Photo credit: Kim Williams , 07/2000

Property Name: Wiley-Ringland House
Date Listed: 11/22/2000
Inventory No.: M: 35-131
Location: 4722, Dorset Avenue, Chevy Chase, Montgomery County

Description: The house at 4722 Dorset Avenue in Somerset, commonly known as the Wiley-Ringland house for its original owner/builder Harvey Wiley and longtime owner/resident, Arthur Cuming Ringland, is a two-story Queen Anne-style frame building built c. 1893. The 2 1/2-story structure, generally square in plan with several projections and recessions, sits upon a rubble stone foundation and is covered with a hip roof with an intersecting gable. The roof has overhanging eaves with exposed rafters and a brick chimney near the peak of the south roof slope. The house features several Queen Anne-inspired exuberances, including a three-sided, corner projecting bay or tower capped by a semi-conical, bell-shaped roof; a wraparound hip-roofed porch; a projecting gable; and a hipped dormer window. The porch rests on brick piers, and is supported by turned posts with a balustrade. The house is clad in German siding and features decorative wood shingling in the projecting gable ends. A two-story kitchen wing at the rear of the house appears to have been an addition, though probably built within several years of the original construction. A fire in 1978 virtually destroyed this rear kitchen wing and damaged part of the roof. Boarded up and abandoned until 1999, the house was threatened with demolition before being restored between 2001 and 2002 by new owners.

Significance: The Wiley-Ringland House at 4722 Dorset Avenue was one of the first houses built in the present-day Town of Somerset by Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a leading chemist at the Department of Agriculture, and one of the original developers of the suburban property. The house is significant for its association with the pattern of suburban migration from northwest Washington to Montgomery County via the streetcar and railroad networks. Built adjacent to three emerging streetcar lines and thus easily accessible to the city, Somerset Heights was founded upon the late-19th century ideal that rejected the congested living conditions of the city, for the bucolic setting of freestanding houses, spacious grounds, and private lawns of the country. Sited well back from the street and executed in a Queen Anne manner replete with projecting bays and wraparound porches, the house was designed to fit this suburban ideal. It was one of the first of four "company officer" houses to be built, and survives on its original one-acre lot. The Wiley-Ringland House is also significant for its association for Dr. Harvey Wiley as well as long-time resident Arthur Cuming Ringland. Dr. Wiley was, at the time of the founding of Somerset Heights, an emerging leader in the field of science, and later and best known as "the Father of the Pure Food and Drug Act" of 1906, commonly known as the Wiley Act. Wiley and four other scientists banded together in the early 1890s to develop a residential enclave or "colony" outside the city limits. The group, referred to as the Somerset Colony Company, purchased a 50-acre tract of land and constructed their personal residences before subdividing the land into building lots and promoting their individual sale as a real estate venture. Wiley owned the house until 1901. Arthur Cuming Ringland is best known as the principal founder of CARE. Ringland began his life-long government career in 1900 when he joined the U.S. Forest Service wehre he helped establish the national park and national forest system. Between 1900 and 1945, Arthur Ringland led a variety of government programs that ranged from conservation work to refugee relief. In 1945, while living at 4722 Dorset Avenue, Ringland originated the concept of the private voluntary organization that became CARE. A principal aspect of that work was persuading the government to provide ships to transport food packages that had been donated for the needy in Europe. He thus became known as "the father of CARE," and was honored for his efforts by the United Nations in 1958. Ringland lived at the house from 1938 until 1978.




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