Wrapped tightly in her mink coat, Emlen Davies Evers stood in the mud and confronted a bulldozer yesterday on the 21-acre Tregaron estate in Cleveland Park, declaring that the Washington International School is "renting this property. They have no right to desecrate it."
Landscape contractor Don Saulsgiver of Alexandria stood by his bulldozer and said that he had stopped work even though it cost him $40 for every hour the bulldozer was idle.
Saulsgiver said he has a $4,995 contract from the school to clear about 15 trees -- oaks, poplar, fir trees, holly -- and to level a 20,000-square-foot area for a soccer field where there is now a steeply sloping, rolling meadow.
Saulsgiver said that as of yesterday morning 10 to 12 trees had been cut.
Evers, one of six Davies heirs who owns Tregaron, flew into the city yesterday morning especially to fight the leveling work. She said the school had no business doing such extensive work without permission of the owners, who have had the estate on the market for years in an effort to sell it for a good price.
The school wants to buy the estate but Evers and some of the other heirs say the price isn't high enough.
The fate of Tregaron, one of the last of the grand old estate in Northwest Washington, came to public attention last year when the heirs planned to sell it to a developer. The developer eventually backed down, saying the terrain of the lulshly wooded estate with its Georgian mansion and authentic Russian dacha was too difficult to build to a housing development on without leveling it -- something that zoning and neighborhood opposition made impossible.
The Tregaron controversy also aroused public interest because it seemed to pit two branches of a prominent Washington family against one another. Evers, a Cleveland socialite, is joined by her sister's daughters here, Jennifer Fitch Moleon and Suzanne Wright, against Joseph Davies Tydings, a former U.S. senator from Maryland, his mother and sister, who favor selling to the school. All six Davies heirs are owners of Tregaron.
The Internatinal School is a bilinguasl elementary and secondary school with the aim, according to director Dorothy Goodman, of inculcating youngsters with the "Wilsonian dream" of world peace.
Goodman would not comment yesterday. But an attorney for the school, Theresa Einhorn, said, "Some brush is being cleared away.... We really don't regard this as wholesale construction by any means. This is just clearing a play area."
Einhorn said that the school, having received objections from the owners, has "halted work so the controversy can be resolved."