Curious Georgetown (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Curious Georgetown

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:50:09
I'm Rebecca Sheir. This is "Metro Connection," and today we're talking about getting even. The next story isn't so much about getting even as in, like, getting revenge or even smoothing things out. It's about dispelling some myths, in this case, the myths surrounding one of D.C.'s oldest and most storied neighborhoods, Georgetown.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:50:31
We originally aired this piece back in June. It was part of the "Newcomer's Guide to Washington," which was a series exploring myths and mysteries around the D.C. region. For this installment, if you will, I decided to focus on Georgetown because before moving to Washington in the fall of 2009, I didn't really know a whole lot about Georgetown. What I did know I mostly learned through movies like "St. Elmo's Fire."

MR. EMILIO ESTEVEZ AS KIRBY KEGER

13:50:57
You don't remember me, do you?

ANDIE MACDOWELL AS DALE

13:50:58
I do, but I'm trying to...

KEGER

13:51:00
Kirby Keger. You were a senior when I started Georgetown.

DALE

13:51:03
Right.

SHEIR

13:51:04
Or "The Exorcist." And then there was the 1987 action thriller, "No Way Out." At one point, Gene Hackman's goons are chasing Kevin Costner through the streets of Georgetown when he suddenly does something decidedly un-Georgetownian. He jumps on the Metro and most people who've been in D.C. long enough probably know, well, Georgetown doesn't have a Metro. As to why, a common answer you'll no doubt hear -- why do you think there's no Metro station in Georgetown? -- involves the neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

13:51:39
The residents didn't want to interfere with the special atmosphere in the neighborhood.

SHEIR

13:51:44
There are buses that go to Georgetown, the Circulator and all that, but no Metro, like, no train. Why do you think that is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

13:51:49
Because the older neighbors, they want to keep it secluded from the outside rest of D.C.

SHEIR

13:51:54
But try asking one of those older neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #3

13:51:58
Hello.

SHEIR

13:51:59
Hi, I'm looking for Frieda.

#3

13:52:01
Yes, she's at the porch.

SHEIR

13:52:02
And you might hear a different story.

MS. FRIEDA BURLING

13:52:04
Hi sweetie, I was afraid you'd forgotten me.

SHEIR

13:52:06
No, no.

BURLING

13:52:08
It's so nice to meet you.

SHEIR

13:52:09
Nice to meet you, too.

SHEIR

13:52:10
This is Frieda Burling.

BURLING

13:52:12
But I grew up as Frieda Frasier, which was nice. I love the alliteration.

SHEIR

13:52:16
And at age 94, Frieda's been around Georgetown longer than most.

BURLING

13:52:20
I moved here in '59 and was quite well known around Georgetown. Some call me the mayor or the duchess or the queen or whatever.

SHEIR

13:52:28
And as the mayor or the duchess or the queen or whatever, Frieda's pretty upfront about the Metro situation.

SHEIR

13:52:32
Why is there no Metro in Georgetown, do you know?

BURLING

13:52:35
I remember when we argued that in the old days. I forget how long ago. And some of the people said the reason Georgetown doesn't have a Metro is that we're snobs and we didn't people from other parts of the city coming into Georgetown. Well, that's not true.

SHEIR

13:52:52
What is true, she says, is that all sorts of people have inhabited Georgetown through the years, from waterfront warehouse workers to African-Americans to the new dealers to the relative mix, she says, you see now.

BURLING

13:53:02
We're a little neighborhood where we help each other and we do have a certain pride in Georgetown.

SHEIR

13:53:08
So there's a real strong sense of community here you feel?

BURLING

13:53:10
Yes, neighborhood and community are the two words I'd use for Georgetown.

SHEIR

13:53:14
And this neighborhood, this community, was never really destined for Metro?

BURLING

13:53:19
Wasn't seriously considered putting it in here.

SHEIR

13:53:21
Thanks in part to engineering.

BURLING

13:53:24
Underground was the river and then heavy stone foundations.

SHEIR

13:53:29
All of which posed massive challenges. The grade from the Potomac up to the M Street was very steep. The bedrock beneath the neighborhood would've made drilling really expensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

13:53:37
Plus, people didn't want tunneling under their old, old houses. That would've been hugely disruptive to the fabric of a very long established neighborhood.

SHEIR

13:53:46
And by very long established this woman means very long established. Her name is Jane Frando Levy.

MS. JANE FRANDO LEVY

13:53:52
I am an historian specializing in the history of Washington D.C. for cultural tourism D.C.

SHEIR

13:53:59
And as she's quick to emphasize Georgetown is, relatively speaking, pretty old.

LEVY

13:54:03
Yeah, Georgetown was here before anything else was.

SHEIR

13:54:05
Washington D.C. was founded in 1790. Georgetown was founded back in 1751 and it was named for, well, any guesses anyone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #3

13:54:16
George Washington. Didn't he go there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2

13:54:19
I would agree. It has to be because of George Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4

13:54:23
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say George Washington. I think that would make sense.

MR. DON HAWKINS

13:54:28
No, George Washington was an 18-year-old kid at the time Georgetown was founded. So it didn't really have anything to do with him.

SHEIR

13:54:37
Two points for architect and D.C. history buff Don Hawkins, who says some claim the Georgetown name actually had to do with two Georges.

HAWKINS

13:54:45
George Gordon and George Bell.

SHEIR

13:54:47
Who owned the land that would become Georgetown?

HAWKINS

13:54:49
But neither of them was really anxious to have the property developed. They were doing fine without a lot people around wanting to settle houses on their land.

SHEIR

13:54:59
So some say the town founders named it after the two George's to appease them, you know, make them feel better about selling off their land. But Don Hawkins has his doubts.

HAWKINS

13:55:08
I don't think there was a whole lot to be gained by naming it after the people who were then selling it and making money.

SHEIR

13:55:15
And he isn't alone. As Jane Levy points out, there's a whole other George we're forgetting here.

LEVY

13:55:19
I think it's most likely to be for the king.

SHEIR

13:55:22
As in the sitting king, King George II.

LEVY

13:55:24
Not the one that we rebelled against. That was King George III, otherwise known as Mad King George, but we don't need to go there.

SHEIR

13:55:30
Another story for another time perhaps. But this story, Levy reminds us, took place in early colonial times.

LEVY

13:55:35
And we were setting business and trading, which is what most people were here to do. So there was an attraction in getting favor, currying favor, if you will, with the royal family.

SHEIR

13:55:46
And naming an entire town after royalty, well, that's bound to win you brownie points, right? Of course, as both Hawkins and Levy will tell you, the jury is still out on this one. Will we ever know?

LEVY

13:55:59
Well, I never say never in the history business. History's always being revised.

SHEIR

13:56:03
And sometimes rather creatively. Like the fraternity rose scenes in "St. Elmo's Fire." They were filmed at the University of Maryland College Park since, like many Jesuit colleges, the real Georgetown doesn't officially recognize a Greek system. The house in "The Exorcist" was actually in Georgetown, but it had a false wall stuck on so the bedroom would overlook those now-famed exorcist steps.

SHEIR

13:56:34
And as for that infamous chase scene in "No Way Out," well, when Kevin Costner gets off the Metro, he emerges in the old post office pavilion, a nifty trick, right? But Nicole Kidman might've topped it 20 years later in the move "The Invasion." We see her driving from Georgetown to Cleaving Park during rush hour with no traffic. Hurray for Hollywood.

SHEIR

13:57:04
You can find the link to all parts of the "Newcomer's Guide To Washington" on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

13:57:31
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, David Schultz and Sabri Ben-Achour and reporters Emily Freedman and Jesse Dukes. Jim Asendio is our news director. Tobey Schreiner is our audio engineer. Julia Edwards produces ''Door to Door.'' Thanks to Jonathon Charry, Andrew Chadwick, Margo Kelly, Timmy Olmstead and Matt Bush for their production help.

SHEIR

13:57:54
And to Dana Farrington and the WAMU digital media team for keeping our website up to date. Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts'' and our ''Door To Door'' theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. Visit our website, metroconnection.org, for a list of all the music we use.

SHEIR

13:58:13
And if you like what you're hearing each week, you can join our community on Facebook. That's facebook.com/metroconnection.org or follow us on Twitter. There's a link to both on our website. We hope you can join us next time when we root for the underdog, from the little university that could in northwest D.C. to rescuing the regions greyhounds. I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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