As the discussion around who and why a person receives a memorial continues, the Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain serves as one example of changing opinions regarding a person’s legacy. Commissioned by his wife, Edith McAllister Newlands and designed by friend Edward W. Donn Jr, the fountain originally honored Senator Francis Newlands as a major developer of the surrounding Chevy Chase neighborhood; today, however, the memorial reminds residents of his racist and anti-immigration ideologies.
The fountain, located at the center of Chevy Chase Circle at the District of Columbia-Maryland border, was dedicated in 1933 and designed in the Academic Abstraction style. Surrounded by walking paths and benches lined with plants and trees, the fountain’s design was inspired by the grand fountains and gardens found throughout Europe. Its location was also chosen because much of the land purchased by Newlands for development was in the upper Northwest area under his company, the Chevy Chase Land Company.
In addition to his work as a developer, Newlands also served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during his lifetime. Serving the state of Nevada as a member of the Democratic Party, Newlands advocated for the repeal of the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed voting rights for citizens regardless of race. As a representative of the Democratic party and Western states, Newlands’s views came from deep-rooted racism and anti-immigration ideology.Newlands also became a leader in support of the Reclamation Act of 1902, which gave Western farmers access to funded irrigation canals and waterways.
In 2020, the memorial fountain came under scrutiny due to its association with Newlands’ political ideology, with many residents supporting the decision to remove the memorial plaque from the fountain. However, the removal of the plaque does not change the fountain’s official name - only an Act of Congress can officially change the name. While many support this move as well, Newlands’ name is still linked to the site for the time being.
DC Inventory: February 22, 2007
National Register: October 12, 2007
This site is included in the Women's Suffrage in Washington DC tour for its significance as a meeting place for female suffragists.