When dentist Langley Bowers returned to Capitol Hill this past April, he wasn’t just coming home again. By joining East Capitol Dental, Bowers was also picking up two separate narratives. The family dental practice Langley was joining had been started by Bowers’ father, Larry, nearly forty years ago. The junior Bowers was also continuing a long line of medical professionals operating out of the 123-year-old building at 711 East Capitol St. SE.
Langley is very much a son of Capitol Hill. He grew up in the home above the clinic where his father practiced dentistry and where he himself has now hung his shingle. He attended nursery school in the co-operative run under the tutelage of the redoubtable Ms. Frances before attending Capitol Hill Day School (CHDS) and later, Maret High School.
Though to the outside observer the family dental business might seem to have been his clear path, Langley didn’t head straight downstairs to the clinic after finishing high school.
“I wasn’t sure what I was meant to be, but it wasn’t a dentist for a while,” he said. “It took me a while to come around to it.”
Instead, he went to the University of Delaware and became a successful producer of television documentaries with the Smithsonian Channel. But after four years, he began to realize that something was missing.
A Creative Career
Like his father, the younger Bowers enjoys creative work with his hands. “The visual arts were a big thing for me,” Langley said. “I was coming around to the idea that dentistry could be an interesting merge of art and science, and started to realize what a unique opportunity it would be to step into a family business and come back to the Hill and serve the community here that sort of raised me.”
It was Larry Bowers, said the younger dentist, who demonstrated to his son throughout his career how dentistry weds creativity with science.
“I definitely see how far he’s taken it in terms of making really beautiful art out of people’s mouths. I don’t think I would have considered it a creative career unless I’d seen him approach it that way,” Langley said.
The choice was Langley’s, said the elder Bowers. He didn’t expect his son to follow in his footsteps.
“Actually, the first time he told me, I talked him out of it. I said, why do you want to be a dentist?” said Larry.
Langley took his father’s advice, considering the implications of leaving a successful television career for six additional years of education and the attendant debt. Still, he decided that dentistry was the way forward.
It ended up changing his life in more ways than he could have anticipated.
While at the University of Vermont finishing up the required coursework for dental school, he volunteered at Zeno Mountain Farm, an arts community for people with different abilities. There, he met a woman named Laura. He followed her to Los Angeles ‘to make sure she wanted to follow him back,” eventually convincing her to marry him before he completed his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Maryland earlier this year.
Langley follows in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. After completing his Dental Surgery Degree at the University of Virginia, Larry also followed his heart. “I met Susan, who was living here in Washington at the time, and that was –we were not even [officially] dating then, but that was a good enough reason for me to come to Washington,” Larry Bowers said.
The senior Bowers took over a dental practice at the corner of Tenth Street and North Carolina Avenue SE in 1981.
“I always thought I was going to be a small-town New England dentist when I was growing up,” Larry Bowers said. “And this, Capitol Hill, is such a small town. These are the kind of people that I’ve known for years.”
Shortly after Langley was born, in 1986, Larry and Susan bought the house where the Bowers now practice and where Larry and Susan raised their two children, Langley and a younger son, Casey, born three years later.
A History of Community Practice
In joining the practice, Langley will be the eighth doctor to practice in the building, which was expressly built for the purpose.
In 1896, a time when the community physician and the neighborhood dentist lived and worked among their patients, a physician named Dr. Kingsman built it as his dream home, a building purposely designed to function as a clinic and a residence. Designed by Appleton Clark, noted architect of the former Stanton Park Eastern Presbyterian Church (609 Maryland Ave. NE, now residential units), Kingsman practiced and lived in the building with his wife and daughters until 1928.
Over the years, the building has housed both doctors and dentists. Larry Bowers fondly recalls Dr. Lazzarri, the dentist who rented space in the building in 1953 and practiced there until 1995. John F. Kennedy was rumored to have been one of his clients, and Bowers still sees former childhood patients of Dr. Lazzarri’s.
Now Langley Bowers joins his father and that long history. Langley Bowers lives with his wife, Laura, and their two children, two-year-old Warren and newborn daughter Bernadette, just around the corner from the home where he grew up. He said that while the Hill has changed since he was a child, much remains the same. He’s even reached out to Ms. Frances about putting Warren into his cooperative preschool alma mater.
Langley said that he is thrilled to practice in a profession that fulfills him in a community that accepts him. “It all fits,” he said. “It fits with who I am and my character [and] skillset and being close to my family here and to all these people who have known me since I was a little kid.”
“It’s amazing how many patients walk in that have known me since I was a baby. It’s amazing that I get to have that opportunity.”
Dr. Bowers and Dr. Bowers offer adult restorative and cosmetic dentistry. You can learn more about East Capitol Dental by visiting their website at eastcapitoldental.com, by popping into their office at 711 East Capitol St. SE, or by calling 202-544-0086.