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The History of Naming Decisions for Wisconsin Avenue (formerly High Street and Tennallytown Road)

Ever wondered why Wisconsin Avenue was known as High Street and further up as Tennallytown Road? Learn the history behind the naming decisions and why the ultimate preference of the people is still a much mooted question.
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Most GoDCers know that Wisconsin Avenue used to be called High Street in Georgetown and further up was known as Tennallytown Road. The history of naming decisions is always interesting, but sometimes the naming decisions not made are even more interesting.

Calvert Street Car Barn (The Tenleytown Historical Society)
Calvert Street Car Barn (The Tenleytown Historical Society)

Below is a surprising article that we came across in the Washington Post from June 3rd, 1904. (For some interesting historical context … a couple of weeks early, FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association – was formed.)

Tennallytown road will remain Tennallytown road for the immediate future, but it will be spelled officially “Tenleytown.” Such was the decision of the District Commissioners yesterday, taken upon the recommendation of Engineer Commissioner Biddle, who recently moved to designate the thoroughfare “Wisconsin avenue.” The reconsideration is to give people living along the road opportunity to be heard.

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When Col. Biddle first moved to designate the thoroughfare Wisconsin avenue, he though he was meeting a popular demand, but numerous protests convinced him of his mistake. What the ultimate preference of the people will be is a much mooted question. Names varying widely in some instances and in others distinguished only by a single letter have been suggested, and applied to the thoroughfare. Among the entries are Georgetown and Rockville road, Tennallytown road, Tenallytown road, Tenleytown road, Tenley road, High street, Thirty-second street, and Wisconsin avenue. In favor of each name there are staunch supporters. On only one point is there reognized to be an authority, and that is the board of geographic names, which held that the name of the town is “Tenley” and not Tennallytown.”

So, if you have ever wondered when the official switch from Tennallytown to Tenleytown happened, there you have it.

Also, if you haven’t checked out the Tenleytown Historical Society’s website yet, you should.

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Ghosts of DC stories.