******************** POSTING RULES & NOTES ********************
#1 YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
#2 This mail-list, like most, is publicly & permanently archived.
#3 Subscribe and post under an alias if #2 is a concern.
Washington Post, Sept. 29, 2018
Retropolis: The racist history of Chevy Chase, home to power players
like Brett Kavanaugh
By Terence McArdle
The tree-lined community of multimillion-dollar homes sits nestled in
Montgomery County, just beyond the District, and plays host to
Washington’s powerful and wealthy. But the tony Village of Chevy Chase
has a long history, not only of economic elitism, but also of racial
As late as 1976, the New York Times noted that the Chevy Chase Club golf
course and country club -- where President William Howard Taft once
played and whose members include Supreme Court nominee Brett M.
Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. -- permitted
“blackskinned members of the diplomatic corps” but not “black American
residents of the area, not even the black mayor of the nation’s capital.”
“I guess that depends on how you determine what black is,” then-club
President Millard West told the Times. “We do have provisions whereby
members of the diplomatic corps are given preferential treatment.”
But the developer of Chevy Chase was also a notorious racist, a Nevada
senator who once called for a repeal of the 15th Amendment, the law
granting voting rights to African American men.
“I was asked about naming a building for him and said, ‘Well you’d
better take a look at his racial beliefs,' ” said William D. Rowley, an
emeritus historian at the University of Nevada at Reno. “There are no
buildings named for him on campus at UNR.”
In the late 1800s, with Sen. William Stewart as a partner in the Chevy
Chase Land Co., Newlands secured 2,000 acres of unspoiled land for Rock
Creek Park. For Stewart and Newlands, the National Park not only
increased property values in upper Northwest but also served to shield
the white communities from emerging black neighborhoods on what they
called the “wrong side of the park.”
Although most buyers were lured to Chevy Chase by the appeal of an
exurban house with a yard, real estate agents also pushed the idea that
Chevy Chase was an exclusive enclave that easily priced out nonwhites,
the newly immigrated and the working class. Houses fronting on
Connecticut Avenue could not cost less than $5,000 and side-street
residences could not cost less than $3,000 — in today’s money, between
$90,000 and $150,000. (Today, many Connecticut Avenue abodes exceed a
million dollars in appraised value.)
But Newlands’s racists views were on display long before his development
of the exclusive community.
Newlands, the son of a Scottish physician, was born in Natchez, Miss.,
in 1846 and had a hardscrabble youth. His father, an alcoholic, died
young and his mother remarried a businessman who had lost his fortune in
the depression of 1857 and moved to the District. His brother, a Union
soldier, was severely wounded during the Civil War and later died from
complications of his injuries.
“In one letter, Newlands said that the North didn’t have a cause to
fight for like the South had a cause to fight for,” said Rowley, author
of “Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands.” “He
was a Northern Democrat who had doubts about the war.”
After attending Yale and George Washington University Law School (then
Columbian College), the young lawyer went west to San Francisco,
representing the mining interests and marrying into parvenu wealth and
politics. Newlands’s first wife, Clara Adelaide Sharon, the daughter of
a Nevada senator, inherited a fortune from the state’s silver mines.
When his wife died in the early 1880s, Newlands began buying land.
By the turn of the decade, Newlands and his business partner Maj. George
Armes had secretly bought up 1,700 acres between Woodley Park and Jones
Bridge Road and incorporated the Chevy Chase Land Company.
Newlands’s Capitol Hill clout won him the charter to build the streetcar
line in 1892. By 1901, the first 49 homes were built and within four
years, many Chevy Chase residents could be found in the social register.
The amenities included a resort, a manmade lake with a water turbo that
powered the trolley line, a swimming pool, an amusement park and the
members-only Chevy Chase Club.
Newlands represented Nevada as a Silver party congressman starting in
1893 and eventually became a Democratic senator. His legislative
achievements included introducing the bill that annexed the Republic of
Hawaii into the United States. A staunch conservationist and
progressive, he broke party lines to support Republican initiatives such
as the National Parks and U.S. Forest Service.
“After he becomes senator, he becomes one of the most recognizable
voices in western progressivism,” Rowley said. “He looks to the
government for reforms and modernization. This is unusual for a
Democrat, as most were for states’ rights.”
However, a proposal he put forth in the Democratic National Convention
of 1912 taints Newlands’s legacy.
“Senator Francis G. Newlands of Nevada arrived here to-day direct from
Reno with a proposal which is believed to contain more political
dynamite to the square inch than any that has been submitted to the
Resolutions Committee of a convention of either party in a good many
years,” trumpeted a New York Times story from the convention.
Newlands, who viewed African Americans as “a race of children,” called
for repeal of the 15th Amendment, terming it “poison in the
constitution.” Democrats voted the proposal down. However, in an era of
Southern poll taxes and literacy tests, it was less about the desire for
inclusiveness and more about political philosophy.
Rowley said the proposal was “viewed as extreme, though not without
support. Newlands was working to unite the segregationist South with the
anti-Chinese movement on the [west] coast. Some thought that might be a
winning political strategy. … He believed that by repealing the 15th
Amendment this could be done at the national level. He didn’t think it
could be done at the state level. He was criticized by Democrats who
felt it was a state issue.”
Newlands’s racist beliefs affected his philosophy as a developer and
In 1909, when a developer sold a few lots near Western Avenue to black
families, the Chevy Chase Land Co. filed suit and reacquired the
property, keeping the community white. By the 1920s, after Newlands’s
death, many deeds included restrictive covenants forbidding sale or
rental to blacks and Jews. (Such wording was common until passage of the
Fair Housing Act of 1968.)
The modern and diverse Chevy Chase consists of the Village of Chevy
Chase in Maryland and an adjoining neighborhood beyond a traffic circle
in the District. Brett Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, is the town manager of
their section of the community.
A fountain in the center of Chevy Chase Circle is named Francis Griffith
Newlands Memorial Fountain. In 2014, a D.C. advisory neighborhood
commissioner attempted to change the name, but the debate went nowhere.
"His statesmanship held true regard for the interests of all men," reads
the inscription on the Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain,
erected in 1933. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
“The story you get is, ‘Once upon a time this great man from Nevada
founded the Chevy Chase Land Company and built beautiful neighborhoods
in D.C. and Maryland.’ Gosh golly gee,” the commissioner Gary Thompson
told The Washington Post in December 2014. “I don’t think Newlands gets
a pass because of the times. He helped create the times.”
The fountain remains named for Newlands and — without the slightest hint
of irony — its inscription reads “His statesmanship held true regard for
the interests of all men.”
Full posting guidelines at: http://www.marxmail.org/sub.htm
Set your options at: