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Chevy Chase/Chevy Chase Village – Montgomery County


The community of Chevy Chase, which lies on the Maryland side of the boundary with Washington, D.C. is a neighborhood of enchantments. Some of the region’s top shops, restaurants, cinemas, bars and clubs are found here as is some of the area’s top real estate. It is lively and fun. It is hip and high-end. It is always active and enticing.

The naming of this neighborhood has always been the subject of some debate. A common tale told of its namesake revolves around a battle that occurred in Great Britain in the year 1388. Lord Percy of England and the Earl Douglas of Scotland fought over “chaces” or hunting grounds around the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn. When Colonel Joseph Belt obtained the lands that create Chevy Chase from Lord Baltimore on July 10, 1725, he patented the name “Cheivy Chase” for the area. Other derivations of this story exist.

Chevy Chase was not always a hub of excitement. As a matter of fact, prior to 1890, it was acre upon acre of farmland. It is only the last century that the neighborhood can claim responsible for its significant growth.

At the turn of the 20th century, Senator Francis G. Newlands of Nevada and his business partners began to aggressively acquire lands for the purpose of developing a new, residential, “streetcar suburb” of Washington, D.C. They envisioned a distinctive community of beautiful homes built in a park-like setting. This community would provide every modern convenience – water, electricity, schools, recreational facilities and churches. No alleyways, common in the city, would be permitted in the planning of the enclave. Broad streets, sidewalks and parks would dominate the neighborhood and businesses would only be located at its boundaries.

The Chevy Chase Land Company was founded in an effort to build this community. Its holdings extended along present day Connecticut Avenue through Jones Bridge Road. Development began and soon residences populated the terrain. These homes carried high price points. Houses located on Connecticut Avenue proper fetched $5,000, while, residences on side streets in the neighborhood cost $3,000. It was meant to be a well-heeled area. The community did not shirk from their exclusivity, rather promoted it.

As Chevy Chase developed, life revolved around the streetcar line that its founders envisioned flourished. Residents used the streetcars to journey to work and usher children to school. Streetcar “skippers” ran errands in the city for local residents and delivered groceries and packages through a series of green boxes located on several street corners.

By the 1920s, exclusive language began to appear in Chevy Chase real estate deeds. Residents were meant to be white and have high incomes. By the close of World War II, this language disappeared. Ultimately, the 1948 ruling by the Supreme Court in Shelley vs. Kraemer eradicated the practice and the neighborhood became open to all.

Following World War II, the neighborhood of Chevy Chase thrived due to urban flight. And, the automobile. The area became accessible and popular. It was close enough to the city limits of Washington yet not within the city’s hubbub. The numbers of residents swelled through the following decades. Today, Chevy Chase remains one of the most popular neighborhoods in the region in which to live.

The neighborhood is full of high-end shops and specialty boutiques. Gucci, Tiffany and Company, Louis Vuiton, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Jandel create retail walls lining both sides of Wisconsin Avenue. Closer to the nexus of the original Chevy Chase settlement, on Connecticut Avenue, specialty boutiques and local markets dominate. Rock Creek Park buttresses the neighborhood and provides idyllic settings for picnics, hikes and other outdoor activities.

Chevy Chase is not only full of Starbucks and fashionistas. It is a neighborhood through and through as is evidenced by myriad homes throughout the area. Townhomes and single family units. Condominiums and Penthouses. They have distinctive styles and represent the diversity of the neighborhood. Some are elderly and full of history – the mansions that first inhabited the region. Some are modern and flashy – they illustrate the modernity that Chevy Chase has developed and will continue to chase.

The Chevy Chase residential neighborhood has been a favorite of Washingtonians for over a century. Today, mirroring its founders original vision of providing residents all of the conveniences and beauty the area has to offer, it stays true to its original conception.

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