How Tenleytown in Washington, D.C., Got Its Name

Locals in any area love raving about their favorite neighborhood bar or restaurant, that special place “where everybody knows your name.” When you name an entire village after the bar itself, the owner must have been doing something right, and such is the case with Tenleytown in Washington, D.C.

It all began with John Tennally, proprietor of Tennally’s Tavern, an institution from the late 1700s located at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and River Road. Prior to the introduction of Tennally’s Tavern, the surrounding area was known simply as Friendship, and today, its adjacent neighborhood is Friendship Heights.

Tennally’s Tavern became a beacon for a burgeoning village and community, which spread into surrounding blocks from that major intersection. The tavern itself is pinpointed by maps at least as far back as 1791, the same year the village became a part of the brand new District of Columbia. According to the Tenleytown Historical Society, Tenleytown is the second oldest village in Washington, D.C.

Tennally’s Tavern led neighborhood residents to call the area Tennally’s Town. Tennally’s Town became Tennallytown, and finally, Tenleytown was adopted as its official spelling by the early 20th century. Locals even led a petition in 1984, ensuring that the planned Metro station was properly called Tenleytown and not Tenley Circle.

According to DCist and “Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods in the Nation’s Capital,” one of the first known formal usages of the name was a post office called Tennallytown Station, established in 1846 in the upper northwest of what was then Washington County.

Unfortunately, there is no Tennally’s Tavern in existence today, a sad note considering its glorious past. However, if you’re looking to celebrate Tenleytown’s lineage in the only fitting manner, with a bite and a libation or two, there are several notable choices.

Check out Guapo’s for a margarita and some chips and salsa, Angelico for pizza and pasta, or Masala Art for Indian food. You can even visit the local Whole Foods, which has a bar serving beer and wine to assist with your weekly grocery shopping.

As the strict neighborhood boundaries along Wisconsin Avenue, falling roughly between Brandywine Street and Van Ness Street, don’t leave a whole lot of real estate, you can move just a bit beyond them to try the Satay Club for Asian noodles, fried rice, and sushi; Cafe Ole for Mediterranean tapas; and Osman & Joe’s Steak ‘n Egg Kitchen, a 24/7 greasy spoon diner.

Want to learn more? See how Georgetown, Washington D.C. got its name.

This story was first published on Yahoo News on March 20, 2013.

Author: Jake Emen

I’m Jake, and I’m your host on this journey. I'm the man doing the eating and the talking around here. I’m a writer based outside of Washington, D.C., and I'm also talking whiskey, local events, travel, and other assorted misadventures. Follow me on the Tweet Machine - @ManTalkFood, or send an email to jake [at] mantalkfood.com.

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