Person

Sarah Rittenhouse

Quick Facts

Sarah Louise "Lulu" Rittenhouse was the born on February 22, 1845 in Georgetown, DC. Her parents, Charles Edwin and Sarah Matilda Whitall Rittenhouse lived with their eldest daughter, Fannie, and Sarah Matilda's parents.

The Whitall family leased an estate on the Georgetown Heights. It belonged to Charles Carroll who leased it to prominent members of society or government workers. In 1841, heirs of Charles Carroll sold it to the Whitall family. The estate was called Bellevue at the time. It was renamed and is now known as Dumbarton House, owned and operated by the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America.

Charles Edwin Rittenhouse was a prominent banker in Georgetown. He had moved to the area when he was in his twenties and had begun working in the Bank of the Metropolis. He had a successful 18-year career there until he was made president of a new bank and exchange in Georgetown. He was president of the Bank of Commerce in Georgetown for the remainder of his life.

The Rittenhouse family continued to grow after Lulu’s birth. Three girls and two boys were born between 1847 and 1859. One of the girls died in infancy and one of the boys died as a teenager.

There is not much information to be found about Sarah Rittenhouse. She lived in Georgetown her entire life and never married. 

In 1902, the nearby Montrose estate had fallen into disrepair and had long been abandoned. Developers were planning to buy the land and build housing units on the acreage. The land had long been a place where locals went for picnics and to recreate. Lulu began petitioning congress to buy the land to keep it maintained as a public park.

The first proposal in 1904 was not a success, but she did not give up. In 1911 her hard work paid off and Montrose Park was established. Lulu next began pushing for a bridge over Rock Creek to help alleviate traffic on M Street NW. The Q Street Bridge went through several designs and several bid processes before being constructed in 1915. The Rittenhouse descendants had sold Bellevue to a cousin, John L. Newbold, in 1912. At the time, Q Street NW was forced around the Bellevue house. Added traffic from the new bridge would have been problematic. In order to save the house, Mr. Newbold had it moved 100 ft to the north to it’s present location on Q Street NW.

Sarah Louise Rittenhouse died in 1942. In the 1950s, hostesses in Washington began holding fundraising luncheons and banquets to raise money to put up a monument or a memorial of some sort to “Miss Lulu.” A birdbath or a sundial were suggested. In 1956, the Sarah Louise Rittenhouse Armillary sphere was installed in Montrose Park.

Rock Creek Park

Last updated: February 4, 2022