Recently, the debate regarding the Chevy Chase fountain has been the subject of many conversations. The fountain was named after Francis Griffith Newlands, a U.S. Senator and the founder of Chevy Chase neighborhood. Newlands, however, also issued many racist statements during his career. Should the fountain have a name change because of this?
Many people have different insights on the topic, including the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of the District of Columbia. They recently discussed and tabled a resolution to rename the fountain, noting that the fountain was named by an act of Congress, which couldn’t be changed by the Commission.
The fountain, designed in 1933 by Edward Donn, is located at the center of the separation between D.C. and Chevy Chase, an extensive circle providing easy access for cars between the two areas. It is seen by hundreds of people every day who drive from the highway or the city.
The fountain was originally named after Newlands for the founding of Chevy Chase, a city that covers over 1,700 acres of land. Newlands had the idea that Chevy Chase should be segregated. He wanted the city to be a “whites-only” community, which led all minority groups to move to the district. As a senator, he wanted to keep African Americans and Jews, whose status as immigrants already limited their education, from acquiring land ownership. Not only did he promote segregation, but also discouraged African Americans from voting during his 1912 senatorial campaign.
Locals have mixed opinions. Some think that it would be a good idea to just take down the fountain and replace it with a traffic light, while others just want a name change. Members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission thought that the fountain’s name should be changed to General John Pershing or Fredrick Douglass.
Other students, however, believe that what happened in the past is past. “I think it should not matter who it is named after, because even though it was a white only place back then, that does not mean it is now,” said Zeinna Estrada of Richard Montgomery, explaining that the Newlands name would not matter anymore because what he wanted doesn’t align with society today. “The idea of the fountain is not racist, just the person it is named after. So just change the name,” Bryse Thornwell, a student at Sherwood, suggested.
Perhaps a name is just a name. Yet, debates will likely continue for the months to come.
Article by the MoCo Student Staff Writer Syllia Newstead of Richard Montgomery High School
“Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain” by AgnosticPreachersKid – Own work.