by Ann Kessler
(Part 2 of 2; see the first post, about Mrs. Wright’s efforts to build and improve our neighborhood schools here.)
Already known as an effective activist from her experience in advocating for neighborhood schools, Mrs. Wright was appointed to the District Committee on Recreation by Commissioner Melvin Hazen in 1935. She supported the development of a Recreation Center in the Reno area, near the three neighborhood schools, but still wanted a playground for the Forest Hills neighborhood itself. In 1936 Mrs. Wright endorsed the Citizens Association suggestion that the plot of ground at Davenport Street and Linnean Avenue NW, just west of Grant Road, become a neighborhood park with tennis courts. This particular lot had historical significance as it was the site where Union soldiers had stopped and rested on their march out Grant Road during the Civil War.
While this Davenport Street land was never set aside, land for a neighborhood park was finally obtained in 1942. Using the Capper-Crampton Act for preserving open areas in residential neighborhoods, the federal government purchased 3.27 acres in Forest Hills and assigned it to the District government. Mrs. Wright lobbied the Department of the Interior to designate this lot as a park for the Forest Hills neighborhood. Under Land Transfer Order 1206, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (NCPC) acquired, for $19,500, a total of 76,374.65 square feet between Brandywine and Chesapeake Streets to the east of Connecticut Avenue NW. According to the order, this land “will be known hereafter as portions of Forest Hills Playground, U.S. Reservation No. 654.”
In 1967, Citizens Association President Leon Brown requested in a letter to the DC Board of Recreation that the Forest Hills playground be named in honor of Mrs. Leslie Wright. A city official responded that designated names for playgrounds were selected at the time the NCPC condemned and acquired a property. Thus it was too late to honor Mrs. Wright. The city official suggested that the small recreation building to be included in the site under the Six Year Capital Outlay Budget of 1969 be named for Mrs. Wright. This building, of course, was never constructed.
But thanks to Mrs. Leslie Wright’s hard work and determination, the children of Forest Hills not only had good neighborhood public schools to attend, but a safe playground in which to play.