Last Farm in the District is Doomed

I’ve been trying to dig up this information for a really long time. Thanks to some minor prodding in an email from GoDCer Hugh, I decided to give in one more shot. And, I finally found something!

Ada Evening News - April 11th, 1939
Ada Evening News – April 11th, 1939

The Ada Evening News, a local paper from Ada, Oklahoma (seriously in the middle of nowhere – no offense if you’re from there) had a really small mention of the last farm in D.C. being forced to shut down. It was printed in the newspaper on Tuesday, April 11th, 1939.

George Lindner, a 71-year-old farmer, had been growing vegetables on the family farm for the last 52 years, which was in southeast. The farm had been in the Lindner family since early on during the Civil War.

It’s odd that after all this time, I had to find out the details behind Washington’s last farm from a tiny newspaper in Oklahoma, but nevertheless, I finally had something to help me dig even deeper and uncover a story to share with GoDCers.

The family farm was located at 3801 Wheeler Rd. SE, and today, it looks like the land has a large apartment building on it, though there is quite a bit of open space on a hill. It also appears that Achievement Prep is on the land formerly owned by the Lindner family.

We were also able to dig up the family records in the 1930 U.S. Census. George was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1883. At the time, he was a widower, living with two daughters and three sons.

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Lindner family in the 1930 U.S. Census
Lindner family in the 1930 U.S. Census

The Lindner story is like so many others of urban progress. Family has land for several generations, government wants to build a road, family is out of luck.

With the family’s name and the 1939 timeframe, we finally came across a Washington Post article, also published on April 11th.

The last farm in the District is doomed.

The chocolate, loamy earth that George Lindner acquired from his father 52 years ago and worked and watched while it brought to life vegetables for the tables of Washington is soon to disappear to accomodate a highway between Fourth street and Wheeler road southeast.

George Lindner, 71, has a back like a soldier’s, a Bavarian ancestry and a pair of small, gray eyes that can look deeply into a piece of ground t ocall it good earth or not. He has two stout sons, James and Morris, and a daughter, Catherine, who worked with him yesterday, bending low upon the field to place spring seedlings in the ground.

George Lindner called his sons and daughter to help explain what, of a sudden, was occuring. He used the blunt implement that has been easing the shoots into the ground, as a pointer.

“See,” he said, aiming the implement across the field, “the road would start off from there and take right off through here. Five acres would go from here and about seven from over there.” He pointed across the mintbed.

“It’s good ground. My boys here have been raised as farmers. They will have to learn something else to do. We can move, Ja, but where will there be land like this?”

“It is pretty in this valley: it’s like a little paradize here when things are up,” said Catherine. “He worked it for 50 years; Michael Lindner had it first. That was 77 years ago.”

“I worked it for 52 years,” said George Lindner. “In 1918 I had 10,000 celery; and now there are cantaloupes, beets, cabbages, and kale. What will I do; they say a man will be paid and will go someplace else, Ja; but in 100 acres any place else would he find this? That hill up there … I have acres there, but it is a hillside. This is a garden. Now the Park and Planning Commission–is that it?–sends for me; but I’m getting old and I send my son, and he must go back again for another trial.

“You see what I mean? The road–they have to have it–would start right there and come down through my garden. Now mw, ja, I am getting old. I don’t know how to feel, that I’ve got to leave it. But my sons were raised as gardeners and they must go on.”

Take a look below at the Baist real estate map of the Lindner family land in 1921. You can see the proposed roads even then, 18 years before the farm was taken over by the government.

Lindner family tract in the 1921 Baist real estate atlas
Lindner family tract in the 1921 Baist real estate atlas

Today, this is what the area looks like according to Google Maps.

For a bigger version of the map, click on the image below. It’s amazing to see how rural the area in southeast was back in 1921.

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1921 Baist real estate atlas of southeast D.C.
1921 Baist real estate atlas of southeast D.C.

Source: Library of Congress

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • John M

    Great post & detective work, Ghosts. Thank you for sharing.

  • SMcK

    I thought I remembered reading an article about 10 years ago about the last working farm in DC being sold. It was some place in DC. I suppose it’s possible that it was the last working farm inside the Beltway…

    • SMcK

      Yes, found a copy of the article. The last farm inside the DC Beltway was sold for a strip mall in 2005. It was in Capitol Heights. Sorry for the confusion.

  • LongTimeRez

    I wonder if these Lindners are any relation to the current Thaddeus Lindner family that was in Foggy Bottom for some years.

  • JP Grimm

    There is a box on my 1964 DC birth certificate to check if the baby’s residence is on a farm.

  • ET

    “Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970” would indicated that there was still farming going on in DC well pass that date however. But the chart on page 460 gives the number of One for the 1950 Census for “farm population, farms, land in farms, value” (1,000 acres) with dotted lines for the years covered after that. One other chart looks a farms/population on farms and DC seems to have lost much of that even earlier with the number representational of 1,000 people – DC had 1 (I guess 1,000) in 1910 and fell below that thereafter.

  • Al Petteway

    I grew up in SE D.C. in the 1950’s and it was still relatively rural, even then. There were open fields and an old country store with wooden floors, etc. We lived in a neighborhood, but it was not anything like it is today.

  • Doug

    The last farm inside the Beltway was the Wilson Farm and is now called FedEx Field. My distant cousins ran the dairy farm growing corn, wheat etc. As kids, we’d go visit them and learned how to milk cows etc. Even back then (early to mid 1950’s), teenagers would drive their cars through the corn fields leveling them. “Uncle Woodrow” didn’t live to see what his farm turned out to be, but his wife did. If I remembner correctly, their house was down by the PG Sportsplex area just west of the actual football field.

  • SheilaG

    Did you look at the 1900 Census? His mother? 70 yrs old, same last name, next property to Goerge’s is listed too. All listed as Gardeners. Wonder who she is?
    has a daughter and a nephew living there too. Wheeler Road is still pretty quiet road, but mostly by the MD side.

  • John Solberg

    I believe there was a sheep farm right across Reservoir Road from Georgetown University Hospital into the 1960’s. Does anyone else remember this?

  • leesea

    I think you will see several plots with my family’s name Wahler on the maps on this webpage. There were several farms from the late 1870s. In point of fact we operated the Congress Heights Dairy on Wheeler Road through WW2 and into the 1950s.