Cheverly, Maryland, has been characterized by some as a lovely island of green in a sea of multi-lane highways and by others as a "jewel" among communities. Whatever its image in the Washington metropolitan area, Cheverly exists today because of concerned and caring people. Its civic-minded residents maintain a heritage established by its founder, Robert Marshall, an Ohio investor and stockbroker. Mr. Marshall came to Washington during World War I with the intent of creating a residential community, convenient to the city by rail and road, but retaining the beauty of its natural surroundings through saving as many of its trees as possible, and designing its streets to follow the rolling contours of the land.
The land on which Cheverly stands was formed of parts of several large 17th and 18th-century land grants. In 1805 Fielder Magruder (1780-1840) began to acquire parts of Crawford's Adventure, Hudson's Range, Whitlentine, and other tracts. In 1838, Fielder Magruder, Jr.(1814-1888) acquired the land on which he built his residence, Mount Hope. Before the Civil War, the land was exploited as an integral part of the slave-based plantation economy common to the area. A general agricultural depression and abandoned farmland became characteristic of Prince George's County during the rest of the century. Many fields were overgrown with weeds and then with locust and scrub pine. Robert Marshall purchased land for the first sections of Cheverly from the younger Magruder’s heirs.
When the subdivision of Cheverly was founded in 1918, it was but the latest subdivision to take advantage of proximity to the railroad. The Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (later Pennsylvania Railroad) was built along Lower Beaverdam Creek in 1869. Opportunities afforded by the addition of a dedicated passenger line and the opening of Union Station in 1907 led to the establishment of several subdivisions near the stations. In advertising his new subdivision, Robert Marshall targeted commuting government workers, promising “10 cents and 12 minutes to downtown Wahington, D.C" by rail.
The name derives from Cheverly Gardens, a subdivision founded in 1904 near the Landover rail station. Marshall purchased the remainder of the Cheverly Gardens lots in 1916.
Cheverly was incorporated in 1931, during the Great Depression. The thirties were difficult times for Cheverly, and it was only due to the dedication and hard work of the civic-minded residents led by Mayors Fred Gast (1931-1937) and J. Raymond Fletcher (1937-1945), that the town survived. Despite the economic constraints and limited tax base at the time, the streets were substantially improved and street lights repaired. During Fletcher's years as mayor, home construction increased fivefold from 135 to over 650. Joint efforts by the citizenry were characteristic of the period and were exemplified by the establishment of the American Legion Park in the center of town in 1935, in a landscaping effort directed by Raymond W. Bellamy, Sr., an early associate of Marshall. The Bellamy garden, just north of Legion Park, which he developed over a 40-year period (1927 to 1967) is only one of the many lovely gardens gracing Cheverly homes.
Over time, surrounding areas have been added to the original land bought by Marshall. In 1928 residents of the Tuxedo Colony, a community south of the railroad, petitioned the Cheverly Citizens Association to be known as South Cheverly. This community, founded in 1905 near the Magruder rail station, became an integral part of Cheverly, and its fourth ward with its incorporation in 1931. Annexations beginning in the 1950s and increasing in the 1990s brought more residential development as well as commercial and industrial establishments into the boundaries of Cheverly.
Today, Cheverly takes pride in the diversity of its population. Historically, Cheverly mirrored racial attitudes common to the times and place. From its founding until 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants were unenforceable in court, Cheverly property was covered by whites-only covenants and was advertised as restricted. Subsequently, racial discrimination in housing was expressed informally, rather than institutionally. In 1961, the Cheverly Boys Club challenged the segregation policies of the county Boys Clubs. 1969 saw conflict within Cheverly over school desegregation. Citizen participation has long been a characteristic of Cheverly.
The Cheverly Woman’s Club was founded as the Cheverly-Tuxedo School Improvements Club in 1919, and the Cheverly Citizens’ Association was established in 1926. Elsewhere on this website, you will find information about organizations in Cheverly today.
The future promises to be a time of challenge to Cheverly citizens determined to maintain the character of their little island of green. It is up to us who love our town to maintain Robert Marshall's vision of an attractive and peaceful residential community, a vision which continues to shine brightly.
Historic Sites in Cheverly
Mount Hope, the plantation house which still stands on a ridge in the center of Cheverly, is at No. 1 Cheverly Circle. It was built by Fielder Magruder, a plantation owner, about 1839 and expanded in the 1860s. This 12-room antebellum home is on our town seal and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 1978. It was restored by Cheverly's founder and first resident Robert Marshall. He called it Crestlawn and lived there from 1919 to 1929. It was Magruder’s land that formed the basis of the Cheverly subdivision.
The Mount Hope Slave Quarters Ruins appears in the M-NCPPC Historic Resource and Community Survey Update Database. There is more information and links to sources on the Cheverly History web site, at “Cheverly in Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.”
In August 1814, the British, marching on Washington to burn the Capitol and White House, headed for Bladensburg to cross the Anacostia River at the bridge. It was here that the Battle of Bladensburg was fought on August 24. Two springs, Crawford’s Adventure Spring and Magruder Spring (formerly Cheverly Spring), were designated in 1988 as Prince George's County Historic Sites for their putative use by the British during this campaign. Magruder Spring supplied drinking water to Mount Hope and to Cheverly in its early years. See a history of Cheverly's streams, springs, and wetlands.
There are a number of Sears and McClure kit houses in Cheverly, built from 1923 through 1925. "Belmar", a Sears-Roebuck "Alhambra" model built by Robert Marshall in 1925, was designated a County Historic Site in 1992.
The Cheverly United Methodist Church, built in 1942, is a Gothic Revival stone church with stained glass windows fabricated by the Baut Studios. It was approved as a Prince George's County Historic Site in 2010.
From 1916 to about 1930, the land now occupied by Euclid Park and Euclid Woods was an African-American subdivision known as North Kenilworth. Two or three of the former house sites have been identified. North Kenilworth was annexed to Cheverly in 1958.
Two 1915 houses, at 1800 and 1812 64th Avenue, remain from the Tuxedo Colony. The Magruder Christian Church, dedicated in 1909, burned down in 1922 and was rebuilt in concrete block. It is now the Community Temple Bibleway Church.
The American Legion building, completed in 1941, is distinctive in having been built by Legion members themselves using recycled materials.
Fun Facts about Cheverly
Did you know that...
- Among the original Cheverly ordinances was one forbidding the use of slingshots?
- A 52-gallon still in what is today Cheverly Nature Park was raided in 1924?
- In 1933 a brewery and amusement park were planned for land now south of the Metro station?