Pheasant Farming in Glenmont

“Denley Mansion,” ca. 1970. Photograph from digital collections of Montgomery History.
“Denley Mansion,” ca. 1970. Photograph from digital collections of Montgomery History.

When I grew up in Glenmont in the 1960s, I knew this house as “the Denley mansion.” It sat on a patch of land on the west side of Georgia at Denley Road, just north of Randolph Road. Its most prominent feature was a second-story arched window. By 1966, it was no longer occupied, and I began to hear talk that it was going to be torn down for a subway that would go all the way to Washington, D. C. I remember thinking at the time, “that’s crazy talk.” If you’d told me that there had been a pheasant farm on that same property, I’d have been even more surprised.

Charles Frederick Denley and his wife, Bessie Kellogg (Winchell) Denley bought nine acres in Glenmont in 1918,1 and in 1927 began to build a house there.2 They moved in the following year and named their property, “Winden.”

Silver Pheasant. Picture taken by Diomidis Spinellis at the Attica Zoo, March 23, 2006. Use permitted via Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0
Silver Pheasant. Picture taken by Diomidis Spinellis at the Attica Zoo, March 23, 2006. Use permitted via Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

Charles F. Denley was president of Potomac Electrotype Company in Rockville. In his spare time, however, he raised rare birds such as the Silver, Great Argus, and Mikado pheasants. He became an expert on the subject and accumulated an impressive library of books on pheasants.3 During the 1930s and 1940s, he gave talks on the raising of pheasants4 and hosted gatherings of rare bird breeders.5 In 1930, he devised a special incubator because one of his associates had purchased a dozen ostrich eggs and wanted to hatch them.6

Site of "Winden," property of Charles F. and Bessie K. Denley. September 3, 2021.
Site of “Winden,” property of Charles F. and Bessie K. Denley. September 3, 2021.

Charles died in 1947,7 and his wife, Bessie continued to live at Winden. She died in 1966, and the following year, the property was sold to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The parking garage for the Glenmont Metro station sits in the middle of what was once a pheasant farm.

Charles Denley’s niece sold his library of rare books on exotic birds to the Smithsonian Institution in 1967, because “it sounded like a very good place to have the books where they will be available to many people.”8

OBLIGATORY PET CEMETERY CONTENT:  I wrote about the Denleys because I was fascinated to turn up yet another instance of how rural this part of the county was in the first half of the twentieth century.  I did not find that the Denleys buried any of their birds or other pets at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery.  Having nine acres at their disposal, they likely would have buried pets on their own property.  The Denley home, “Winden,” was 2.3 miles south of Aspin Hill.  The Denleys were contemporaries of the Birneys (the first owners of Aspin Hill), and possibly knew them.

  1. Montgomery County Land Records, Liber 274, Folio 69, October 4, 1918.
  2. “Glenmont,” Washington Post, November 20, 1927, p. S9.
  3. Bill McCormick, “Wild Arguses From Borneo Are Guests of Dr. C.F. Denley,” Washington Post, March 4, 1937, p. 17.
  4. “Sandy Spring Social Events Fill Calendar,” Washington Post, May 1, 1932, p. S5.
  5. “Birds Hold Beauty Show,” Evening Star, October 7, 1939.
  6. “Bird Merchant Awaits Action of Incubator on Ostrich Eggs,” Evening Star, May 2, 1930, p. B-1.
  7. “C. F. Denley, 75, Succumbs in Hospital,” Washington Post, December 30, 1947, p. B2.
  8. Katharine Gresham, “Smithsonian Buys Rare Bird Books,” Washington Post, Times Herald, January 12, 1967, p. F3.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.