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The circle gets its name from John Tennally, a tavern owner and local resident c. 1790. As is common with the passage of time, the name "Tennally" evolved into the name "Tenley." The name change was relatively gradual and historic photos of the District's streetcar system have indicated that streetcars of the period were signed with the original spelling.
The circle is an important transportation hub for area residents, featuring stops for the Washington Metro's 30N, 30S, 31, 33, 37, 96, H2, H3, H4, N2, and M4 bus routes. The Tenleytown–AU Metro station is one block north of the circle, where one is able to catch a free shuttle to the main campus of American University a little less than a mile away.
Unlike many of the circles in Washington, Tenley's traffic pattern has evolved such that the dominant roadway, Wisconsin Avenue, can pass straight through the center instead of going around the outside circumference.
- "Shuttle Services". American University. 2017. Retrieved February 27, 2018.