Top of the Town
— Tenleytown Heritage Trail —
The U.S. Navy arrived across the street at 3801 NebraskaAvenue during World War II, taking the Colonial style red-brick campus of Mount Vernon Seminary for secret "essential wartime activities." Soon more than 5,000 workers occupied the campus. Among them were WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) responding to President Roosevelt's call for women to tackle non-combat duties.
Most WAVES at this site operated cryptoanalytic equipment designed to break German and Japanese communications codes. Discussing the top-secret work with outsiders was considered an act of treason, so WAVE Elizabeth Butler could only write her family that her work was "very secret, one of the most in the Navy." Jennifer Wilcox later said that "Breaking the Japanese code was our finest hour."
Meanwhile the displaced Mount Vernon Seminary held classes nearby at Garfinckel's department store on Massachusetts Avenue, and students boarded with local families. After the war ended, the Navy retained the facility, so Mount Vernon Seminary moved to Foxhall Road. In 1999 it became a campus of George Washington University.
Before the seminary arrived, this was Grassland, Nathan Loughborough's 250-acre estate. In 1820 Loughborough, then comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, brought a lawsuit arguing "no taxation without representation." Like most of his neighbors of means, Loughborough owned slaves. Thus it is ironic that in 1946, Georgetown Day School, the first consciously integrated private school in Washington, rented Grassland for its second location. The Grassland house was razed for NBC's studios in 1956."
(Marker reverse, same on all markers in this series)
Tenelytown's story begins with Native American footpaths that crossed at the highestnatural elevation in what became Washington, DC. European settlers broadened the paths into roads, and in the late 1700s the enterprising John Tennally opened a tavern at the intersection of today's Wisconsin Avenue and River Road. Soon a community known as Tennallytown surrounded the tavern. Until the early 1880s Tennallytown remained a village amid rural Washington County, where about a dozen tightly knit and often inter-married families dominated daily life. Then modern transportation made Tenleytown easily accessible to downtown andpushed it into the 20th century.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail
shows you where, during the Civil War, the Union Army created Fort Reno. See where a mostly African American community grew up on—and eventually was erased from—the grounds of the old fort. Discover traces of Tenleytown's rural past. Witness the neighborhood's important role in both world wars. And discover where legendary TV and radio personalities got their starts.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail
is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail.The self-guided tour of 19 signs, just under three miles, offers about two hours of gentle exercise.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail,
a free booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available in both English and Spanish language editions at local businesses and institutions along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail is produced by Linda Donavan Harper, Alisha Bell, Laura Brower, Mara Cherkasky, Sarah Fairbrother, Helen Gineris, Elizabeth Goldberg, Carmen Harris, Pamela Jafari, Jane Freundel Levey, Akilah Luke,Yillah Rosenfeld, Leon Seemann, Frank Stewart, and Pat Wheeler of Cultural Tourism DC in collaboration with the District Department of Transportation, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, the U.S. Department of Transportation,the Tenleytown Neighbors Association, the Tenleytown Historical Society, and the Tenleytown Heritage Trail Working Group. Special thanks to Working Group Chair Carolyn Long and Historian Carole Abrams Kolker, and Working Group Members Pat Morders Armbruster, Ed Ashe, Lynn Bergfalk, Cheryl Browning, L.S. "Bill" Chamberlain, Jr., Rev. Dr. Ronald Conner, Gerald Cooke, B.F. Cooling, Jennifer Harry Cullen, Harriet Dwinell, Kenneth Faulstich, Fred Gore, Jean Gore, Frank Haendler Jason Hegy, Sherry Houghton, Donald J. Hunter, Susan Jaquet, Deborah Jaquiss, James Johnston, Karol "Noonie" Keane,Mary Alice and Richard Levine, Aaron Lloyd, South T. Lynn, Bernard McDermott, Jean M. Pablo, the late Matt Pavuk, Dick Randall, Kathryn Ray, Chris Schumann, Sterling Scroggins, Carolyn Sherman, Diane Tamayo, Marvin Tievsky,Rhoda Trooboff, Jane Waldmann, Cathy Wiss, and Doug Wonderlic.
Thank you also to ANCs 3E and 3F, Jim Anderson, Jean Bathurst, Brian Bowers, Yvonne Carignan, Jane Charter, Dustin Davis, John and Linda Derrick, James Embrey, Kathleen Franz, Pamela Gardner, Matt Glassman, Nicole Goldman, Mark Greek, Ashley Hair, Jeannette Harper, Ron Harvey, Faye Haskins, Mary Herbert, Judith Helm, Bill Jarrett, Joel Kemelhor,Maryanne Ball Kendall, Brian Kraft, Susan and Greg Lewis, Camille Martone, Lisa McCarty, Susan McElrath, Alison McWilliams, Eda Offutt, Elvi Moore, Anne Manoukian Page, Eddy Palanzo, Lewis Parker, Khalim Piankhi, Brian Porto, Bill Reeves, Priscilla D. Ricker, Nelson Rimensnyder, Donna Burrows Rose, Kathryn S. Smith, Barbara D. Tate, Barry Tillman, Rebecca Trachtman, Emma Byrum Weaver, Hayden Wetzel, Jerry Wheat, and Bruce Yarnall.
Photo of Fort Reno Park water towers (1928) on each sign appears courtesy, The Washington Post.
(Marker shows a copyright dated 2010.) Design by Karol A. Keane Design, Map by Bowring Cartographic.