale 2019).
Bordering on Eastern Avenue in NE DC, the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association began desegregating; in early 1962 Lamond-Riggs began petitioning the Federation to desegregate. The move was supported by the Friendship Citizens Association and opposed by Chevy Chase delegate William Norwood, who is reported to have argued that the resolution would undermine a white voice and that “citizens who pay the highest taxes would have their representation diluted.” (WaPo 12 April 1962) When in 1964 Christine Morton, an African American, was sent as one of its delegates to the Federation, the Federation moved to expel the Lamond-Riggs group by a 34:27 vote in June of that year. This act precipitated the withdrawal of the Palisades association by a 55:7 vote of its membership, registering its view that the era of segregation was over. The Federation action had a similar effect in the Friendship and Connecticut Avenue associations. Forest Hills also withdrew. The Connecticut Avenue association was on the verge of withdrawing from the Federation over the issue. Meanwhile, the Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Park, Spring Valley-Wesley Heights and Hillcrest groups were removing their racial membership provisions.
By this time, the renamed Chevy Chase Citizens Association also had non-white members. And by 1967, as President Johnson involved himself in District politics by putting in motion a plan to transition to (limited) home rule with the appointment of Mayor Walter Washington and a city council, CCCA delegate James Willey moved to censure the Federation leadership for attacking home rule and the new governing arrangement. The motion carried.
It is quite possible that by 1954 the balance of opinion in the Chevy Chase neighborhood had changed to the point that segregation was viewed as an anachronism. In that year, though, Henry Fowler had been re-elected delegate of CAoCC to the whites-only Federation. In October the CAoCC voted monetary support to Federation of Citizens’ Associations for “past expenses in legal action taken during the integration issue.” (Evening Star 19 October 1954, p.A10)
During the last stage of Fowler’s service as Chevy Chase delegate to the Federation at the end of 1948, the National Committee on Segregation in the Nation’s Capital released a well-written and researched, smartly produced and widely circulated report on the subject, a sweeping, multidimensional but detailed indictment of the practice. As the anchor of that system, the Federation felt it had to respond and did so in early 1949 with a nine-page memo listing the Federation’s affiliated 70 associations (65 citizens association plus several other affiliates), CAoCC included. In a nutshell, the Federation found fault with the report for errors of fact and declares “we stand willing to discuss the matter with Negroes residing in the District of Columbia…but not engage in a debate with Sociologists residing throughout the country…”
Fowler was one of the 21 signatories of the document incorporating the Chevy Chase association (originally established in 1909) in October 1951 in the District of Columbia, the year he turned 60. That document also changed the name of the body to the one current at the time of this writing, the Chevy Chase Citizens Association (CCCA). After that, Fowler continued to work with the Association. In October 1954, he was once again appointed as one of the CCCA’s two delegates to the (white) Federation. In 1955, months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation decision, the CCCA adopted a new constitution, but under Article IV defining membership, non-whites continued to be excluded. Fowler is listed as chairing the Association’s standing committee on zoning in the CCCA’s 50-year retrospective. (CCCA 1959) The racial exclusion was finally eliminated in 1962, when Fowler was in his 72nd year. By then, he is no longer playing an active role in the association. Fowler continued active engagement with his legal practice to the end of his life. We can only speculate about his absence from the Association. Did he simply experience burn-out after many years of service? Did he leave because he disagreed with integrationist positions that could no longer be avoided and now flooded the Federation’s agenda? Or, did he withdraw in embarrassment because the moral authority of racial segregation in his own neighborhood was decisively, if gradually, undermined during his stewardship as president and delegate to the Federation?
Notwithstanding, it took until 1972 for the Federation to change its constitution to permit non-white members in existing associations. By then, DC was transitioning to limited home rule and the right to vote in presidential and local elections. Actual school desegregation accelerated white flight, creating opportunities for new neighbors to move in from across the city and beyond. And a new institutional infrastructure that encompassed an elected City Council and a system of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) deprived citizens associations of most of their functions.
Voices from within the community Henry M. Fowler joined in 1928 became bolder in opposing the status quo. In the late 1950s, the civil rights movement had gained adherents in the neighborhood. Unitarian pastor James Reeb—martyred at the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama—lived just two blocks from the Fowler family home, at 5700 Chevy Chase Parkway. Desegregation accelerated after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968, and with it white flight from DC, including Chevy Chase. Henry and Helen stayed at 3506 McKinley. In 1971 the CCCA withdrew from the Federation, rejoining only when it finally dropped its racially exclusive membership criteria. In 1981, the CCCA effectively closed its sad complicity in Jim Crow practices by joining the Federation of Civic Associations of the District of Columbia, and now belongs to both federations. By then, neighbors of color had become CCCA members, officers, and presidents of the CCCA. Henry’s last year of life, 1976, was the year of the national bicentennial, the year a group of motivated high schoolers started digging into neighborhood history under the umbrella of the new Neighborhood Planning Councils as the city moved into the new era of partial home rule, in which the citizens associations no longer played their former central role as representatives, lobbyists…and defenders of the system of racial segregation.
Epilogue and Acknowledgements
The legacy of DC’s black codes, Jim Crow practices, and more modern forms of racial segregation continue to imprint the nation’s capital, even if the racially charged animus of the first period of Chevy Chase’s life as “a home suburb for the nation’s capital” has faded away. By the time Pam and Carl Lankowski purchased 3506 McKinley in February 2010, the neighborhood had become a much more welcoming environment in that respect. Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. George Haley became the first African American officer of the Chevy Chase Citizens Association, elected CCCA president in 1979. He went on to serve in other capacities in the 1980s. Doris Ingram was elected president in 1992 and served for two years in that role, as did Edward Hayes from 2006 to 2008.
The query that led to this work became serious for me when my neighborhood history group, Historic Chevy Chase DC, wanted in 2019 to thank its donors with a reception and our house, coincidentally attaining its centenary, seemed like a good place to hold it. The event called for a brief program and that requirement seemed to call out in turn for documenting the space in which the company was to gather. Fortunately, HCCDC already had a model and prototype for this sort of effort in Kirk Flack’s fine history of 3125 Northampton Street. This story takes its inspiration in the first instance from Kirk’s.
It would waste a good line not to acknowledge that “it takes a village” to produce especially this kind of story. The project could not have been accomplished without the indulgent support of my colleagues on the HCCDC board of directors, several past presidents and Executive Board members of the Chevy Chase Citizens Association, and the Washingtoniana Collection and staff of the Public Library of the District of Columbia. DC metropolitan area bungalow expert Catarina Bannier provided early pointers to keep me on track. I am also grateful for the willingness of previous owners of 3506 McKinley to share their experience of the house. As an officer of HCCDC at the time of this writing, I benefitted more generally from the sum total of information and analysis generated through oral histories, neighborhood projects, guest speakers, resource gathering and curation, and network of contacts. It is the breadth and depth of HCCDC’s reach that encouraged this story’s global framing and my hope is to encourage others to understand their local circumstances in a broad, even global, framework as well. Some might find this framing outlandish. Despite all the help received from “my village,” any errors of fact or interpretation belong to me alone. Special thanks to readers of the early drafts: Dick Teare, Cate Atkinson, Chas Cadwell, and Ed Hayes. Not least, I thank my life partner, Pam, for her counsel and indulgence while I have been out and about in the village in pursuit of illumination about our dwelling.
The Chevy Chase News (CCN)
The Chevy Chase Citizen (CCC)
The Evening Star
The Washington Post
Books and Articles
Asch, Christopher Myers and Derek Musgrove, Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017)
Bannier, Catarina and Marcie Sandalow, “Launching the Chevy Chase Kit House Database,” (3 November 2017) https://dchousesmarts.com/2017/11/launching-the-chevy-chase-kit-house-data-base/
Bloomingdale Civic Association, “Social and Architectural History of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood Washington, DC,” at
Burleith Citizens Association, “Burleith History,” at http://www.burleith.org/burleith-history/ (accessed February 2019).
Cashin, Sheryll, Loving. Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017)
Cathers, David and Alexander Vertikoff, Stickley Style. Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999)
Chevy Chase Citizens Association, Fifty Years in Chevy Chase 1909-1959 (1959)
___________________________, Seventy-Five Years of Community Service 1909-1984 (1984)
___________________________, 100 Years, at https://www.chevychasecitizens.org/100-year-history (accessed March 9, 2019)
Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth, Living In, Living Out. African-American Domestics in Washington D.C. 1910-1940 (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994)
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Holliday, Bertha and Paul Cerruti, “Social and Architectural History of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood Washington, DC,” at http://www.bloomingdalecivicassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/Bloomingdale-History-Timeline-3-bleeds_update-1.pdf
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About the Author: Carl Lankowski
Carl Lankowski left his home town of Milford, Connecticut in 1967 to become an undergraduate at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. After initial military training, he spent most of the 1970s shuttling between Manhattan and Europe as a Columbia University graduate student and earned a PhD in Political Science with a dissertation on Germany’s role in the European Communities. After serving on the faculties of several colleges and universities between 1978 and 1995, he became research director at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. In the waning weeks of the Clinton Administration Lankowski became director of the European area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State. In volunteer capacities he served as president of the Aachen committee of the Arlington Sister City Association and Historic Chevy Chase DC.