What Remains of the Nineteenth Century

North front of "Normanstone", drawing by Gilbert White, 1830 (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

North front of “Normanstone”, drawing by Gilbert White, 1830 (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

Not much remains of the earlier pastoral landscape. Located most likely where Lutyens’s complex, along with Eric Bedford’s New Chancery (1955-1962), now dominates, all traces of Normanstone’s buildings are gone, surviving only in photographs, maps and the family records. However there are echoes of Normanstone’s sloping terrain, streams, farm roads, orchards and that gardening was always the soul of the place. The soil of the Embassy grounds reveals it has been worked and enriched over time.

Remains of the private Rock Creek Bridge (J.Blakely)

Remains of the private Rock Creek Bridge (J.Blakely)

Correspondence in the Herman Hollerith papers, 1850-1982 (Library of Congress, MSS49) give testament that gardens were important to the life of the homestead and that there was a sentimental attachment to the land. Mrs. Talcott wrote to her son in boarding school (25 April 1876) that “Normanstone is looking lovely now, the grass is so green and the fruit trees are in bloom. Aunt Kate and Charles are busy making garden, and Aunt Beck and I have fixed our flower garden.” Lucia Talcott, later Hollerith’s wife, penned letters full of her horticultural prowess. “My sweet peas are up and look beautiful and will soon have to be staked. The lilacs are in perfection now and the whole house is sweet with them. The cowslips are almost gone, but they have been beautiful” (to her brother Harry, 3 May 1889). And in a letter that details several different flowers: “Thank you for the book on roses; it is very interesting and I wish I had a new rose garden to experiment with” (16 July 1889). She co-founded the Georgetown Garden Club in 1924.

Adlum grave marker in Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown (J.Blakely)

Adlum grave marker in Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown (J.Blakely)

Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel, also know as the Renwick Chapel (J. Blakely)

Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel, also know as the Renwick Chapel (J. Blakely)

There are a few vestiges in the surrounding area from the 19th century: in the northern part of Dumbarton Oaks Park, remains of the support of the 1888 bridge over Rock Creek on the east embankment, and paths indicating early roads. In 1832, Robert Barnard and his neighbor William Morton disputed in court their access to the public road with the closing of the then-Road to Frederick Town. Their neighbors, including Brooke Mackall of the estate that later became Dumbarton Oaks, had refused them passage through the surrounding lands. Settlement of the suit resulted in the laying out of a private way to the south from Barnard and Morton’s farms: Morton Road joined Normanstone Road at the head of Lovers’ Lane.

Hollerith Grave, Oak Hill Cemetery (J. Blakely)

Hollerith Grave, Oak Hill Cemetery (J. Blakely)

Today, Lovers’ Lane still leads directly to R Street in Georgetown and a section of Normanstone Lane remain in the public Dumbarton Oaks Park. Several Barnards, including Robert and Sophia, Talcotts and Holleriths are buried along Rock Creek Park in nearby Oak Hill Cemetery, some graves having been re-interred from the farm burial grounds in April 1872. Their homestead is remembered in the names of Normanstone Drive and the federal reserve of Normanstone Park. The old British Legation on Connecticut Avenue was razed in 1931; a stone with the Royal cipher ‘VR’ is now an anchor of the “Secret Garden” in the Embassy grounds.

Cornerstone with royal Cipher (J. Blakely)

Stone from the old Embassy with Royal cipher (J. Blakely)

Lovers Lane (J.Blakely)

Lovers Lane (J.Blakely)

Normanstone Trail (J.Blakely)

Normanstone Trail (J.Blakely)

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