About Pooks Hill
Have you wondered where the name Pooks Hill came from?
British India and its offspring Rudyard Kipling are indirectly responsible for this strange name of our community. But clearly the honor goes to a Merle Thorpe.
Thorpe who was born in Brimfield, Illinois in 1879 came to the DC area as a journalist. He went on to found a periodical called “Nations Business”. Judging from some of the articles that Thorpe published and a book he wrote too, it had a Conservative point of view and was against the New Deal. On June 17, 1935, Time Magazine reported: that he called it , “Frock coated Communism”! Another article in his magazine in July 1935 was titled: “If Communists were in control”.
Presumably with his financial success he was able to follow in the footsteps of another publisher Gilbert Grosvenor of National Geographicand buy land just south of the Grosvenor estate called “Wild Acres” According to the Promenade’s website, his total acreage was a tad shy of Grosvenor’s 104 acres. Thorpe read a lot and obviously liked the children’s story Kipling wrote in 1906 called Puck of Pook’s Hill so much, that he called his new estate: “Pooks Hill”
Recently my daughter Nadia and I traveled to India at different times and joined up in Amritsar, India to walk across the border intoLahore, Pakistan. Nadia got leave from her job and left Colorado and arrived in Mumbai, India (or as it was known in British India: “Bombay”) in October 2008. I flew instead to Chennai, in south India in November; so she had traveled extensively for a month before we met in northern India. We were anxious about crossing the border at Wagah, but it all went well, fortunately for us just before the tense period that began the night we were leaving from Delhi on 26 November.
My point is, we were retracing the steps of Rudyard Kipling from his birth. Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay on 30 December 1865 . After a sojourn in Britain to study in a college and earlier in a boarding school like mine, he returned to British India rejoin his parents inLahore, where his father John Lockwood Kipling arranged a job for him as an editor of small newspaper. His father was by then Principal of the Mayo College of Art and Curator of the Lahore Museum.
Like Kipling on his return, Nadia saw the famous ‘Gateway to India’ and used the main Mumbai train station formerly called Victoria. Kipling arrived back by ship from Britain to Mumbai in 1882 and then from the Victoria station rode trains for four days before reachingLahore. I flew into South India and also rode two trains for more than two days north to reach Amritsar, in order to cross into Lahore.
Once Nadia and I were in Lahore, we went to the National Art College formerly known as ‘Mayo’ and also visited the Lahore Museum next door. Facing the Museum is an artillery piece, an old cannon called Zamzama formerly known as “Kim’s Gun”. While ensconced in Lahore, Kipling wrote, “Jungle Book” (with Mowgli). Later he wrote other stories that are based on his experiences in Lahore and the rest of British India, such as “Kim” (Kim played on the same Gun) and “Gunga Din” (later a movie with the British-American Cary Grant). Nadia liked theNCA College so much that she might go back to it for a six month work study.
Kipling became so absorbed in Mughal history and architecture that when he later came to the United States with his American wife toVermont, he built a house called the “Naulakha” (which literally means nine ‘lakhs’ or nine hundred thousand. That was the lavish amount the Mughal emperor Jehangir spent on just one small building in his palace in Lahore called appropriately today the Naulakha Pavilion. We visited the palace inside the Fort; and the architecture of the Naulakha is incorporated into the new Pakistan Embassy in the Van Ness diplomatic enclave in Washington, DC.
The original Pook’s Hill was a figment of Rudyard Kipling’s imagination; however it was based on the land around his estate in Burwash,Sussex, in the UK. There are other “Pook’s Hill” or “Pooks Hill” of note around the world. There is one in Belize, another in Australia, and one in South Africa.
Finally, Pooks Hill is very important to the Norwegians, since their present king Harald stayed in a lodge on the estate owned by Merle Thorpe himself on the site where the Bethesda Marriott stands now. The Pooks Hill Tower was built in 1949 and was eventually purchased by Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) quietly in 1992. Later when they built the new addition over the spot where the old YMCA stood, the residents of Pooks Hill Square were not informed nor consulted.
There was also an older hotel where Whitley Park is now, well before the Bethesda Marriot. My children used to sled (toboggan) there in the late eighties. When the Interstate system was built a lot of land from these large estates was appropriated by the state and the Federal Government to build I-495, I-70S (now I-270S and formerly 1-240!)
‘Spooky’ and “Pooksy”! I wish you all a Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
Irfan Hamid, for Nadia and Mish. 5234