Who We Are

Why Restore Mass Ave?

During my many years living on Embassy Row – the two miles of Massachusetts Avenue west from Dupont Circle – I was appalled by the unsightly trees. The city planted young trees in sidewalk tree boxes, which died after a summer or three. The city then pulled out the dead trees and planted new ones, which struggled to live or died outright. These same problems plagued many DC streets; as a native Washingtonian, I was outraged.

Lessons from old trees

But on walks here, looking up, I saw wondrous old lindens 50 feet tall – inside the sidewalk. Pacing off between them, I found they were even-spaced 50 feet apart. Where the line had gaps, I sometimes found a sawed-off stump. The answer to this arboreal mystery was a photo I found in a drawer of the Washingtoniana collection at the DC Public Library. It showed the landscape of Mass Ave in 1913: double rows of American lindens arching over long, shady sidewalks. Old news accounts claimed these double rows of lindens had extended on both sides of Mass Ave for seven miles across town!

Inspired by the ancient trees’ resilience where modern trees were failing and by the 1913 photo, in 2006 some neighbors and foreign mission workers formed Restore Mass Ave, a nonprofit devoted to “re-greening” Embassy Row. Since, the work of the Board in this all-volunteer project has been extraordinary.

We hope this new web site will show you how, seven years on, Restore Mass Ave is working to revive the Historic Landscape of one of the few intact Grand Avenues left in the nation. The Map page shows the hundreds of street trees we look after, including 150 new ones from the city and about 150 more trees we have planted, many that re- create the historic allées. The Events page shows our major tree plantings and other milestones.

The Tree Care page shows how we raise the odds that trees will grow to their mature size. The Green Community page recognizes embassies and other owners who care for sidewalk trees and add historic trees and landscape.

How you benefit

Washington’s growing population will benefit from full rows of shady curbside trees. Property owners will benefit by growing trees near their buildings. Prime planting space is the public land between sidewalks and buildings, where a second row of trees can add priceless beauty. Check out our street “greening” guide on the Historic Landscape page.

Enjoy our web site – but don’t be virtual! Step onto your street. Look up and around. Are there gaps in the tree canopy? Where could the city plant trees? How can you and your neighbors add trees and care for them? And what is the “parking,” anyway?

Deborah Shapley, President, Restore Mass AveSee you under our “growing” shade!

Deborah Shapley

Founder & President

National Trust for Historic Preservation  Casey Trees  Alliance for Community Trees  Urban Forestry Association