Chevy Chase Playground and Field House

Despite the playground's equipment and paving having been replaced, the property remains one of the earliest extant city playgrounds and park buildings in DC, considered in its time a model for other Depression-era parks.

In 1921, a United Citizens Playground Committee completed a study and recommended that the District Commissioners adopt a system of equitable distribution of playgrounds around the city, urging the immediate provision of three facilities for white children, at least two more for African Americans—and preferably a third in Southeast. The federal government became more active in the provision of parks with the 1924 establishment of the National Capital Park Commission. NCPC gained access to federal funds for land acquisition and construction with the passage of the 1930 Capper-Crampton Act, and so began the realization of a plan for recreation and community centers.

Following the 1921 study by the United Citizens Playground Committee and its recommendations for park acquisition, a Chevy Chase Recreation Club approached the Chevy Chase Land Company about obtaining a parcel for the first playground northwest of the Taft Bridge. In March 1923, the Land Company agreed to lease the present site for three years for token consideration, with the intention that the Recreation Club would purchase the land or have the city do so at the expiration of that time. The club immediately laid out a baseball diamond, a football/soccer field, tennis and basketball courts, and a running track.

The Recreation Club was unsuccessful in reaching its target to fund the purchase and improvement of the parcel and of another directly across the Maryland line. Having sunk a considerable investment into the facilities, however, residents prevailed upon the new National Capital Park Commission to acquire the park for the public (white residents, that is), at a cost of $70,000. In 1927, the District Commissioners closed the northern stub of Forty-Second Street that had separated the property from the tiny Square 1745, expanding the park.

A symmetrical plan for the triangular park was proposed, but it was realized as a more informal layout in which an axis from the rear of the field house divided the softball field from the tennis courts. A 1944 plan indicates that a path meandered from Forty-First Street to Western northeast of the tennis courts, separating them from volleyball and basketball courts, swings and climbing equipment, and a picnic area at the northern apex of the park. Shortly after World War II, the site was reordered, with the baseball diamond and tennis and basketball courts in their present locations, divided by a north-south walk. One of the improvements of the early 1930s was a wading pool, reconfigured (now a spray park), but remaining in some version since.

DC Inventory: October 31, 2019



5500 41st Street NW