by Ann Kessler
When you look at area maps, you can see that little 600-foot long Gates Road doesn’t fit into the street grid of Forest Hills.
There’s a reason for that. It was there first.
And, as can be surmised, it was built by a family called Gates who lived nearby. Except their original name wasn’t Gates. It was Goetz. They were German immigrants from Wurtemburg, Germany, arriving in the United States in 1853.
In the 1891 edition of Hopkins’ Map of the District of Columbia from Official Records and Actual Surveys, the name of the property owner of the land immediately east of Connecticut Avenue and north of what is today Albemarle Street was Leonard Gates. However, a little more than 10 years later, the owner’s name was listed as S. Goetz in the 1903 Baist’s Real Estate Atlas and Sebella Goetz in the 1907 edition.
These names, Goetz and Gates, while apparently different, do belong to the same family. It seems that Sebella Goetz, born in Washington on September 25, 1860 to Leonhard Goetz and Barbara Rummel Goetz, chose to revert to the original spelling of her family’s name when she claimed ownership of the family’s land. Her parents had chosen a new spelling – Gates – which was certainly not unusual for immigrants wishing to appear more American in the 1800s.
A review of the 1870 federal Census records for Washington, DC. reveals that the family of Leonard “Getz” was living in Tennallytown and Mr. “Getz” was a farmer. (It is assumed the misspelling “Getz” was a typical error made by a Census taker.) The 1878 Washington city directory lists Leonard Gates, gardener, living on nearby Grant Road.
Thus, we can give a date for the first Gates or Goetz living near what would become Gates Road as sometime between 1870 and 1878. By 1880, the family’s last name had changed to Gates on the Census form. Mr. Gates’s occupation was still listed as gardener.
When Leonard Gates died in April 1892, his widow, Barbara, inherited the land. In a promissory note dated August 31, 1896, Sebella bought 10 acres of the family plot from her mother with the note for $5,500, with 4% interest, due in six years.vii In December 1897, at the age of 37, Sebella married Conrad F. Springer. While Sebella was listed as the sole owner of the property in the 1903 and 1907 Baist’s atlases, in the 1909 edition the owners were S.G. & C.F. Springer.
According to the 1900 Census, Barbara Gates, Sebella Goetz Springer’s mother, lived with her brother-in-law George Gates near her daughter. Their home at 3017 Gates Road was owned by Joseph Gates, who had received a building permit in 1898 to build a two-floor frame house on one acre of land at the intersection of Gates and Grant Roads. Thus, the name Gates Road probably dates from this period, if not earlier. Barbara Gates died in 1904, leaving her entire estate to her other daughter, Mary Gates Becker.
Sebella Goetz Springer lived on the Gates Road property from the mid 1870s, when her family moved there, through her marriage. At the time of her death on Dec. 30, 1940 she was living in a house at 3150 Gates Road. Only after her death would her husband, Conrad F. Springer, sell the Gates or Goetz farm to a developer. (Conrad Springer was quite a character. Read about him here.)
The original Gates and Goetz family residences no longer stand on Gates Road. 3017 Gates Road is the address for a new house built on that site in 2008, and there is no 3150 Gates Road. One address from the previous century does remain: the Owl’s Nest, built in 1897 at 3031 Gates Road.
My sincere thanks to Anne Rollins for all her help with this article.
1870, 1880, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Washington, D.C. Wills and Probate Records 1737-1952 for Barbara Goetz, District of Columbia Wills, Boxes 0256 Waters – 0266 Innes, 1903-1904.
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Washington, District of Columbia: Complete in Four Volumes. Plate 32. Philadelphia: G.W. Baist, 1903. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3851bm.gct00134c/?sp=36
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Washington, District of Columbia: Complete in Four Volumes. Plate 32. Philadelphia: G.W. Baist, 1907. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3851bm.gct00132c/?sp=36
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Washington, District of Columbia: Complete in Four Volumes. Plate 32. Philadelphia: G.W. Baist, 1909. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3851bm.gct00133c/?sp=36
Boyd, William H. Boyd’s Directory of the District of Columbia,1878. Washington: Boyd’s Directories, 1877. http://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/boydsdirectoryof1878wash
Hopkins, Griffith Morgan, Jr. Map of the District of Columbia from official records and actual surveys. Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins, C.E., 1891. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3851g.la002300
“Will Filed for Probate,” Evening Star, October 5, 1904. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1904-10-05/ed-1/seq-12/