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History

History Part 3

The transformation of this farmland into suburbs was initiated by the Chevy Chase Land Company. It was incorporated on June 5, 1890, by Francis G. Newlands and Senator William M. Stewart, two powerful and wealthy Westerners known to residents of the District of Columbia as the “California Syndicate,” and Colonel George Augustus Armes, a reared Army colonel involved in real estate. Their long-range vision was extraordinary, for the site they chose to develop began about five miles northwest of the seeded bounds of the city and was to become the first big development west of Rock Creek. The bridge they built across Rock Creek at Calvert Street opened the entire northwest section to new real estate ventures.

At the time of incorporation, Francis G. Newlands (1848-1917) was a young San Francisco lawyer. Early in his practice he had become an attorney for William Sharon, a senator from Nevada from 1875 to 1882, who made a tremendous fortune revitalizing and managing the rich Nevada Comstock Lode. In 1874 Newlands married Sharon's daughter. Following her death, in 1882, and William Sharon's death, in 1885, Newlands became trustee of Sharon's huge estate, was himself one of the heirs, and managed major land holdings in California and Nevada. Newlands quickly moved his share of the assets to Washington. In 1892 he was elected to Congress, where he was a great proponent of irrigation and land reclamation in the West. He served as a congressman from Nevada for 10 years and then as a senator for 14 years.

William M. Stewart (1827-1909), lawyer and two-time senator from Nevada (1862-1875, 1887-1905), made his fortune prospecting for gold in California and representing the legal interests of the original miners of the Comstock Lode. He was a leading political figure in the West, among other things carving out the Nevada Territory and representing Western mining interests and railroads in Congress over a 29 year period.

Newlands and Stewart had experience with large scale real estate ventures and a shared confidence in the future growth of Washington. They had been involved in other speculative land ventures in the city—at DuPont Circle, for example—albeit on a smaller scale than Chevy Chase.

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