Chevy Chase is full of history! Be sure to check out these historic sites:
Chevy Chase Circle
Chevy Chase Circle’s history dates back to 1933, when the fountain was authorized by an Act of Congress. The stone replica of the Mason-Dixon Line was donated by the Garden Club of America to designate the entrance into Washington, DC. In 1991, Chevy Chase Village resident Barbara Price started an initiative to beautify the circle. The Friends of Chevy Chase Circle was started in 1992 to work with the National Park Service to plant flowers and Crabapple trees and to install an improved irrigation system. Over the years the National Park Service, with support from Chevy Chase Village and continued fundraising by the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle, has continued to beautify the circle. 2005 was the first year that the famed tulips were planted in the circle, inspiring the Friends to raise funds for an endowment for the annual tulip planting.
Source: Friends of Chevy Chase Circle
There has been recent momentum to remove the name of Senator Francis G. Newlands from the Chevy Chase Circle fountain. Senator Newlands was an avowed segregationist and white supremicist who sought to exclude minorities from moving into the Chevy Chase neighborhood. In early 2022, U.S. Senators from Maryland, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, introduced a bill to remove Newlands’ name from the park. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, with support from U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, introduced similar legislation in 2020 and 2021. The Montgomery County Council has also passed a unanimous resolution to remove Newland’s from the circle grounds. Read more from DCist.
Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave NW)
The Avalon Theatre first opened in 1923 as the Chevy Chase Theatre, when movies were still silent, complete with a pipe organ to provide music to accompany films. The cinema was renamed to Avalon Theatre in 1929 and was wired for “talkies” – the first one played was “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring George Bancroft.
The iconic ceiling mural that still graces the space today, which shows the god Mercury throwing a reel of film to a cherub, was painted by local artist Dana Westring in 1985. The theatre was bought and sold by various chains such as Cineplex Odeon, Lowes, and others, until bankruptcy in the early 2000s threatened to close the theatre forever. Local residents started the Avalon Theatre Project, which successfully saved the theatre The Avalon reopened in 2003 and now operates as “a nonprofit, community-supported film and education center in Chevy Chase whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire the people of metropolitan Washington, DC.” Learn more about their programming and how to support their mission at TheAvalon.org!
Chevy Chase Arcade (5520 Connecticut Ave NW)
Shopping arcades were the precursor to the modern shopping mall. The iconic Chevy Chase Arcade was one of four business centers planned by the Chevy Chase Land Company in the 1920’s to alternate with apartment complexes on Connecticut Avenue. Intended to be an elegant shopping destination, it was designed by architect Louis R. Moss in the Classical Revival style, complete with a limestone facade, vaulted ceiling, marble floors, and relief panels lining the arcade.
Historic Hatcher Building (5500 Connecticut Ave NW)
In the early 1900s commercial development was not permitted on the Montgomery County side of Chevy Chase, which led to increased commercial development on the DC side of Connecticut Avenue and its cross streets. This included the post office building, the Avalon Theatre, and the historic Hatcher Building, which originally housed a bank and is now home to Starbucks. The Hatcher Building is a fabulous reminder of how the Chevy Chase Land Company purposefully created distinct business districts alternating with residential areas along Connecticut Avenue, from Woodley Park through Chevy Chase, which allowed for distinct and unique commercial corridors to develop that have endured through today.
Source: Historic Chevy Chase DC
Want to take a deeper dive into Chevy Chase DC history? Check out this recorded “Historic Chevy Chase DC Virtual Tour” webinar.