What’s in a Name?
How neighborhoods got their names.
Alta Vista (one of Bethesda’s first subdivisions) was named by the developer to draw people who were interested in summer places with cool breezes. The first houses there were built in the 1880s, and it once was at the end of the streetcar line.
Bannockburn in Bethesda was named for a 14th-century Scottish victory over the English. It started life as a middle-class golf and country club after the purchase of 124 Glen Echo acres in about 1918, and the construction of a hilly, 18-hole course and a clubhouse, which still stands. The club went into bankruptcy during World War II, and the Group Housing Cooperative bought the land at auction in 1946 and created a unique, community-focused neighborhood after the war.
Retired Maj. Henry Maddux and Gen. Richard Marshall founded Battery Park in Bethesda and divided their triangular piece of land into three sections with 200 lots and several strangely shaped streets. They advertised in military journals, and the name attracted numerous servicemen and veterans.
Cabin John’s name, despite all the manufactured tales of hermits in the woods, likely began as “Captain John,” a reference to buccaneer John Smith, who may have sailed up the Potomac River as far as Little Falls in 1608. Later the name was corrupted through use and embroidered upon.
Drummond was named for and by Gen. Richard C. Drum, who bought 212 acres north of Somerset when he moved out of Washington, D.C., and built a 20-room home. The house burned in 1901, and then the San Francisco earthquake ruined his mutual insurance companies. So he started selling lots that were incorporated in 1916 as a one-street Chevy Chase township.
Banker Walter Tuckerman, the father of Bethesda’s classy Edgemoor subdivision, bought a fallow Watkins farm in 1912 and had a subdivision of large lots laid out on his 183.5 acres. He called it Edgewood, but when the mail often ended up at the arsenal near Baltimore, he changed the name, adopting the “moor” from preexisting Moorland Lane.
English Village in Bethesda was named as part of the abortive Bradley Hills enterprise, which began building a road, several subdivisions and a trolley line to Great Falls in 1912. A country club (now Bethesda Country Club) was part of the project that failed by 1920. The older homes in the neighborhood are very British looking.
Glen Echo was named by the Baltzley twins, who bought up more than 500 acres, claimed to have heard echoes along the creek bed and were selling lots in the 1890s, when they built a fancy restaurant that burned soon after it opened. They then invested in establishing a home for the Chautauqua movement. Later, it became a popular amusement park.
Greenwich Forest in Bethesda was intended by developer Morris Cafritz and architect and resident Alvin Aubinoe to look like an English village. Thus the name. In building houses, they left all the trees they could.
Haiti (pronounced Hay-tie) was an early black community off Hungerford Drive (Rte. 355). Built by slaves, the community includes a small cemetery on Martins Lane and traces its roots back to the 1840s. Haiti grew and flourished as a segregated community and was annexed by Rockville in 1949. The roots of the name are lost in the past, but may refer to a Caribbean slave uprising.
The Depression-era Hamlet neighborhood in Chevy Chase was Janet Newland Johnson’s idea, according to her daughter, Janet Farr. Mrs. Johnson, daughter of the founder, had the land laid out with no houses right next to each other and entrances from courtyards. She was trying to create a small, self-contained village.
Potomac’s Hunt Acres, a small subdivision off River Road at Swain’s Lock, takes its name from the old fox and hounds club that was reborn in 1931 out of the defunct Chevy Chase Hunt. The club moved to River Road in Bethesda, established itself near Travilah in 1945 and is still going strong with its headquarters at Barnesville.
Kenwood’s name probably grew out of Edgar Kennedy’s, since he bought up more than 200 acres of scrubby land in 1926. He and his partner, Donal Chamberlin, designed, cleared, subdivided and promoted the Chevy Chase neighborhood. Kennedy planted the cherry trees along the streets.
Leland took its name from Leland Stanford, one of the original investors in Chevy Chase. The subdivision was created by the Warren brothers in the 1920s. They built the town’s first shopping strip between Leland and Walsh and they also built a lot of bungalows.
Luxmanor, the North Bethesda subdivision that contains “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” is a 1930s development with a stylish ’30s name. It has had a citizens’ association since 1938.
Martin’s Additions was entrepreneur Harry Martin’s idea, and he assembled the Brookeville Road properties in Chevy Chase starting in 1896. In 1916, Martin’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Additions to Chevy Chase became special taxing districts. After a referendum, they were incorporated into a village in 1985.
Miller’s Flats, sometimes known as Miller’s Additions (1892), is the site of today’s Bethesda Row. The property was Anna Offutt’s inheritance from her father, who came to Bethesda in 1860, and was named by her husband, J. Hite Miller. It was Bethesda’s original industrial area of coal and lumber yards.
Mohican Hills probably was named by Glen Echo’s developers, the Baltzley brothers, who loved Indian names.
Northwest Park no longer exists, but it was once a prominent and bustling little community on what is now Battery Lane, then called Michigan Avenue, just north and west of the Woodmont subdivision. It was created in 1910 and had 100 lots that measured 100 by 400 feet. It maintained and lit its streets and staged tennis tournaments.
Oakmont, created in 1903, is perhaps the smallest “town” in the area. It was incorporated in 1918, all tree-shaded 18 acres of it. Its founders included Star Managing Editor O.O. Kuhn, and it began with 16 homes on Oak Place next to Nats’ pitcher-manager Walter Johnson’s small estate.
Pooks Hill was named by Business Week publisher Merle Thorpe in 1927 and is a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s story, “Puck of Pook’s Hill.” Thorpe’s grand home of the same name was in the news around 1940, when Crown Princess Martha of Norway bought and enlarged the place. It is the site of the county’s first high-rise apartment building.
Twinbrook, Rockville’s first major development after World War II, was built on the 202-acre Walnut Hill Farm between the B&O tracks and Viers Mill Road—and was the site of several streams. The developers purchased the land, named it and were influenced by William Levitt’s New York success in building low-cost, ranch-style homes. It was annexed by Rockville in 1949.
Woodmont, now Woodmont Triangle, was platted for Charles E. Wood in 1894, and the still-existing street network was laid out and 584 very small lots were created. In time it became Bethesda’s “wrong side of the tracks,” meaning the streetcar tracks along Old Georgetown Road. It had a rough and tumble reputation for many years.
William Offutt is a local historian and member of the Montgomery County Historical Society.