Once Upon a Time in Glover Park
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Glover Park’s history spans about a hundred years now. Browsing current events from decades past evokes the phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Below are some headlines and news clippings from the early decades of the neighborhood from its creation to the dilemmas and successes experienced by its population. Do any of these issues sound familiar? Neighbors fret about liquor licenses and the people it might affect. Desirable housing is lauded and marketed. The citizen association struggles to get people involved, and then faces backlash when a major issue arises. Residents celebrate a new grocery store. They debate and push parks and schools for the kids. Parkland is at risk, traffic is a nightmare. Global issues affect us on a neighborhood level. We are intrigued by the scandals of high-profile figures.
Charles Glover Assaults Congressman
Calling Charles C. Glover “passionate” would be an understatement. The president of Riggs Bank and fighter for preserving parkland in Washington DC and elsewhere was not one to hide his feelings. He sold the land which eventually became the eponymous Glover Park neighborhood. In 1913, Congressman Thetus Sims of Tennessee, in a speech on the House floor, accused Glover of attempting to cheat the government and profit excessively from a land sale which would preserve 100 acres of Rock Creek Park. Glover was so enraged by these accusations that he found Sims on the street heading to the Capitol and slapped him on the face as hard as he could, knocking off his hat. He stated for the record that he slapped him again, though Sims was so stunned by the first blow that he could not recall the second. The congressman did remember the profanity that followed. Both the secretary of War and of Treasury witnessed the attack. Glover accused Sims of slander and demanded that he be expelled. Sims demanded that authorities arrest Glover for the attack and that he be censured by Congress. After days of posturing and bloviating, the fiery matter involving two powerful figures seemed to dissipate.
Before Whole Foods There was Piggly Wiggly
A shiny new grocery store is opening up in Glover Park in 1932! Not Whole Foods – Piggly Wiggly! One of the early adopters of the concept of self-service grocery was expanding rapidly in the nation and now opened a store at 2440 Wisconsin Ave where FedEx resides today. In fact, the owner Clarence Saunders patented the self-service grocery concept. They touted the variety, the selection and best of all you get to choose just as you would from a restaurant menu! They didn’t have a self-serve mochi/macaron bar or palm scanning though.
Outstanding New English Brick Homes
Benjamin H. Gruver, the builder of the majority of Glover Park row houses, marketed his product quite aggressively in the newspapers starting in the 1920’s. Prices were $9,750 with only $750 down! If you can find one for 100X that today, you’ve got a good deal. “Truly fine homes in a highly desirable environment. A location without peer.” He pushed the “spacious” rooms, the gas heat, modern appliances, cedar closets and the finest hardwood floors. All real estate brokers were welcome and open houses were all day on the weekend. Gruver advertised the charm of old England with modern American features. He did jump the gun on advertising the new superhighway on the western border, which luckily never materialized. “Glover Park is a community with a future,” he exclaimed.
Glover Park Citizens Association
In 1954, the Evening Star reviewed the accomplishments of the Glover Park Citizens Association, which was established in 1928 at the home of J. Hardy at 2730 Benton Street. The group decried the lack of trees, a school and bus access; the problem of road access and traffic, bad lighting, and the encroachment of commercialism. Well, they accomplished a lot early on – the Calvert street entrance to the neighborhood got paved, Stoddert Elementary School was built in 1931 and they convinced the city to run the D2 bus into the neighborhood asserting that the streetcar was inadequate. The Evening Star broke the story about Glover Park’s new school, but got the name wrong, calling it the John Stoddard School. Many of the trees that now line and shade the streets were a result of the GPCA efforts to convince the city of the need. Yet at an association meeting in 1957 they could not get anyone even to accept a nomination of president of the GPCA. It was a thankless job to face persistent apathy and then angry passion and complaining when an important issue arose. Outgoing president Edward Verdi just did not want the job anymore and pleaded for someone to take it.
Prohibition in Glover Park
Liquor licensing has been a timeless issue in Glover Park. The current 25-year liquor license moratorium hearkens back to the fretting over liquor stores in 1934 and how it might negatively affect children. The GPCA, meeting in April of that year, noted that a license application from a deli across the street from the Industrial Home School at 2353 Wisconsin Avenue might allow students to purchase alcohol and bring it to school. The GPCA felt that liquor sales should be located away from residential areas.
Air Raid Paranoia
Global issues often affect communities locally, yet the fears of the enemy attacking us at home during World War II was like nothing that most civilians have experienced here. The GPCA in 1941 had established an air raid warden post on Tunlaw Road and managed training classes in survival and first aid skills in case of attack. Neighbor John Gray was appointed head of the Glover Park Civilian Defense Committee. The Calvert Theater hosted a toy matinee for poor children four days before Christmas in 1941 just as the country was geared for war. One little girl, when asked what she wanted for Christmas, responded, "A first aid kit; because I think I'll need it." A representative of the Daughters of the American Revolution attended a GPCA meeting to urge children to fight for freedom and democracy “against all –isms detrimental to our country.” Mrs. William Leetch of the DAR warned everyone that it can happen here.
Parks, Parks and More Parks
Charles Glover was not the only advocate for preserving and enjoying parkland. Glover Park came very close to losing most of Glover-Archbold Park in the 1930’s to a six-lane superhighway! The city was leaning towards approving such destruction until Anne Archbold (the other half of the donor of the parkland to the government) advocated for preserving it and stated that was her intention when she donated the land. DC did have the upper hand as they did have a legal right-of-way for a street through the parkland. Yet, nature advocates prevailed, and residents were left with Canal Road as their rapid entry and exit to and from the city. On a smaller scale, the GPCA along with neighbors were successful at converting a trash dump into a quaint playground bounded by Huidekoper, Benton, Beecher and 39th Streets. This “Rear Window” setting became a popular and safe place for children to play in 1935. It became known as Cunningham Park, after a neighbor who put a lot of energy into making it happen. Also in 1935, the GPCA was successful in the creation of a supervised playground on the grounds of Stoddert Elementary School which went without one since opening in 1931. Residents were concerned by the growing number of children in the neighborhood and that they did not have a place to play. Upon completion of the Stoddert playground, the smaller Cunningham Park became a quiet garden for adults.
I am a little disappointed the GPCA did away with all that "frolicking" that took place back in the 1930's. How about bringing back the card playing, singing, dancing and midnight supper at the meetings? I bet they even played Bingo occasionally. Keeping with tradition, leave your cell phones at home...