Historic Tenleytown - Subdivisions and Neighborhoods

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This section includes timely information on special projects, landmark applications and activities. It will also from time to time include information on programs sponsored by other organizations dedicated to preserving our local history.


RENO CITY – RAZED! - March 15, 2018 Program
co-sponsored by Tenleytown Historical Society and Historic Chevy Chase, DC

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018

Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Place: Reno School, now a part of Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive, NW (20016)

Speaker: Neil Flanagan

Photo courtesy National Park Service

Reservations requested: tenleytownhistoricalsociety@yahoo.com

Mr. Flanagan will discuss the disappearance of Reno City, a thriving heavily African American but integrated community. He is the author of the intensively researched article on the fate of Reno City published in the Washington City Paper in November of 2017. Some of the issues to be addressed are: the origins and extent of Reno City; its evolving demographic composition; when, why and how Reno City was deconstructed; how was Reno City’s disappearance related to developments in nearby neighborhoods, above all in Chevy Chase DC and Tenleytown. Following Mr. Flanagan’s presentation he will joined on a panel to explore these issues by Carl Lankowski of Historic Chevy Chase DC, Carolyn Long of the Tenleytown Historical Society and L Paige Whitley, co-author of “Tracing a Bethesda, Maryland African American Community and its Contested Cemetery,” published in Fall 2017 by Washington History, the journal of the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

There will be an opportunity to view Tenleytown Historical Society’s exhibit on the history of Reno City and Reno School.

Directions: Fort Drive runs east to west from Nebraska Avenue and is roughly opposite Davenport Street NW. There is a traffic light.

Reno School is actually on Howard Street – first right off Fort Drive after entering campus – entrance located at end of Howard Street – past Reno building – in glass connector. Parking is available along the drive and in front of Deal.

By metro: Red line to Tenleytown – exit east side, walk a block east to 40th Street, NW, left on 40th Street to Fort Reno and path to Deal/Reno.


PEPCO Harrison Street/Friendship Heights substation landmarked

At its November 16, 2017 meeting the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to add the Pepco Harrison Street/Friendship Heights substation to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. The nomination was jointly submitted by Tenleytown Historical Society and the Art Deco Society of Washington.

The Art Deco/Art Moderne façade facing Wisconsin Avenue is the significant feature of the site. Pepco has committed as part of its infrastructure project to restore the façade to its original appearance including reinstallation of windows which can be used for displays that will have the potential to engage passersby.

Had Pepco wanted to make the Harrison Street substation upgrade into a mixed used project, nomination to and listing in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites would not have prevented it. Pepco has tried this in the past and decided against doing so again.

Contrary to misinformation being published, posted and tweeted, listing in the DC Inventory does NOT preclude alterations to a site. For local examples, consider the following landmarks:

Sears, now Best Buy, added CityLine.

The Convent of Bon Secours/Yuma Study Center has a substantial addition.

Immaculata’s original building has been incorporated into the Washington College of Law.

The 1903 Reno School (on the right) neglected for years, was restored and connected (left) to Deal Middle School.

These four projects are excellent examples of historic landmarks being adapted to current needs while preserving their historic components. Each of these projects benefited from oversight and input from the DC Historic Preservation Office.

THS was founded by Tenleytown residents and represents views of community members who support responsible stewardship of the area’s historic resources. A neighborhood with tangible links to its past maintains a distinct sense of place and is a more interesting place to live and work. THS has long encouraged Pepco to upgrade the façade/streetscape, which Pepco now has committed to as part of its infrastructure upgrade. We look forward to the revitalization of the Pepco façade.


March is Women’s History month and an opportunity to celebrate some women who have made notable contributions to Tenleytown’s history.

Rose Greely 1887 – 1969, Landscape Architect

In 1925 at the age of 38, Rose Greely became the first licensed female architect in Washington, D.C. Greely is known as a pioneering landscape architect, who ran her own thriving firm for 40 years, working primarily (though not exclusively) on residential commissions. Among her clients were ambassadors, senators, businessmen, military figures, and socialites – including a few who called Tenleytown home.

Greely designed gardens at Under Oak, and also worked the grounds of 4000 Nebraska Avenue. Greely also designed pathways, plantings, and a playground for the Hillcrest Children’s Home, now the site of the National Presbyterian School.

Greely was a D.C. native, one of six children of Adolphus M. Greely, a General in the U.S. Army and an Arctic explorer. She attended the National Cathedral School and a year of finishing school in New York. As Greely was reaching adulthood, the discipline of landscape architecture (as a profession distinct from architecture) was in its infancy. The American Society of Landscape Architects was founded in 1899 and Harvard’s landscape architecture program was established in 1900. Harvard, however, did not accept women students at that time.

In 1916, Greely joined a handful of young women to train under Harvard architecture professor Henry Atherton Frost at the Cambridge School of Domestic and Landscape Architecture for Women, which later became a part of Smith College. Greely completed her coursework in 1920 and thereafter worked in Boston for several landscape architects and for House Beautiful as a writer. Greely returned to Washington, D.C. in 1923 and worked for architect Horace Peaslee for a few years until she opened her own business.

Bon Secours, Immaculata, and the Washington College of Law

The institutional buildings on Yuma Street, west of Tenley Circle serve as reminders of the progress of women in the early twentieth century.

On the south side of Yuma stands a yellow brick building with a green clay tile roof, which built as the Convent of Bon Secours in 1928.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours was a nursing order founded in France in 1820s to care for the sick and dying in their homes. The Sisters first established a health care ministry in the U.S. in Baltimore in 1881 and expanded to D.C. in 1905, initially occupying the former rectory of St. Ann's Church. The Sisters provided nursing care during annual typhoid outbreaks and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Several died, victims of the same diseases. The Sisters' services were “available to all, irrespective of color, creed or class.”

The World War II years had a profound effect on the Sisters, many of whom were sent to support activities in Baltimore and to replace Sisters who had joined the military. After the war, nursing evolved from a religious ministry to a professional, medical career for women; at the same time a transition from home health care to institutional nursing was taking place. In the 1950s the building served as housing for sisters studying at Catholic University, Georgetown and other schools. Though the Sisters remain active in Baltimore, among other places, in 1966, the D.C. convent ceased operation. The order sold the building to the French Embassy, which used it for the French International School. From 1975 – 2000, the Oakcrest School occupied the building.

Across the street from the Convent of Bon Secours (now known as the Yuma Center) stands the Washington College of Law. The historic building facing Tenley Circle, renamed Capital Hall by American University, originally was home to the Immaculata Seminary, a Catholic girls school founded in 1905 by the Sister of Providence, an order from Indiana, at the behest of the pastor of St. Ann's Church. Immaculata opened at a time when educational opportunities for girls were expanding: other local independent schools founded during the first decade of the twentieth century include the National Cathedral School (1900), Holton-Arms (1901), and Madeira (1906).

Immaculata Seminary opened with a class of 18 pupils in elementary, secondary and postgraduate programs. (The postgraduate classes later developed into a junior college). The college closed in 1978, and the elementary and high schools closed in 1986, at which point the property was sold to American University.

Immaculata High School Field Hockey Team 1928 (credit Immaculata Alumnae Association Newsletter Spring 2010)

In 2016, American University relocated the Washington College of Law to a newly constructed building that incorporates Capital Hall and the school chapel. Though new to the Tenleytown neighborhood, the Washington College of Law has played a significant role in the education of women. Incorporated in 1898, the Washington College of Law became the first law school in the world founded by women, Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett; the first to have a woman dean; and the first to graduate an all-female law school class. The story of its founding and pioneering founders is available at https://www.wcl.american.edu/history/founders.cfm.


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