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Friendship Heights Alliance Installs New History Exhibit on Black Broad Branch & Belmont

For Immediate Release
Media Contact
Rachel L. Davis

Friendship Heights Alliance Installs New History Exhibit on Black Broad Branch & Belmont

WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2023 — The Friendship Heights Alliance is launching a second history exhibit in the Pepco substation gallery this weekend, focusing on the stories of Broad Branch and Belmont and how they affected racist development policies in the ensuing decades.

"For the past three years, I've been working on the Black Broad Branch project with UDC students — now alumni — and descendants of Black families whose land was taken nearly a hundred years ago to build amenities for white communities in Chevy Chase D.C.,” said Amanda Huron, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences and Political Science at the University of District of Columbia. “We are thrilled that this history will be made visible through this exhibit — especially because one of the goals of the descendants is to educate the public about their families' experiences."

The project is a collaboration between a group of local historians; the DC History Center; and the University of the District of Columbia. The exhibit explores two stories of the neighborhood from the early 20th century. In one, two Black families along Broad Branch Road NW were forced to leave the land and homes they owned in order to make way for the newly developing all-white neighborhood of Chevy Chase D.C. In the other, four Black businessmen attempted to build a modern “high class” suburb for Black people on 30 acres in Friendship Heights, Md., where they sold lots to at least 28 other Black people to build homes before their plan was thwarted. Their development, called Belmont, is important to the history of American suburbanization in the 20th century, and explains why DC’s suburbs look the way they do today.

A ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) in early 2021 recommended the importance of reckoning with Friendship Heights’ history as a precursor to building a vision for the future. This is the second history-focused exhibit that the Alliance has sponsored; the first dealt with Fort Reno and the razing of a Black neighborhood in Reno City. 

"History helps us all better understand the current inequities in our city,” said Kim Bender, project manager and historian on the Belmont portion; she is also the CEO of Heurich House Museum. “We hope these stories will inspire people to learn more about their own neighborhoods and think about how they can help build a more equitable future."

“This exhibit reckons with a past that for many people was totally invisible,” said Alliance Board Chair Jad Donohoe. “We’re so thankful to Pepco for allowing us to use this highly visible space so residents throughout the DMV can learn more about the overlapping forces that shaped the neighborhood.” 

The Alliance is holding a launch event at the Pepco Harrison Street Substation on Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 am to 11:30 am. There will be a brief program at 10:15 am. The substation is at 5210 Wisconsin Avenue NW. This is an outdoor event; please dress for the weather. 

RSVP: Members of the media who are interested in attending should contact Rachel L. Davis at 202-510-1450 or Non-media may RSVP here

Special thanks to the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Pepco, Chevy Chase Land Company, Historic Chevy Chase DC, HumanitiesDC, Jocelind Julien, Marc Minsker, Barbara Boyle Torrey & Clara Myrick Green, Natalie Avery, Rachel Davis. More about the exhibit, and additional learning opportunities, is here on the Alliance website

About the Friendship Heights Alliance 

The Friendship Heights Alliance envisions a more vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive future for Friendship Heights, with diversity in housing opportunities and retail experiences, and a people-friendly public realm. This place-focused nonprofit coordinates the community building needed to reinvigorate Friendship Heights, focusing on the commercial corridor along Wisconsin Avenue from Oliver Street in Montgomery County, Maryland, to Fessenden Street NW in Washington, DC. The Alliance is a 501(c)6 nonprofit created in 2021 to increase collaboration amongst property owners in both Maryland and Washington, DC, as development continues; focus on public space management and coordination; promote the neighborhood; and engage with residents and businesses. For more information or to get involved, contact, visit, or follow the organization on Instagram @FriendshipHeightsAlliance

About Pepco 

Pepco provides safe and reliable energy service to approximately 919,000 customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland. The Pepco Harrison Substation Window Gallery features rotating art installations and community-focused exhibits to help enliven the Friendship Heights neighborhood.