Bethesda Historical Society

January 23, 2024 - Bethesda's 153rd birthday!

Bethesda Memories

From the Washington Evening Star July 3, 1942

Darcey’s Store was located at 6811 Wisconsin Avenue in the old numbering system, which would put it in the middle of the present 7200 block of Wisconsin Avenue between Elm St. and Willow Lane, just north of the Farm Women’s Market. 

Darcey’s Store shortly before it was torn down in 1942.

Bethesda Memories

Bethesda Eating Places Serving Without Discrimination
May 1958

Compiled by the Montgomery County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

  • asterisk indicates places which changed their policy after the NAACP started surveying eating places in August 1957.

Source: Montgomery Community Media

Bethesda Memories

President Franklin Roosevelt Designs the new Naval Hospital in Bethesda

In December 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sketched out on White House stationery his vision for a new naval hospital to be built in the Washington area. He based his design on the new Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln (below) that had impressed him when he dedicated it during his 1936 reelection campaign. Roosevelt called it a “wonderful structure” that Americans “ought to come here and see.”

Roosevelt, one of two presidents to design buildings (the other was Thomas Jefferson), had overseen construction of buildings in his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and various government structures in Washington D.C.

On a automobile ride into Maryland in July 1938, Roosevelt found the perfect location for the hospital, opposite the site of the future National Institute of Health in Bethesda. “We will build it here,” he said tapping the ground with his cane. Four years later in 1942, FDR dedicated the National Naval Medical Center. 

See “A Tower in Nebraska: How FDR Found Inspiration for the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland” by Raymond P. Schmidt (2009)

Bethesda Memories

How NIH’s Main Campus Came to Be in Bethesda

From the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, Luke Ingalls Wilson, a successful businessman and long-time friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, along with his wife Helen and their son Luke, donated 92 acres of their estate along Rockville Pike to the federal government for a campus dedicated to medical research.

Roosevelt dedicated the buildings and the grounds of the National Institute of Health on October 31, 1940.

In the above photo, Helen Wilson is sitting on a rock wall by the lane leading to her estate from Rockville Pike about 1934.

For more of the story, see “How NIH’s Main Campus Came to Be in Bethesda” by Michele Lyons and D.S. Wilson mon the NIH website.