Picture illustration by Alice Kresse

On the finish of Norwood Drive in Chevy Chase, in the midst of a contemporary recreation space, stands a curious relic of the group’s previous. The hulking, early twentieth century brick constructing, looming over playgrounds and tennis courts, is a reminder of when the federal authorities first got here to city—and the consternation the transfer later brought about.

That first federal company to return to Bethesda (Norwood Drive was a part of Bethesda again then) was the U.S. Division of Agriculture (USDA). The power? The Animal Illness Analysis Station.

Bethesda of the Eighteen Nineties enticed D.C.’s city dwellers with the promise of contemporary air, clear water and nonetheless undeveloped inexperienced hills, a welcome distinction to the cloying stench of town. Bethesda’s setting, near a number of departmental headquarters in D.C. and a straight shot by trolley up Wisconsin Avenue, made it a perfect spot for relocating federal services from town to the suburbs.

For the reason that Eighties, the USDA had performed assessments on animals on the division’s analysis station in Northeast Washington. The power quickly proved too small to handle the handfuls of ongoing research of infectious ailments in livestock. In 1897, the station moved to an undeveloped 18-acre tract west of Wisconsin Avenue and south of Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda.

Buildings went up in a flurry, with laboratories, breeding homes, dozens of barns and stables each giant and small, isolation pens and corrals spreading out throughout the acreage. The operation grew shortly; in 1906, a considerable and fireproof brick constructing changed the previous wood laboratory. Dozens of different buildings adopted, together with a big guinea pig home for tons of of take a look at animals that have been fed oats and corn harvested from surrounding farms.

Experiments on the station lined a swath of animal ailments, starting with a examine on the contagiousness of pleuro-pneumonia in cattle. Quickly the work expanded to incorporate dozens of trials in search of cures for anthrax, swine plague, hog cholera, hoof-and-mouth illness, tuberculosis and extra. Contaminated animals have been housed throughout the power.

Different USDA packages discovered a house in Bethesda, together with research in animal husbandry and selective breeding. One of many extra notable experiments started when King Menelik of Abyssinia introduced President Theodore Roosevelt with the bizarre present of a male zebra. Roosevelt had the zebra transported to the Bethesda facility, the place the president inspired the scientists to institute a challenge geared toward crossbreeding the zebra with a horse to create a brand new and improved farm animal. A mare from an area farm was chosen to mate. The consequence born on the Bethesda facility was named a “zebhorse”—alternatively often known as a zebroid or a zorse. After 5 years, the challenge was scrapped.

Because the USDA packages in Bethesda expanded, so did the encompassing suburbs. New developments appeared in speedy succession within the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties, finally hemming within the previous analysis station. Residents started complaining in regards to the smells, flies and rats emanating from the power. Civic teams banded collectively to demand that the federal government shut down the operations—and that the land be turned over to the county to be used as a park. The federal government acquiesced and moved to a 475-acre farm in Beltsville, the place the USDA remains to be ensconced (it’s now on 6,600 acres).

By 1936, many of the provides and animals had been moved out of Bethesda. Nonetheless, the big and elaborate brick laboratory, with its rounded nook turret, dentilated cornice and decorative arches, stays in the midst of Norwood Park. The constructing is now a rental property for events and personal occasions—and a reminder of the group’s agrarian previous.

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