Cleveland Park: Images of America

Reviewed by Judy Hubbard Saul

This new book, Images of America: Cleveland Park, by Paul K. Williams and Kelton C. Higgins, is a must-read for anyone interested in the fascinating local history of the nation’s capital. Through mainly archival photographs, the Images of America series by the South Carolina publishing company Arcadia, documents what is unique about cities, towns, and neighborhoods across the United States. This is the seventh Washington, DC title in the series for Williams, principal of Kelsey and Associates, an architectural preservation firm, and the first Arcadia title for his collaborator, Higgins.

Williams and Higgins appropriately begin their photographic narrative well before President Grover
Cleveland established his summer White House in the area and for whom the neighborhood is named. Included in the book is a drawing of the simple stone farmhouse President Cleveland bought in 1885, and a photograph of the house the following year after he “Victorianized” it. The book begins with photographs from the many grand estates, such as Rosedale, Woodley, and Klingle, which existed in the area in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Also included are photographs of people important to the area and to the country. People such as Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first president of the National Geographic Society and the owner of the 1888 Twin Oaks estate, and Ambassador Joseph Davies and his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post, the owners of the 1912 Tregaron estate. The authors document the early residential development along Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues and the important commercial development along the same corridors. Also included is a chapter on the many apartment buildings in the area.

What was particularly interesting to me was the inclusion of photographs beyond what we think of as Cleveland Park today: Peirce Mill, the area to the east; the old National Bureau of Standards buildings to the north; the Friendship estate, now McLean Gardens, to the west; and the National Cathedral under construction, to the south. Through historic photographs and informative captions and text, the history of Cleveland Park and its importance to the city and the country unfold in a very readable way.