Highest Ground at Tenleytown


Tenleytown-AU is, as the name suggests, near American University (though not so near that there isn’t a free shuttle for students running between the Metro stop and their campus). AU is the home of the American University Museum in the Katzen Arts Center. (The Katzen Arts Center is also an events venue; on the day I visited the museum in 2010, the signs on the doors indicated that “Sebastian and Chloe” would soon have a wedding there. Congratulations and best wishes, Sebastian and Chloe!)

Fort Reno Park

Fort Reno Park

Also near the Tenleytown Metro is Fort Reno Park. Fort Reno Park is one of the Civil War Defenses of Washington, and an interesting one for a few reasons:

It is the highest land elevation in Washington, DC. This feature made it a good candidate for the uses it has had over the centuries…

It was involved in the only Civil War battle in DC. Jubal Early, a general for the Confederacy, led an attack from Virginia (by way of Rockvile, MD) on DC’s Fort Stevens. Fort Reno provided support, as discussed in this National Park Service article: a shell fired from a long-range gun at Fort Reno killed four Confederate soldiers almost as many miles away.

It was a secret Continuity of Government site during the Cold War. A series of sites made up what was known as a Federal Relocation Arc in the 1950s, where government leaders and documents could be safeguarded in the event of a nuclear attack. Fort Reno was chosen for one of these sites due to its high altitude, and it took on the code name Cartwheel. An article on the Greater Greater Washington blog states, “By creating the hardened sites with microwave communications facilities, federal planners were ensuring safe havens for the executive branch that would remain in contact with other civil and military leaders throughout a crisis” (and then goes on to discuss the program in much greater depth).

It is a community gathering place today. Nowadays, Fort Reno Park boasts community gardens, free summer concerts, and a great place for viewing Fourth of July fireworks.

Does anyone agree that it would be awesome if the Continuity of Government tower could be turned into a museum – a historic house museum of sorts? I think I am especially drawn to this idea right now because I am currently reading a novel set during the Cold War.

Fort Reno Park maintains relevance today as it is, but should NPS decide they want to increase the interpretive use of this place, there is plenty of fascinating material with which to work.

Tenleytown-AU is on the Red Line.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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