Chevy Chase is a beautifully green town next to Washington DC that is composed of several villages, additions, and sections. The history of the establishment of these communities is engaging and shows the continual growth of the DC metro area since the start of the 20th century. Martin’s Addition is one of the historic neighborhoods located in Chevy Chase.
Martin’s Addition in Chevy Chase
Chevy Chase has a rich history dating back to the land grant era before the Revolutionary War. More recently, Chevy Chase began to grow at the turn of the 20th century as Senator Francis Newlands and some business partners began to buy land along Connecticut Avenue to build a street car line to a new community on the district line.
Not to be outdone, in 1896 Harry M. Martin began buying land parcels of 35 to 50 acres from the Chevy Chase Land Company, Wilson Offutt, Henry N. Griffith, and others. He called his acquisitions “Martin’s Additions to Chevy Chase.” Harry Martin’s purchases went as far as the current site of La Ferme Restaurant and the “No Gain” property (at the corner of Thornapple Street and Brookville Road), both on the western edge of Martin’s Additions.
Martin’s Addition- Harry Martin played a key role in the suburbanization of Montgomery County.
The development of his “Additions to Chevy Chase” were part of the changes that transformed a small farm lane into the modern residential street called Cummings Lane.
Harry M. Martin was born in Washington, DC in 1865. He was one of eight children born to James Martin, a bookbinder, and his wife, Helen Marian Simpson. The Martin family moved from the District of Columbia to Kensington, Maryland sometime after the 1880s. Harry Martin lived in Montgomery County for most of his life, including several years at his new home on Cummings Lane. In his final years, he lived at a nursing home in Washington, DC.
Martin’s real estate career began in a company he owned with his brothers Tom and Lee Roy in the 1890s. At the time Harry Martin began buying farmland in Chevy Chase, H. M. Martin and Co. was located at 1741 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. Between 1904 and 1906, he bought land that was once part of the “No Gain” plantation, and subdivided it into four sections, creating “Martin’s Additions to Chevy Chase.”
By marketing his new suburban subdivisions as “additions” to Chevy Chase, Martin took advantage of all the amenities and name recognition the Chevy Chase Land Company had created since the 1890s.
Harry Martin offered lots in his new subdivision at significantly lower prices than those for sale by Chevy Chase Land Company. Deeds from the period show that Martin required the construction costs for new homes to be at least $1,750. By contrast, the Chevy Chase Land Company required houses on Connecticut Avenue to have a minimum construction cost of $5,000, and those built on side streets, $3,000. Martin worked with several local builders, including Horace Troth, Albert N. Prentiss, and John Reid. The neighborhood attracted middle-class federal employees, as it offered quality housing close to Washington, D.C.
A newspaper advertisement in The Evening Star, published on July 11, 1905, describes the lots in “Martin’s 3d Section” as 50 x 120 to 225 feet deep – 6,000 to 12,000 square feet. The list of amenities and selling points is long:
- Have finest car service; single fare.
- Beautiful situation.
- Fine views.
- Large trees.
- Good spring water.
- Everything that is desirable for attractive and pretty home, or good security in way of investment.
- Best terms on best land on the market.
- Your chance to get good land and decided bargain.
- Will build homes for purchasers at actual cost.
The street car line was at the top of the list, and with good reason. Few government workers owned automobiles at the turn of the century, so new residents would need public transportation. Taking advantage of the already existing streetcar line on Connecticut Avenue, Martin was able to claim that his lots had easy access to the trolley line.
On April 11, 1916, Maryland enacted Senate Bill 207 establishing a Special Taxing District known as Martin’s First, Second, Third and Fourth Additions to the Village of Chevy Chase. The bill authorized election of a Citizens’ Committee that had substantial powers, including the regulation of farm animal behavior. Thus, the Village celebrated 100 years of self-governance in 2016.
Martin’s Addition features large single family homes on beautifully landscaped lots with a mixture of architectural styles, including Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Arts and Crafts. Many of the homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s, and the neighborhood has since been designated a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood is also known for its community activities, including an annual Fourth of July parade and a Halloween parade.