American University / Tenleytown (June 18, 2019)
After once again wandering through the shady streets of AU Park, we made our way up the hill to Tenleytown, where we passed by Woodrow Wilson High School and Alice Deal Middle School on our way home.
Wilson is the District’s largest public high school with approximately 1,800 students from grades 9 through 12. It was built in 1935 but was extensively renovated in 2010-11. It also has a fantastic indoor swimming facility that is widely used by the community.
Across the road from Wilson is Fort Reno Park. During the Civil War a fort was constructed on the site to help in the defense of Washington DC. It was originally name Fort Pennsylvania, as it was built specifically for the Ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Reserves. However, in 1863, it was renamed Fort Reno in honor of Major General Jesse Lee Reno who died at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862.
The park contains the highest natural point in the District at 409 feet above sea level. There is a long wide grass slope on its west side that provides ideal sledding on snowy days. It’s also a great place to watch sunsets. When you sit at the top of the slope you can look clear across to Tyson’s Corner miles away in Virginia and see nothing but tree tops. It is easy to imagine that there is nothing below but a massive forest. In fact, the trees hide thousands of houses, buildings and streets. Because of its high point, Fort Reno Park is also the location of a water reservoir. Interestingly, the tower seen in the background of the above photo is not a water tower. Rather, it is a communications array built on top of living facilities during the Cold War in the 1950s.
The park includes playing fields, tennis courts and a community garden. It is also the site of Fort Reno’s annual free summer concert series, started in 1968. The series is currently under way with concerts on Monday and Thursday nights. We suggest you grab a blanket or beach chair and check out one of the shows. It’s a great community activity, attracting not just music enthusiasts but a wide variety of local residents, including families with small children.
The concerts take place on the little rundown stage in the above photo. It has been the site of innumerable classic Washington hardcore and punk shows. Washington legends, Fugazi, played on the stage practically every year from 1988 through 2003. In fact, I was at the now famous “ice cream eating motherf**cker” concert where the band belittled a couple of individuals who had started kicking and punching others in the crowd by pointing out that they had seen them buying ice cream from the Good Humor man before the show. I can remember it as if it was yesterday.
Across Fort Reno Park from Wilson is Alice Deal Middle School. Deal is an International Baccalaureate School and one of the District’s highest performing schools.
Tucked in behind Deal is the Jesse Reno School. The school, built in 1903, served a working class community that had began to congregate around Fort Reno after the Civil War. The community, called Reno City, was about 75% black. However, in the 1920s there was pressure from residents of surrounding white neighborhoods to remove Reno City and use the land for the construction of Deal, Wilson and Fort Reno Park. The government began to acquire Reno City properties and condemned those of owners that refused to sell. As more and more residents were driven out, school enrollment declined and the school was closed in 1950. It was used as a Civil Defense office for a while and became the Rose School for students with special needs in the 1970s and 1980s, before becoming abandoned for many years. In 2014 the school was repaired and integrated into the neighboring Alice Deal Middle School.