Bethesda Historical Society

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

Bethesda Memories drafts

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)


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

The telephone arrives in Bethesda


The telephone arrived in Bethesda in the mid-1890s about two decades after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell would often visit the family of his daughter Elsie and her husband Gilbert Grosvenor at their estate along present day Grosvenor Lane in Bethesda, where the above photograph was taken about 1916.

The 1895 Bethesda telephone directory listed 9 subscribers, mostly businesses and community leaders who shared a party line. By 1911, with 50 customers, the Chesapeake and Potomac (C&P) Telephone company opened a new exchange in downtown Bethesda on what is now Cordell Avenue in the home of Ada Cunningham. She handled the switchboard and clerical work for $35 a month (about $1,100 in today’s money).

By 1928 with 2,855 subscribers, C&P moved the exchange to its own building, the massive, still-standing building faced with locally-quarried mica schist stone on Wisconsin Avenue at Stanford Street.
In 1994, C&P was renamed Bell Atlantic and in 2000 after its merger in 2000 with GTE Corporation (formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation) was renamed Verizon.

Read more at “Answering the call” by Mark Walston.

The telephone arrives in Bethesda


The telephone arrived in Bethesda in the mid-1890s about two decades after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell would often visit the family of his daughter Elsie and her husband Gilbert Grosvenor at their estate along present day Grosvenor Lane in Bethesda, where the above photograph was taken about 1916.

The 1895 Bethesda telephone directory listed 9 subscribers, mostly businesses and community leaders who shared a party line. By 1911, with 50 customers, the Chesapeake and Potomac (C&P) Telephone company opened a new exchange in downtown Bethesda on what is now Cordell Avenue in the home of Ada Cunningham. She handled the switchboard and clerical work for $35 a month (about $1,100 in today’s money).

By 1928 with 2,855 subscribers, C&P moved the exchange to its own building, the massive, still-standing building faced with locally-quarried mica schist stone on Wisconsin Avenue at Stanford Street.
In 1994, C&P was renamed Bell Atlantic and in 2000 after its merger in 2000 with GTE Corporation (formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation) was renamed Verizon.

Read more at “Answering the call” by Mark Walston.

Farm Market Women Burn Mortgage

Montgomery County Sentinel January 25, 1945


Montgomery farm women now own the building in which the Montgomery County Farm Women’s Market in Bethesda is housed.

The $50,000 mortgage was burned at their annual meeting held Monday January 22, 1945 in Rockville, leaving it debt free.

Built in 1932, the building and its surrounding grounds were rented to the market which purchased it in 1935. There were 17 sellers in 1932 – there are now 68, most of them stockholders.

Mrs. J.B. Waters of Germantown has been president for ten years, Mrs. Roger Shaw, manager for nine and Mrs. Franklin Waters, assistant manager for almost as long.

Note: In 1935, when the co-op decided to purchase the building, the women approached a Baltimore bank for a $50,000 loan. Their request was initially dismissed, but when the bank president visited the Market several weeks later and found it so successful, he immediately offered the money.

From: Montgomery County’s Oldest Market: The Farm Women’s Cooperative in Bethesda