Fountain Named for Chevy Chase Land Company Founder Source of Controversy

NewlandsFrom the Chevy Chase Land Company Home Page

The Chevy Chase ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) in the District of Columbia will consider a resolution (see below) next Monday night to call for the renaming of the fountain in Chevy Chase Circle after someone other than U.S. Sen. Francis Newlands, who helped to found Chevy Chase, due to his long-time efforts to promote his negative views of Blacks, Jews, and Women.

The Chevy Chase Land Company still recalls Sen. Newlands with pride. When they unveiled their plans for Chevy Chase Lake at the Planning Board, then-President David Smith began his PowerPoint with a slide of Sen. Newlands. About as much time was spent telling us about Sen. Newlands’ role in founding the area as their actual plans for the area, though unsurprisingly no mention was made of his bigoted views.

Sen. Newlands still appears on the home page of the Land Company website (see above) with a biography on a linked page that–beyond crediting him for founding Chevy Chase–also informs the community that:

Because Senator Newlands was considered one of the fathers of modern irrigation, in the 1930s a fountain was built in Chevy Chase Circle (which was considered the gateway to the Federal City) memorializing his contributions in this area. To recognize the 100th anniversary of its founding, The Chevy Chase Land Company refurbished and repaired the Chevy Chase Circle Memorial Fountain in 1990, and held a rededication ceremony attended by members of the community. . . .

The Land Company to this day remains family owned and is proud of its long tradition of family leadership and its deep connections to the Chevy Chase community.

Here is the proposed resolution:

Resolution Calling for the Renaming of the Fountain at Chevy Chase Circle

WHEREAS, the fountain in Chevy Chase Circle is called the “Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain,” as evidenced by a plaque at the fountain dedicating it to the late U.S. Senator Francis G. Newlands (1846-1917), the fountain being listed on the National Registry of Historic Places;

WHEREAS, the Chevy Chase ANC desires that the fountain be renamed for a person that our community respects and honors, in accordance with all necessary approvals by any governmental agencies;

WHEREAS, the Chevy Chase ANC respectfully makes this request for the following reasons:

1. Senator Francis G. Newlands was instrumental in the creation of Chevy Chase D.C. & MD, but his vision was for Chevy Chase to be forever racially segregated. He included in most property deeds in Chevy Chase a racist covenant precluding land from ever being owned by African-Americans or Jews (these covenants have since been declared void but are still present in original deeds, usually lined out). He also used the formation of Rock Creek Park as a segregationist barrier in D.C. generally.

2. Senator Newlands was a lifelong outspoken racist and segregationist. He openly called (including in his 1912 campaign for U.S. President) for amending the constitution to prohibit the vote to African-Americans and limit immigration to whites-only.

3. During his political career, he fought to limit education for African-Americans to domestic and menial work only, and for other measures to suppress the rights of African-Americans.

4. He also opposed women’s suffrage.

5. The historic public record reveals his outdated beliefs. For example, he said: “I believe this should be a white man’s country, and that we should frankly express our determination that it shall be.” New York Times, June 17, 1912.

WHEREAS, Chevy Chase acknowledges the historic role played by Senator Newlands as the lead developer of Chevy Chase, but as we long ago progressed beyond his segregationist vision for our neighborhood, over the last many decades building a warm community that is open, tolerant, and inclusive in every respect;

WHEREAS, the primary purpose of this Resolution is to create a positive opportunity to name the fountain for a person that our current community (and the area and nation as a whole) respects and honors, leaving Senator Newlands to the annals of history;


The Chevy Chase ANC supports the renaming of the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle, and suggests the name [TBD, nominees include John J. Pershing (who lived in Chevy Chase) and Frederick Douglas (who lived in DC)]. The Chevy Chase ANC requests that the D.C. Council pass a Resolution supporting this Resolution, and forwarding both resolutions to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office for implementation through a name change on the National Register of Historic Places (which lists the fountain), a new plaque at the fountain itself, and such other measures to complete the renaming of the fountain.