Tenleytown History: Walk the Tenleytown Heritage Trail

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Here in the nation’s capital, it’s tough to go more than a few blocks without stumbling upon a site that played a role in America’s history. Many neighborhoods in the city have designated heritage trails to connect these historic sites, and Tenleytown is no exception. If you’re interested in Tenleytown history, you need to walk the Tenleytown Heritage Trail.

The Tenleytown Heritage Trail starts, conveniently, at the Tenleytown-AU Metro station. It heads north to D.C.’s highest point, Fort Reno Park, before heading south to American University’s Washington College of Law. It then heads back north and ends on Wisconsin Avenue. In all, there are 19 points of historical interest on the Tenleytown Heritage Trail.

You’ll find a map of the entire trail here, as well as a description of each stop along the way here. Here are a few of the highlights.

Take a Tenleytown History Walk

Stop 1: Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street NW

The trail begins here, where a large Sears Roebuck store once stood. Established in 1941 and featuring rooftop parking complete with a rooftop snack bar, the store sent Tenleytown into the modern commercial era.

While the store is long gone, the intersection remains a bustling one, home to a Best Buy, a library, Panera and Metro stop. The construction of the Metro station in 1984 resulted in the demolition of the 1900-built Burrow-Mostow building.

Stop 8: River Road and Wisconsin Avenue NW

Before Tenleytown, there was Tennallytown. John Tennally established a pub and inn at this intersection of two dirt roads in 1791. Business was good, thanks to steady wagon traffic down Georgetown-Frederick Road, which is now Wisconsin Avenue. By the early 1800s, the hamlet was named after Tennally.

Stop 18: 3900 block of Nebraska Avenue NW

This block housed the studios of NBC affiliate WRC in October 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy debated one another in the second-ever televised presidential debate. The new medium highlighted the stark contrast between the two candidates. Kennedy’s youthfulness and energy translated well to television; Nixon’s stern face and dry delivery did not. Many say the debates played a huge role in securing Kennedy’s victory.

This studio also holds a completely unrelated spot in television history: Kermit the Frog was introduced here.


Now you’ve explored Tenleytown’s history. Washington, D.C. has so much more to offer, though. Consider the many other D.C. heritage trails.

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Filed under: History