Posted tagged ‘Grant Circle’

Early History of Petworth Methodist Church

March 6, 2015

Petworth United Methodist Church(Petworth United Methodist Church today.)

One of the early buildings on Grant Circle is the Petworth Methodist Church. The current church was dedicated in 1916, making it an early Petworth structure, yet it wasn’t the first location of the Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church, nor the first building for area Methodists.

The original site of the Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church was on the northwest corner of 8th and Shepherd streets, NW. The property for the first Methodist church building was a gift of George W.F. Swartzell. With a congregation of 42 members, the cornerstone for the one-story red brick building was laid on April 23, 1906. The chapel was completed and dedicated on October 14, 1906. The original building was small as none knew if the congregation would succeed or not, but in less than a year the church structure was crowded and it became impossible to house and seat all the congregation.

Petworth Methodist 1909(1909 drawing of new Petworth M.E. Church showing original chapel to the west (left) with proposed new addition to the east (right). The new auditorium was never built.)

By May 1909, plans were made to enlarge the edifice. The new auditorium was designed by architect William J. Palmer and roughly seventy by eighty-five feet, with arrangements for a large choir and organ in the rear of the pulpit. The structure was to be built of brick and finished in pure white pebble-dash. However, these plans never came to pass.

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The original chapel of the former Methodist church at 8th and Shepherd ca. 1920, when used as a school. Image from Library of Congress.

During the fall of 1914 and the early spring of 1915 the church was turned over to the United States government for a sum of $15,000 to be used as a schoolhouse for children of the Petworth district. The Petworth public schools at that time were in need of additional space. The church building was adjacent to the old Petworth School, which along with the church would also make use of portable classrooms before razing the church building and expanding the school.

In April 1915 plans were made to erect a new church building. The contract was awarded to Charles E. Wire, a member of the church. Ground was broken for this building on the afternoon of July 11, 1915. On November 30, 1915, the corner stone was laid by the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, of the District of Columbia, Hon. Alexander Grant, grand master. The building was dedicated on October 8, 1916, by Rev. William F. McDowell, resident bishop of Washington.

Petworth Methodist 1915(Elevation published in 1915 of the new church building.)

The design of the church is Tudor-Gothic, and the octagonal shape was reportedly patterned after the architecture of the period of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The auditorium was designed to comfortably seat 500, and by use of the Akron system seating arrangement may be provided for 800.

Petworth Methodist(Auditorium of Petworth Methodist during community meeting.)

Bibliography

“As Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church Will Appear When Completed.” The Evening Star, July 10, 1915, Part 2, p. 8.

“Church Arranges Dedication Week.” The Washington Times, September 30, 1916, p. 12.

“Church to be Begun Soon.” The Washington Post, May 30, 1915, p. 15.

“Church to be Dedicated.” The Washington Post, September 27, 1916, p. 4.

“Dedicate New Church.” The Washington Post, October 15, 1906, p. 10.

“Methodists Start Church.” The Washington Post, April 24, 1906, p. 14.

“Modern Church Cold.” The Washington Post, July 12, 1915, p. 4.

“New Church is Planned.” The Washington Post, May 16, 1909, p. CA8.

“Petworth M.E. Church.” Washington Herald, July 15, 1922, p. 6.

“Petworth M.E. Church.” The Washington Star, May 16, 1909, Part 2, p. 5.

Historic District Proposed for Petworth’s Grant Circle

February 25, 2015

Grant Circle Historic DistrictLast night, members of Petworth’s Grant Circle community met at the Petworth Methodist Church to learn more about what it would mean to live in a Historic District. The meeting was organized by ANC 4C09 Commissioner Joe Martin with ANC 4C07 Commission John-Paul Hayworth in attendance and in response to the filing of a nomination for the district on February 13, 2015. A hearing on the nomination is scheduled before the Historic Preservation Review Board on Thursday, April 2nd. While the historic district nomination has not been posted on the HPO Web site yet, you can learn some of Grant Circle’s history from my August 22, 2013 post on the topic.

Parade float on New Hampshire Avenue with Grant Circle in the background, July 4, 1921 (photo from author's collection).

Parade float on New Hampshire Avenue with Grant Circle in the background, July 4, 1921 (photo from author’s collection).

The majority of the meeting was devoted to Historic Preservation Office staff members Kim Williams and Kim Elliott walking through the basics of historic district designation and what property owners could expect in the permitting process. They also took questions, a few of which included:

  • Would a historic district prevent buildings from being painted? (A: No, not unless there was a Historic Conservation Easement specifically addressing paint.)
  • Would a historic district prevent a wheel chair ramp from being built? (A: No, but the HPO staff would work with the property owner to find a good location for the ramps/lifts.)
  • Would a historic district require current homeowners to restore/fix everything that had been changed over the years and was no longer original to the house? (No: properties are grandfathered in in their current condition. The HPO staff would only review the work triggered by new permits, at which time some of the more incompatible changes over the years ‘could’ be addressed if related to the scope of work.)

One of the things that was new to me was the handout below which breaks down the differences in the permitting process between properties not in historic districts and those that are in them. As the HPO staff pointed out, the vast majority (somewhere around 90%) of permits applied for for historic district properties are issued without ever going before the Historic Preservation Review Board, which generally reviews only larger additions or significant alterations.

ANC 4C will be considering support for the historic district at their March 11th meeting held at the Petworth Library, beginning at 6:30 pm.

HPO permit sheet

 

Historic Profile of Petworth’s Grant Circle

August 22, 2013

[Printable PDF version here]

Detail of Hopkin’s 1894 map: The vicinity of Washington, D.C. showing location of Grant Circle as platted. (From the collection of the Library of Congress)

Detail of Hopkin’s 1894 map: The vicinity of Washington, D.C. showing location of Grant Circle as platted. (From the collection of the Library of Congress)

Grant Circle is named for Civil War general and 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. This large circle features no statue, but instead walks and attractive landscaping around a very old pine tree.

The neighborhood of Petworth dates to early 1887 when a syndicate represented by Benjamin H. Warder of Springfield, Ohio, purchased the 205 acre country seat of Benjamin Ogle Tayloe from his heirs. The neighborhood takes its name from Tayloe’s estate.

The tract, located north of Rock Creek Church Road and east of the Seventh Street Road (Georgia Avenue) was quickly subdivided. Warder and his partners planned to extensively improve the property for the construction of residential lots, including streets and avenues of the full width of the city streets conforming to the L’Enfant plan. This included the platting of two circles – Grant and Sherman.

The improvements of Grant Circle, much like the development of Petworth, was slow with little noticeable improvements until the early 20th Century. Initial delays were caused by the engineers being so busy in the spring of 1887 that they were unable to complete the surveying of the subdivision. Warder’s death in 1894 also hampered progress in the development of the subdivision.

In October 1914, Col. W. W. Harts, superintendent of public buildings and grounds as well as secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, proposed improvements for Grant Circle and McMillan Park to the Commission. By December, plans for the undeveloped park took into account the open vista to preserve the line of New Hampshire Avenue. At this time development of the Petworth neighborhood was still a short distance to the south and west with open space surrounding Grant Circle.

Parade float on New Hampshire Avenue with Grant Circle in the background, July 4, 1921 (photo from author's collection).

Parade float on New Hampshire Avenue with Grant Circle in the background, July 4, 1921 (©photo from author’s collection).

The vicinity around the circle quickly began to develop in 1915. In addition to the circle fast building up with residential structures, Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church purchased a site on the circle between New Hampshire Avenue and Varnum Street. St. Gabriels church also chose to locate here. Located on the circle between Varnum and Illinois Avenue, St. Gabriels was officially dedicated in 1924.

The Commission of Fine Arts favored relocating the Bartholdi Fountain to Grant Circle in 1925 and 1926 when Congress was looking to relocate the fountain. The photograph above shows it in its original position on the Mall on January 1, 1924. (Photo from author's collection).

The Commission of Fine Arts favored relocating the Bartholdi Fountain to Grant Circle in 1925 and 1926 when Congress was looking to relocate the fountain. The photograph above shows it in its original position on the Mall on January 1, 1924. (©Photo from author’s collection).

This period of development coincided with the creation of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial to the west of the U.S. Capitol. The Grant Memorial required the reworking of the U.S. Botanic Garden and Bartholdi Fountain grounds. When the removal of the fountain to a site at Chevy Chase Circle was proposed in the spring of 1925, it was disapproved by the Commission of Fine Arts. Instead, the Commission suggested Grant Circle as a more appropriate site if Congress was agreeable to the change. As Congress considered legislation to remove the fountain from the Botanic Garden site in March 1926, the Commission of Fine Arts again favored Grant Circle as a possible new site. Ultimately, with the relocation of the Botanic Garden in 1927, the fountain was dismantled and erected in 1932 in its present location south of the Botanic Garden.

In 1991, Metro’s plan to build the Green Line beneath Grant Circle caused great concern to the community. The 1.8 acre-park was lined with 50-year-old trees, hedges and benches. Transit officials originally proposed wiping out ten houses between Upshur Street and the circle to build a fan shaft and power station for the Georgia Avenue-Petworth subway stop located to the southwest at New Hampshire and Georgia avenues. In response to community opposition, Metro decided to build the fan shaft and power station at the circle. Construction began in 1994.

Tunneling under Grant Circle was completed late in 1997. During the three years of construction, the circle resembled a wasteland – but by December 1997 the park had been refurbished with new grass, newly poured concrete walkways, and new saplings. The park remained closed to residents until spring 1998 to give the new trees and grass time to adjust. Other than the metal grates over a huge subterranean power substation that Metro built under Grant Circle, the park maintains a high degree of its original integrity.

During the process, Metro took some unusual steps to preserve the park – including scraping up the topsoil and storing it elsewhere for three years. Metro also hired an arborist to make weekly house calls on four mature conifers in the park. The four, a cedrus atlanticus that sits in the center of the park, two rare firs and a Himalayan pine, were fenced off from danger. All four trees survived the process.

While the firs are struggling today, the white pine on the east side of the circle and the two Himalayan pines on the west side of the circle were healthy and thriving, as was the cedrus atlanticus at the center of the park.

Bibliography:

“Another Purchase of Suburban Property.” The Washington Post, March 4, 1887, p. 3.

“Art Commission Busy,” The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 1914, p. 16.

“Bishop Dedicates Newest Catholic Church in Capital.” The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 1924, p. 2.

Fehr, Stephen C. “Grant Circle Warily eyes Going Green: Metro Line to Bring Disruption, Change.” The Washington Post, March 7, 1992, p. E01.

McDade, Matt. “Grant Circle: It’s a Sunday Kind of Place.” The Washington Post, Dec. 10, 1951, p. B1.

Nilsson, Dex. The Names of Washington, D.C. Rockville, MD: Twinbrook Communications, c1998.

“Petworth Church to Build.” The Washington Post, April 25, 1915, p. 15.

“The Real Estate Market: Effect of the Extension of City Streets Upon Suburban Property. Suburban Property in the Line of Streets. Negotiations Pending.” The Washington Post, March 6, 1887, p. 2.

Reid, Alice. “Refurbished Park Is a Reward for Petworth: Work at Grant Circle Makes Up for Some of Disruptions Caused by Green Line Construction.” The Washington Post, Dec. 26, 1997, p. B03.

“Suburban Property: Tracts Which Are Being Subdivided Into Lots.” The Washington Post, June 13, 1887, p. 4.

“Washington Park Extension.” The Washington Post, Dec. 27, 1914, p. ES4.

View toward the southwest showing the deoadar cedar and the Methodist Episcopal Church in the background.

View toward the southwest showing the deoadar cedar and the Methodist Episcopal Church in the background.


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