American University Park in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Top of the Town
—Tenleytown Heritage Trail —
American University’s ties to the nation’s capital are not just geographic. During both world wars, the U.S. military used the campus as training grounds, with soldiers and sailors adding new energy to daily life in Tenleytown. And President John F. Kennedy chose his American University commencement speech in 1963 as the moment to call on the Soviet Union to craft a historic nuclear test ban treaty.
American University occupies grounds once owned by Tenleytown’s largest landowners, the descendants of the Addison-Murdock families. In the early 1800s, John Murdock’s hospitality attracted distinguished guests—including George Washington—to his country estate, “Friendship.” During the Civil War (1861–1865), Murdock’s tract, incorporating today’s Ward Circle and Katzen Arts Center, became Fort Gaines, headquarters of the dashing French Algerian “Zouaves.” When Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary dined with Colonel de Troibriand
(Marker reverse, same on all markers in this series)
Tenelytown’s story begins with Native American footpaths that crossed at the highest natural elevation in what became Washington, DC. European settlers broadened the paths into roads, and in the late 1700s the enterprising John Tennally opened a tavern at the intersection of today’s Wisconsin Avenue and River Road. Soon a community known as Tennallytown surrounded the tavern. Until the early 1880s Tennallytown remained a village amid rural Washington County, where about a dozen tightly knit and often inter-married families dominated daily life. Then modern transportation made Tenleytown easily accessible to downtown and pushed it into the 20th century.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail shows you where, during the Civil War, the Union Army created Fort Reno. See where a mostly African American community grew up on—and eventually was erased from—the grounds of the old fort. Discover traces of Tenleytown’s rural past. Witness the neighborhood’s important role in both world wars. And discover where legendary TV and radio personalities got their
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided tour of 19 signs, just under three miles, offers about two hours of gentle exercise.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail, a free booklet capturing the trail’s highlights, is available in both English and Spanish language editions at local businesses and institutions along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail is produced by Linda Donavan Harper, Alisha Bell, Laura Brower, Mara Cherkasky, Sarah Fairbrother, Helen Gineris, Elizabeth Goldberg, Carmen Harris, Pamela Jafari, Jane Freundel Levey, Akilah Luke, Yillah Rosenfeld, Leon Seemann, Frank Stewart, and Pat Wheeler of Cultural Tourism DC in collaboration with the District Department of Transportation, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Tenleytown Neighbors Association, the Tenleytown Historical Society, and the Tenleytown Heritage Trail Working Group. Special thanks to Working Group Chair Carolyn Long and Historian Carole Abrams Kolker, and Working Group Members Pat Morders Armbruster, Ed Ashe, Lynn Bergfalk, Cheryl Browning, L.S. "Bill" Chamberlain, Jr., Rev. Dr. Ronald Conner, Gerald Cooke, B.F.
Thank you also to ANCs 3E and 3F, Jim Anderson, Jean Bathurst, Brian Bowers, Yvonne Carignan, Jane Charter, Dustin Davis, John and Linda Derrick, James Embrey, Kathleen Franz, Pamela Gardner, Matt Glassman, Nicole Goldman, Mark Greek, Ashley Hair, Jeannette Harper, Ron Harvey, Faye Haskins, Mary Herbert, Judith Helm, Bill Jarrett, Joel Kemelhor, Maryanne Ball Kendall, Brian Kraft, Susan and Greg Lewis, Camille Martone, Lisa McCarty, Susan McElrath, Alison McWilliams, Eda Offutt, Elvi Moore, Anne Manoukian Page, Eddy Palanzo, Lewis Parker, Khalim Piankhi, Brian Porto, Bill Reeves, Priscilla D. Ricker, Nelson Rimensnyder, Donna Burrows Rose, Kathryn S. Smith, Barbara D. Tate, Barry Tillman, Rebecca Trachtman, Emma Byrum Weaver, Hayden Wetzel, Jerry Wheat, and Bruce Yarnall.
Photo of Fort Reno Park water towers (1928) on each sign appears courtesy, The Washington
(Marker shows a copyright dated 2010.) Design by Karol A. Keane Design, Map by Bowring Cartographic.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 17.)
Location. 38° 56.287′ N, 77° 5.124′ W. Marker is in American University Park, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Ward Circle south of Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues, N.W.. Touch for map. Approach it by car northbound on Massachusetts Avenue. It is next to the turn lane for northbound Nebraska Avenue. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20016, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. General Artemas Ward Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Winning the War (approx. 0.2 miles away); Live on Our Stage! (approx. ¼ mile away); Birthplace of the Army Chemical Corps (approx. ¼ mile away); John Wesley (approx. 0.3 miles away); For the Children (approx. 0.4 miles away); Friendship Estate (approx. 0.6 miles away); Evalyn Walsh McLean and the Hope Diamond (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in American University Park.
More about this marker. There are a number of photographs on the marker. Clockwise starting top left, captions read:
♦ “Civil War soldiers of the 55th New York Volunteers were [uniformed in the style of] French Algerian ‘Zouaves,’ known for their long swords and fine cuisine—even at Fort Gaines, which once occupied the Katzen Arts Center site.”
♦ “President John F. Kennedy proposes the nuclear test ban treaty during AU’s commencement, 1963.”
♦ “An unidentified man poses next to the ruins of the old Murdock house, ‘Friendship,’ which was torn down for American University’s chancellor’s house.”
♦ “World War I Army engineers stationed at AU, above,” ♦ “trained on the Potomac, right, 1917.” ♦ “Christel Bangerter and friends at Reno City, far right.”
♦ The caption on the large photograph on the reverse (common) face of the marker reads, “Editorial staff of the American University student newspaper, The American Eagle, 1940s.”
Categories. • Education • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 15, 2011, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,062 times since then and 47 times this year. Last updated on January 21, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 15, 2011, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. 5. submitted on October 16, 2011, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. 6. submitted on October 17, 2011, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. 7, 8. submitted on October 16, 2011, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. 9. submitted on October 17, 2011, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.