"We are a diverse new coalition of Wilson students, teachers, parents, and local residents pushing for a thoughtful repurposing of Chesapeake House as a community center."
Tenleytown, WASHINGTON D.C. (PRWEB) June 05, 2019
On May 21, the Coalition for Chesapeake Community Center at Fort Reno, consisting of local residents and community activists, met with members of National Park Service and other stakeholders to discuss the future of Chesapeake House, a historic building located on the southwest corner of Fort Reno Park in DC’s Tenleytown neighborhood.
“It is important that the National Park Service and Advisory Neighborhood Commission listen to all community members and redesign the Chesapeake House as a center for educational outreach, for improved park programs that can benefit the young and the old, and for displaying scholarly exhibits that fully tell the sordid and the sublime history of Fort Reno,” says Marc Minsker, a founding member of the Coalition for Chesapeake Community Center at Fort Reno and a teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, located across the street from the park.
Built in 1937 and known as the Chesapeake House, this two-story, five-sided brick building is now abandoned, with boarded-up windows and doors. However, it has a rich and unique history, like Fort Reno itself, known to few.
With the exception of the two towers at the Reno reservoir, Chesapeake House is the last remaining building in the park. At the beginning of the 20th century, there existed a large neighborhood of over 300 homes known as Reno City, a predominantly black neighborhood that was razed by unscrupulous land developers in the 1930s and 1940s. By 1950, all of the homes were gone and the Chesapeake House was sold to the federal government in 1950. The government subsequently rented the space to a plumbing store until 1976. Once the store vacated the premises, the Chesapeake House was converted into a youth activity center and meeting space for Neighborhood Planning Council #3 (NPC), both of which provided valuable resources and opportunities for the local community beginning in 1976.
The National Park Service regained full ownership of the property in 2011. A proposed new real estate development in Tenleytown, along the 4600 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW, led Urban Investment Partners to an agreement with the National Park Service to rehabilitate the dilapidated Chesapeake House as part of a community benefits package.
Rock Creek Park Superintendent Julia Washburn has said she is “committed to engaging all interested community members and stakeholders, including the ANC … in community meetings and forums” to best determine the future of the Chesapeake House.
The first of these meetings was hosted by Minsker at Wilson High School on May 21st, with a variety of stakeholders in attendance. A larger community meeting is scheduled for September 7th at 10:00am in the auditorium at Wilson.
“We are a diverse new coalition of Wilson students, teachers, parents, and local residents pushing for a thoughtful repurposing of Chesapeake House as a community center,” says Minsker. “It is vital that cultural and educational programs, as well as documentation of the history of Fort Reno, is provided through this unique space” adds Minsker. “I am hopeful that our productive conversations with the key stakeholders, students, teachers, parents, and local citizens can produce something lasting and beneficial to the community.”
In recent years, Fort Reno has become synonymous with the free concert series hosted every summer at Fort Reno Park since 1968. Some of Washington DC’s greatest bands, including Fugazi and Sageworth & Drums, have performed there over the years. “We also want to ensure that Reno’s rich musical heritage is properly documented at the Chesapeake House,” says Minsker.