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Overview of THS History

The Tenleytown Historical Society was incorporated in the District of Columbia in November 1988 to encourage architectural, cultural, and historic preservation and to educate members of the community about the value of protecting and preserving DC history.

It was, and continues to be, the Society’s practice to work with other like-minded organizations and individuals and public entities to ensure that the city of Washington, particularly the area in and around Tenleytown (including Friendship Heights, American University Park, Armesleigh Park, Wakefield, Mount Airy, North Cleveland Park) retains its historic fabric.

The Internal Revenue Service has designated Tenleytown Historical Society a 501(c) (3) organization. Dues and contributions paid to the Society are tax-deductible.

The Tenleytown Historical Society is operated completely by volunteers. We welcome new volunteers and contributions.

In the fall of 2003 the Society completed a Historic Resources Survey of Tenleytown funded with the assistance of a matching grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service through the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Grant Program.

The survey area included over eight hundred buildings in an area roughly bounded by Van Ness, 43rd, and Fessenden Streets, and Reno Road. The goal was to document the historical, architectural and cultural resources in the survey area.

The Survey identified a number of sites and areas that merited further research and consideration for nomination to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites.

In 2004 Tenleytown Historical Society completed a photographic survey of Friendship Heights, American University Park, and Tenleytown, funded by a grant from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E.

In 2008 the Humanities Council of Washington, DC provided a grant to the Society for the preparation of a National Register multi-property nomination, American University Park in Washington, DC: Its Early Houses, pre-Civil War to 1911.

In November 2010 the Tenleytown Heritage Trail was installed. THS worked with DC Cultural Tourism, Tenleytown Neighbors Association (TNA) and others to accomplish this.

The Trail highlights Tenleytown’s history on nineteen signs on a three mile walk easily accessible to residents and visitors.

Additional THS projects have been undertaken in cooperation with other local organizations and the DC government. These include:

Art on Call which refurbished old fire department call boxes with historical information and sketches of historic sites,

the creation of a local history collection at the Tenley Friendship Library,

the restoration and reinstallation of the lighted exterior sign at the library,

the panel depicting local history on the second floor of the library

and most recently, in 2015, the design of an exhibit on the history of Reno School and Reno City at the restored Reno School.

Tenleytown Historical Society has submitted a number of successful nominations for listing in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites.

Most recently, the C&P Telephone (Verizon) building just south of the firehouse on Wisconsin Avenue and the Perna Houses on Chesapeake Street have been added to the DC Inventory.

Additional Tenleytown listed sites can be found on our website. Nominations for eligible sites are submitted from time to time.

The Society is particularly pleased by the fact that new owners of a number of sites have demonstrated a commitment to restoring and maintaining their historic properties: the 1904 Immaculata Seminary on the AU Tenley Campus has been restored and incorporated into the new Washington College of Law site with new buildings added on the footprint of the razed 1955 buildings.

The Reno School, long neglected and defaced inside and out by graffiti has been beautifully restored and joined by a new glass connector to Deal Middle School.

The Perna Houses, built in 1909, have been sensitively restored and maintain interior as well as exterior historic features.

Four of our local landmarks, nominated by Tenleytown Historical Society, have received District of Columbia Preservation Awards; The Hilleary Burrows House (2004), Dumblane (2009) and The Methodist Cemetery (2010), all for Excellence in Stewardship, and The Yuma Study Center (Convent of Bon Secours) in 2014 for Excellence in Design and Construction.

The Tenleytown Historical Society takes seriously the responsibility for the oversight of historic sites in its area and monitors them to ensure preservation.

At the same time, it works with owners of historic sites and the DC Preservation Office on proposed changes to those sites that will enable new uses while respecting historic integrity.

The Society takes an interest in activities outside its immediate area, particularly as they may impact policies and enforcement of regulations relating to historic preservation and has joined with other interested organizations and individuals in the Coalition of Historic Districts.

Meetings are held on topics of historic interest, and THS is in email contact (tenleytownhistoricalsociety@yahoo.com) with its members to keep them apprised of events and actions relevant to the preservation of our history.

(Sketches courtesy of Lena Frumin)

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