Friends of Chevy Chase Circle

District of Columbia - Maryland


Friends of Chevy Chase Circle

. . . Cultivating a Treasured Landmark

A Brief History from 1991-2006

In 1991, Barbara Price, a Chevy Chase Village resident, had a vision to beautify Chevy Chase Circle. The parks and traffic circles of Europe were beautiful; why shouldn’t Chevy Chase Circle be beautiful as well. She contacted the Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, a division of the National Park Service, and invited him to meet with neighbors who were, in Barbara’s words, “interested in making this public space a prideful representation of how we feel about our community.”

In early 1992, the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle, Inc. (the “Friends”), comprised of representatives from the Chevy Chase Board of Managers, The Garden Club of Chevy Chase (the “Garden Club”). the Chevy Chase Historical Society (“CCHS”) and Historic Chevy Chase DC came into being as a separate committee of the CCHS in co-operation with the National Park Service. Its mission was “to encourage and promote the beautification of the Chevy Chase Circle area by means of public landscaping, planting and maintenance and thereby provide a more attractive gateway into Washington, DC.”

In late spring of 1992, the CCHS participated in the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage Tour and donated all of its earnings and provided the seed money to fund improvements in Chevy Chase Circle. The Garden Club held a flower show at the Chevy Chase Village Hall in conjunction with the Tour. A checking account was opened in July under the name of Friends of Chevy Chase Circle with monies donated by the Garden Club ($500) and the CCHS ($3822.79). The NPS delved into its scaled back budget and planted bulbs around the Circle in the fall for a 1993 spring blooming.

After four years of discussions, Mike McMahon, landscape architect with the National Park Service, developed a simple and neat design that called for the installation of 425 white Delaware Valley azaleas replacing the old multi-colored azaleas. In front of the azaleas would be a low flowering carpet of Rosa “noatraum”, a pink ground cover providing color seven months of the year. Two beds of five Sugar Tyme Crabapple trees would be planted among the roses in front of the azaleas on the east and west sides of the circle. This plant material, recommended by the NPS, is resistant to pests, pollution and disease and requires little maintenance. An extensive irrigation system was also installed, as well as a new pump for the fountain, located in the underground pump house, and a new fountainhead ordered from a foundry in Canada. At that time the fountain had no head and the water was simply shooting up from an exposed pipe.

The Friends, led by Alicia Ravenel, Barbara Price, Carol Coffin and Sue McDonald, initiated a fundraising campaign in the spring of 1996 to raise $24,000 for the azaleas, roses, an irrigation system and a new fountainhead. Letters went out not only to residents of all the Chevy Chase communities but to local businesses as well. In just a few months and by the end of the summer, the financial goal was achieved with major donations from the Chevy Chase Bank, The Chevy Chase Land Company and Clyde’s Restaurant.

In 1997, the NPS purchased and planted the crabapple trees, removed the old azaleas, prepared the flowerbeds, installed the plants and reseeded the lawn. It was an expensive undertaking but the NPS would economize in the long run since the new plan was to be relatively maintenance free.

By June of 1998 the NPS repaired the pump and fountain basin and completed the landscape design. Chevy Chase Village, from 1998 through 2000, contributed to the mowing. The Town of Chevy Chase also contributed toward mowing in 1999 and again in 2000. Chevy Chase Village assumed the cost of maintenance in the circle in 2001 and 2002. The NPS has assumed mowing and maintenance responsibilities since 2003.

Over the years the NPS has supplied thousands of dollars worth of time and money toward the upkeep of the circle, including repairing the electrical system, the pumping system, the fountain basin wall and basin itself. It has also repaired the park benches after repeated accidents. On Jan. 5, 2001, the most serious accident occurred when an off-duty Prince George’s County police officer drove into the Circle in the early morning hours and caused extensive damage to the garden beds, benches, exterior fountain wall and basin. It took several years for the NPS to repair this damage.

After a hiatus of many years of no spring bulbs, through the initiative and efforts of Barbara Price, a massive display of tulips appeared around the Circle in the spring of 2005, all paid for by the Friends and planted by the NPS. With the exciting and vibrant display of color heralding Spring, the Friends decided to repeat the effort in 2006.

In the late spring of 2006, the Friends decided to undertake a second fundraising campaign to raise an endowment for the annual planting of tulips.

The residents of Chevy Chase and the surrounding communities are fortunate to enjoy the fruits of the close relationship between the NPS and the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle which has made the Circle a visual delight for all to enjoy. When citizens work closely with their government, good things can happen!!

Markers in the Circle:

The two stone markers in the Circle, replicas of the Mason & Dixon Line markers, were given by the Garden Club of America in 1933 to mark the entrance into Washington from Maryland. (this was the sixth set placed around the entrances into the city to honor George Washington’s Bi-Centennial in 1932.) They were put in place the same day the Sen. Francis G. Newlands Fountain was dedicated. The Calvert Coat of Arms and the word “Maryland” are engraved on one side of the markers. “District of Columbia” is on the other side with a seal depicting George Washington, who is standing on pedestal, above a wreath being placed by Lady Justice and flanked by a rising sun and the Capitol.

One marker had stood on a median strip on the District side of Connecticut Avenue until a car knocked it down in 2000. In 1998, Alicia Ravenel learned that the NPS had found a long-lost stone marker that once stood in Chevy Chase Circle and was determined to rescue and repair it. It was found in the backyard of a Foxhall Village house in the District. With donations from the Garden Club, its members and generous contributors, both markers were restored and placed in the Circle in the fall of 2003.

Addendum and Update:

In the spring of 2013, after more than 20 years of service and dedication, Barbara Price, Carol Coffin and Alicia Ravenel began to actively seek new leadership for the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle by posting notices in local listservs and newsletters. Ruth Robbins and Gerri Carr of Chevy Chase Village stepped forward and have begun a second chapter in the history of the FoCCC. A new board of seven individuals was established in August of 2014; a website and a new logo were designed and launched in September of that same year and finally, and most significantly, FoCCC was set up as its own 501(c)(3) organization.

A Selected Timeline of Chevy Chase Circle

1933The fountain is dedicated and authorized by an Act of Congress
1956Benches are added to the interior of the Circle
1990At the 100th anniversary of the Chevy Chase Circle, The Chevy Chase Land Company “rededicates” and “restores” the fountain
1991Barbara Price first initiates contact with the NPS
1992The FoCCC formed as a separate committee under of the Chevy Chase Historical Society (CCHS) in cooperation with the NPS

Spring - Letter from Mary Anne Touhey re: CCHS’s participation in the MD House and Garden Pilgrimage Tour. Their money received would be contributed to fund activities of the FoCCC

July - Bank account opened: $3822.79 from CCHS and $500 from the Garden Club of Chevy Chase (Garden Club).

NPS planted bulbs around Circle for 1993 spring blooming
1996Louise Roberts of the Garden Club created a design for the Circle but the final landscape design was developed by the NPS and called for crabapples trees, new azaleas and rose bushes.

Fund raising campaign. $24,000 raised from private donations plus major donations from Chevy Chase Bank, Clyde’s restaurant, and The Chevy Chase Land Company. Money to go to new azaleas, roses bushes, fountainhead and irrigation system.
1997NPS purchased and planted trees, removed old azaleas, prepared flower beds, installed plants and re-seeded lawn.
1998Completion of landscaping
1998 - 2000Chevy Chase Village contributed to mowing
2001The Town of Chevy Chase contributed to mowing

In the early morning hours of Jan 5 a Prince George’s off-duty police officer drove into the Circle and caused extensive damage to the garden beds, benches, exterior fountain wall and basin. It took NPS several years to repair the damage.
2001 - 2002Chevy Chase Village assumed the cost of maintenance of the Circle
2002Restoration of two stone markers. Re-installed in Circle in the fall of 2003
1997 - 2003NPS made major repairs to electrical system, pumping system, the fountain basin wall and fountain, park benches. NPS assumed mowing and maintenance responsibilities in 2003.
2005 - 2006Spring display of tulips around Circle paid for by FoCCC, planted by the NPS
2006Second fundraising campaign to raise money for an endowment for annual planting of tulips
2014August: First Board meeting of newly reconstituted FoCCC

September: FoCCC incorporated and established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; website opened
2015Donation by Chevy Chase Land Company provides for initial operating budget and start-up expenses
2016With the help of a Centennial Challenge grant funds, benches on the circle are fully repaired
2017FoCCC obtains permits from both Maryland’s SHA and the NPS to landscape and maintain the “traffic splitters” north and south of the circle. Design contributions are made by Kristina Kent Gardens
2019FoCCC hires lighting designer, David Tozer of DKT Lighting and Design, and begins work with NPS for adding lights to the fountain
2020June: After prolonged efforts by a multi-jurisdictional “Safety Summit” committee led by FoCCC, DDOT repaves, repaints the lanes and re-configures the traffic flow patterns around the circle
ANC3/4g, Chevy Chase Chase Village board of Managers and the FoCCC issue Referendums asking the NPS to remove the Newlands name from the fountain; the Chevy Chase Land company issues a press release supporting these efforts to remove the Newlands name
2021After a lengthy review process, the US Commission of Fine Arts grants approval for the addition of lights to the fountain
Fall: Installation of 20 “bobo” hydrangeas in the four flowerbeds, 1200 geranium daffodils, and approximately 4000 daffodils with the help of Scout Troop 255
2022June: Installation in the flowerbeds of 144 “autumn brilliance” ferns, 72 anemone “Honore Jobert” and 444 astilbe chinensis “visions”
Mid-summer: Construction begins on the renovation of the fountain; a new pump, plumbing system and a state-of-the art recycling system is added. Funds from the community, Chevy Chase Village and a contribution by NPS assure that the new lights will be part of the project.
2023March: Construction is completed on the fountain
May 5: The Inaugural lighting of the fountain to the cheers of the community and a brass band; celebration of the first: “Chevy Chase Spring Fling: Two Communities, One Circle”