This week for Where the Streets Had Old Names, GM is exploring the history of the east Village version of Dent Place and its previous name, Irving Place.
The road now known as Dent Place was carved out of a large plot of land known as Cooke Park. It ran from Q up to R St. west of 30th:
It was named after Henry Cooke, the first Governor of DC, who built the majestic homes along Q that exist today. The map above shows how the land appeared in 1887. At the time there was a jumble of smaller lots without structures built on them as well as a planned street to be called Park Ave.
But before these lots could be developed and Park Ave. born, the land was subdivided into the more regular shape it has today. Here it is in 1894:
So the first question, where did the name Irving Place come from? Sadly GM could not get a firm answer but he can make an educated guess. Around the time the Irving Place was being laid out in Georgetown, Irving Place near Gramercy Park in New York City was enjoying a fashionable reputation. And it’s quite possible that that is what inspired the choice.
As for the inspiration for the NYC name, it was Washington Irving, author of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. So until GM finds more evidence, he’ll go with the beloved author as the secondhand inspiration for the Georgetown street.
Now to the second question: where did the name Irving Place go?
That’s much easier to answer and to date. In 1905, the Commissioners for DC adopted new names for scores of streets throughout the District in order to bring more consistency and logic. This included changing Irving Place to Dent Place:
The reason for doing so appears to be to avoid confusion with Irving St. in Columbia Heights.
Now to the third question: Where did the name Dent Place come from?
GM did not find any definitive evidence but it appears likely that the street was named after Edward Linthicum Dent.
Dent was the grandson of Edward Linthicum, the owner of what is now Dumbarton Oaks. Dent was actually born in the mansion, which was then called the Linthicum estate. He originally stayed in Georgetown and founded an ironworks along the Georgetown waterfront. His company provided the fire hydrants for the District. After it failed he moved up to Pennsylvania, but died in 1899 at the age of 39.
(The Linthicum Institute was a night school for poor white boys in Georgetown. It was located in what is now the Christ’s Church parish hall.)
It seems likely that Dent’s relatively recent death at such a young age inspired the choice in names.
GM was not able to identify why exactly Dent Place in the west village was also given that name other than the fact that it is roughly at the same latitude as the east village street.