August 15, 2011

A Nostalgic Walk Along the Old Glen Echo Trolley Route through the Palisades

See Tuesday's post for a history of the Glen Echo Amusement Park trolley that ran through my DC neighborhood, the Palisades, until January 1961. I was fortunate in being able to use that line to commute to work for a couple of years before it shut down.

Before we get to the Palisades part of the trolley route, here's a photo I took on O Street in Georgetown where for a few blocks the old trolley tracks and cobblestone street have been preserved:

The trolley continued along the bluff now occupied by Georgetown University and into the Palisades. Much of old route has been lost to housing developments, but here's where the trolley line emerged after crossing the Battery Kemble Park river bed. Off to the right you get a glimpse of the C&O Canal towpath:

The trolley continued on through the trees, but houses were nearby:

Soon the trolley came to my stop. Clang! Clang! I got off, walked up the alley, turned left and I was home at 5030 Sherier.

Let's continue on the trolley as it rides through the Palisades toward the amusement park across the border in Maryland. So we'll walk back to my trolley stop and continue on:

On this stretch, you get to look into your neighbors' back yards as the trolley approaches the stop at the Palisades recreation center. The parking lot you see up ahead is part of a recent upgrade to the neighborhood recreation center.

Soon the trolley has to pass over busy Arizona Ave. What had been a trestle bridge looks like this now:

Now the trolley looks like it's going to dead-end at the cross street up ahead:

But the trolley changes course and heads right down the middle of Sherier Place for the rest of its trip through the Palisades:

Almost at the end of the Palisades, the trolley makes a stop in front of this house, which has an interesting history:

As my friend and neighbor, Alice Stewart, recounts in her book, The Palisades of Washington, DC, this may have been an outdoor dance hall in the early 1900's. Alice also mentions the lore that this house had once been a bordello... something I can confirm! I knew Charlotte and Roger Dow, who remodeled the house in the late 1950's. While refinishing the floors during those renovations, "they found there had been partitions every eight feet, adding evidence to the oral tradition that the house had been a bordello at one point."

So, probably before Glen Echo had its amusement park, the Palisades had one of its own.


Dickhiggins said...

Thanks for the local history.  I've walked your route a number of times without knowing what you know.  Next time I'll look with informed eyes.
Dick Higgins

Dickhiggins said...

I've walked this route many times.  Thanks to you, I will now see it with informed eyes.

Lynn said...

John, We own the bordello house now and would love to talk with you about the Dows sometime. I am interested in compiling a verified history of the house.
Enjoying your blog!

Doug said...

John, You stopped to soon, you've got more track to go!  I want to see where it crossed the filtration plant.  -Doug

Doug said...

Here's a relevant artifact donated to the Palisades Museum of Prehistory by Lynn Scholz -

Mat Thorp said...

We certainly have a of trio of capable Palisades historians-John Shappi, Alice Stewart, and Doug Dupin.
Who has brilliant ideas on melding and promoting their work?-Mat

Jane said...

Palisades Village has talked about getting volunteers to take oral histories from our neighbors. I'm interested in trying that. Perhaps there is someone to coordinate? Ideally someone with experience? And maybe there is someone who knows how to design and keep up a web page for collecting our community knowledge?


Barbara Elsas said...

Thank you so much for all this interesting  history of our wonderful neighborhood.  I too would love to be a part of taking down oral histories.  So let's do it...We just need to pick a date and have a first meeting.  Who is interested?