From Farm Lane to Suburban Street, 1848 - 1947
"When I was a young fellow, Cummings Lane was a cinder road. They used to go up to the powerhouse at Chevy Chase Lake. They’d get a couple of wagons full of cinders and dump them on the street. Later on, they paved it. When they paved it, of course, Cummings Lane stopped right here [at the boundary of Martin’s Additions], and our private road went down and came up into our yard."
- Andrew Cummings (1915-2011), CCHS 1986 Oral History Interview
The story of suburban development around the nation’s capital and other U.S. cities often begins with the developers who bought up farm land and sold house lots to eager buyers. Land developers and home buyers figure in the narrative for this exibit, too, but we focus on the changes in the landscape of just one street, Cummings Lane, following its evolution from a small farm road to a suburban street. Once a simple right of way to a family farm, Cummings Lane became a residential street in Harry Martin’s "Third Addition to Chevy Chase" at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1947, Cummings Lane was extended through a new Montgomery County residential development, Chevy Chase Manor.
In 1865, a small roadway ran from the old "Brookeville and Tennallytown Road," today known as Brookville Road, to James and Patrick Cummings’ farm. The two brothers purchased their 100 acre farm in 1848 from one of the several landholders of the farmlands just beyond the Maryland-District of Columbia boundary. The access lane, known as Cummings Lane, ran through property that had once been part of the 300 acre “No Gain” plantation.
At the turn of the twentieth century, heirs of the "No Gain" property sold large parcels for new residential development, and one of these new subdivisions was developed by Harry Martin. The northern most street in Martin’s plat for his “Third Addition to Chevy Chase” was Cummings Lane, but perhaps because cedar trees ran along both sides of the lane, Martin named it Cedar Avenue on his 1905 plat map. The new name didn't stick with local residents, however, and it was soon changed back to Cummings Lane.
When the Cummings farmland north and east of Martin's Additions was sold and subdivided in the late 1940s, Cummings Lane was extended through the new development, named Chevy Chase Manor. Today Cummings Lane runs from Brookville Road all the way to the District of Columbia border at Western Avenue.
In this exhibit, we explore the history of Cummings Lane in six sections, beginning with a closer look at the Cummings family and their farm.