by Ann Kessler
“Forest Hills has taken over older, but smaller, Fernwood Heights.” That’s a sentence I ran across in a May 1937 article in the Washington Post. What and where was this Fernwood Heights that Forest Hills absorbed?
On a 1908 map of Washington, Fernwood Heights is clearly labeled as consisting of two streets east of Connecticut Avenue NW: Tilden (formerly Quincy Street) and Upton (formerly Randolph Street).
Fernwood Heights was one of the first four subdivisions created by the Chevy Chase Land Company and the Newlands Company. The other three were Chevy Chase, of course, Chevy Chase Heights and Oak View.
Senator Francis G. Newlands first built three Georgian style brick buildings at Connecticut Avenue and Upton Street NW in 1903-1905. These buildings would soon become the home of the Army and Navy School and a landmark of the new development along Connecticut Avenue.
In 1904, a new subdivision located near these buildings, Fernwood Heights, was first advertised in the Washington newspapers. The Thomas J. Fisher & Co., Inc. (1414 F St. NW) became the sole real estate agent for these 25 lots. The advertisements touted the nearness of the U.S. Bureau of Standards and promoted the sale as a good investment that was expected to double in value once the still under-construction Connecticut Avenue Bridge was completed. As this ad stated, “The City is growing to it.”
For $1,750, with two or three hundred dollars down, one could buy a lot and either build a home or watch the value of the land increase. By 1907, houses in Fernwood Heights were being advertised by Terrell & Little, a real estate firm, as “High-class Suburban Residences…Elegant semi-detached houses – on beautiful lots 50×139 – on Tilden Street – the handsomest boulevard in the northwest section of the District; near Chevy Chase Cars, Carnegie Institute, and United States Bureau of Standards… Each home has 10 large rooms…”
Other developers interested in Fernwood Heights included John M. Henderson, who purchased 14 lots for development on the south side of Upton Street from Thomas J. Fisher & Co., in December 1914.
By 1919, according to a census, 442 people lived in Fernwood Heights, 1,428 lived in Cleveland Park, 1,844 lived in Chevy Chase, and 2,227 lived in Tenley. With the development of Forest Hills in the mid-1920s, the neighborhood of Fernwood Heights, though it was here first, would be absorbed and the name mostly forgotten.
Advertisements for Fernwood Heights, Evening Star, June 7, July 9 and 11, 1904; May 26, 1906.
Advertisement for Fernwood Heights, Washington Herald, April 21, 1907.
Board of Commissioners. Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia Year End June 30, 1920. Vol. 1. Miscellaneous Reports. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1921.
“Fernwood Heights: A Pretty Suburb,” Washington Times, August 5, 1906.
“Fernwood Heights Rapidly Building Up,” Washington Times, April 8, 1906.
Harold, B.C. (1937, May 30). “Washington, the planned city, is really a collection of old villages.” The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from search.proquest.com (subscription required).
“New Street Names,” Evening Star, April 26, 1905.
U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on the District of Columbia. Purchase of Land by the Bureau of Standards: Report No. 1157. (To accompany H. Doc. No. 1188). Feb. 28, 1919. 65th Congress, 3d Session. H.R. Rep. No. 1157, Serial 7455.