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Tenleytown:
History, Location
Draw Residents

By Kate Moore
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 13, 1994

Jean Palbo's roots are deep in Tenleytown. Her great-great-grandparents are buried in the privately owned Methodist cemetery behind the 155-year-old Eldbrooke United Methodist Church on River Road.

Palbo, a 34-year resident of Tenleytown and president of the Tenleytown Historical Society, someday hopes to restore the cemetery that dates to the Civil War.

Palbo once owned and operated the Victorian House, an antiques shop on Wisconsin Avenue NW. After buying the house, Palbo discovered it had been owned by a relative. "There's an atmosphere of the neighborhood that makes it very nice to live here, and we like to emphasize the positive," Palbo said. "I'm interested in Tenleytown and its preservation."

One of Palbo's favorite features in the Northwest Washington community is the old-fashioned network of alleys.

"The alleys are one of the prettiest areas of Tenleytown because some are unpaved and are shaded by lots of flowering trees and back onto deep yards," she said. "It's like being in the country."

Palbo's tribute to her neighborhood -- the area surrounding Tenley Circle along Wisconsin Avenue NW -- is much like that of other residents. They like its quiet residential streets that are a short distance from restaurants and a variety of commercial establishments along Wisconsin. Marvin Tievsky has lived in Tenleytown for more than 60 years. A retired merchant, he and his wife, Arleen, have lived in their home on Warren Street for 32 years. He is president of the 102-year-old Friendship-Tenleytown Citizens Association, the oldest citizens' group in the District.

In 1790, the community was called Tennally's Town, named for John Tennally and his roadside tavern, which stood where Wisconsin Avenue meets River Road. The area became known as Tenleytown in the 1800s.

"There is a very nice mixture within Tenleytown of moderate-income people," Marvin Tievsky said. "It's a lovely area with lots of trees among mostly detached houses, and where the grounds are well taken care of as a general rule."

Wisconsin Avenue once was home to beautiful, large wood-framed houses, but they have since either been moved or demolished to make space for commercial buildings. There are numerous restaurants, theaters and shops to choose from, but Tievsky, along with other residents, hopes that no more development will occur on Wisconsin Avenue. The neighborhood is congested enough, he said, and more traffic enforcement is needed.

"There's an attachment to being here so long," he said, "and the citizens association is working hard to keep the neighborhood livable."

Beth Kravetz said she has three particular reasons for living in Tenleytown: "Location, location, location." She said the Tenleytown-American University Metro stop is five minutes from her home.

Kravetz, an insurance regulatory lawyer, works from her row house on 40th Street. "I didn't know how fabulous this area was until I moved here, 12 years ago. In fact, I'm vested so much here that it took me three years to find a house to buy," Kravetz said. She recently bought a 1940 detached house on Warren Street, and she plans to move in this fall.

Kravetz chairs the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3-E, which includes most of Tenleytown. Her commission and the neighboring ANC 3-F were successful this year in heading off Taco Bell's purchase of the Perpetual Bank building on Wisconsin Avenue for a restaurant site. "We just didn't want another fast food restaurant on the avenue," she said.

Last year, ANC 3-E also managed to oust a massage parlor on Wisconsin Avenue. "It was an inappropriate business for the neighborhood," Kravetz said.

The Tenleytown neighborhood is perfect for someone with a home-based business, Kravetz said. "I take advantage of the variety of services in the area, such as Federal Express, Quick Copy, the Post Office and Safeway," Kravetz said. Various churches house day-care programs, and Sibley Hospital also is nearby. Most of the homes in the neighborhood are owner-occupied, detached homes with garages. There also are some row houses and rental properties.

The real estate information service Rufus S. Lusk&Son Inc. in Silver Spring said the bulk of houses in Tenleytown's 20016 Zip code sold in the year ending April 19 were priced from $250,000 to $600,000. In contrast, most of the Tenleytown houses in the 20017 Zip code were priced from $75,000 to $125,000.

Jo and Timothy Cooper and their two children are living on 41st Street while they complete renovations on their 100-year-old Victorian farm house on Davenport Street.

A professional garden landscape designer, Jo Cooper, 42, said her dream had always been to re-landscape the commercial corridor on Wisconsin Avenue.

One day, while walking with her children, her young son told her the streets were dirty. Cooper said she was amazed at her son's observation and decided children shouldn't have to live near dirty streets. This prompted Cooper to talk to friends in the neighborhood who were equally enthusiastic about the chance to give something back to the community.

The Wisconsin Avenue Beautification Project, as it was named, grew into a partnership with the city government, local business owners and residents, who helped raise more than $20,000 for the venture. They received free plants from more than 50 landscape companies. This year more than 150 residents helped plant the 5,000 perennials along the corridor.

"The project has been a nice opportunity for the business owners and residents to get to know each other," Cooper said. "It allows you to have comfortable discussions of mutual concern.

"Tenleytown is a friendly front porch-sitting type of neighborhood."

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