Charles Glover not only was instrumental in creating Rock Creek Park, his name is on another park that helped launch America's environmental movement.
As a boy, Charles Carroll Glover (1846-1936) rambled around the wooded hills of Washington. The story goes that he was part of a group of lads trying to steal cherries from the orchards near Peirce Mill when Joshua Peirce stormed out of his mansion toting a shotgun. Peirce caught young Charles, who apologized and offered to pay for the fruit — and the two became friends.
Glover grew up to become Washington's leading banker, although he began at Riggs and Company as a lowly clerk. Among his many philanthropic efforts, he led the final push for the creation of Rock Creek Park — on land that included the Peirce property. To build support, he led a group of influential Washingtonians on a ride through Rock Creek valley on Thanksgiving Day 1888, and then hosted a strategy session at his home a few days later.
The citizens committee formed to push for the park included other prominent bankers and landowners. Brainard Warner had his own real estate firm and was president of both Columbia National Bank and Washington Loan and Trust. Alexander Britton was second in command at Columbia National and president of American Security and Trust. Other members were in a position to sway public opinion: Evening Star editor Crosby Noyes, Baltimore Sun correspondent Frank Richardson, and National Tribune founder and real estate mogul George Lemon.
Rock Creek Park opponents assailed Glover and his moneyed allies as promoting the legislation only to increase the value of their own investments. New York representative Francis Spinola told Congress, "the gentlemen who own this land are shrewd, cunning real estate operators" and he intended "to protect the treasury of the country against ... such invasions as this bill proposes." Critics recalled the unchecked spending by Alexander "Boss" Shepherd that had left DC bankrupt in 1874 — and they opposed new appropriations, especially for a park that would only benefit Washingtonians.
The committee — aided by active lobbying by Glover — succeeding in crafting a compromise lawmakers could support. Half the cost of Rock Creek Park would be paid by the District, and the federal government would get the benefit of any new assessments on nearby property owners if the park increased the value of their land. The Rock Creek Park bill was signed into law on September 27, 1890 — less than two years after the committee first met.
Success did not keep Glover from pressing for additional parkland within the District. Nor did it keep lawmakers from questioning his motives. In 1913, Tennessee Congressman Thetus Sims accused Glover of trying to "unload" property on the federal government at inflated prices. The Speaker of the House had to reprimand Glover for his response, which was to assault Sims in Farragut Square.
Glover led the effort to fill in the marshy Potomac Flats, which became the home of the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. Outside of government, he bankrolled the initial costs for the National Cathedral, served as president of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and helped develop his own neighborhood along Massachusetts Avenue, which evolved into Embassy Row.
Glover's name has been memorialized by Glover Road within Rock Creek Park, Glover Bridge taking Massachusetts Avenue over Rock Creek, and the Glover Park neighborhood. But his name is also part of the title of another park in the Rock Creek system.
Tale of two benefactors
Glover Archbold Park began with nearly 80 acres of wooded land donated by Glover in 1923 in the valley of the Foundry Branch creek. The next year, Washington socialite and world explorer Anne Archbold (1873-1968) added another 28 acres from her holdings in Georgetown. The daughter of oil tycoon John Dustin Archbold, she had established the estate known as Hillandale off Reservoir Road. Frequent guests included Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth, Noel Coward and Leopold Stokowski. Archbold also used the grounds to raise sheep and train seeing-eye and police dogs.
The tracts they donated formed a long ribbon of green originally called Glover Archbold Parkway and initially designed to be the site of a scenic highway. The District didn't make any moves to build the road until after World War II. By then, it was clear such a parkway would be used as a commuter route instead of being the quiet country road originally imagined. Archbold rose in opposition, proposing instead that "the beautiful wooded valley be preserved perpetually ... and be enjoyed by all as a natural sanctuary." In 1967, a little more than a year before she died, DC authorities gave up the right-of-way through the park.
During the battle over the parkway, a writer and editor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service often visited Glover Archbold Park to observe nature and study the environment. Her name was Rachel Carson, and her 1962 book Silent Spring became a major inspiration for the American environmental movement. In 2013 Congress designated the Glover Archbold Park hiking path — which might have become a highway — as the Rachel Carson Nature Trail.