Guest post: Scott Whipple
May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme, “Discover America’s Hidden Gems”, got me thinking about Montgomery County’s rich collection of historic places.
Montgomery County has 430 sites and 22 districts designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. More are identified in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites in Montgomery County. And more still are waiting to be identified and investigated.
Historic and architectural gems we have. But hidden? In a county just outside the nation’s capital, with a population rapidly approaching a million people, it is hard to think of much as being hidden. Whether or not we live or work in a historic building, most of us encounter historic buildings or landscapes on a daily basis as we navigate the County.
But how often do we stop to appreciate these places, or take the time to discover new places? So to help you, historic preservation staff have prepared a list of places we think people should discover and celebrate.
Some people love lists. I am in another group – the reluctant list-makers – concerned about inadvertently leaving off the list something deserving inclusion. So with the caveat that the following is by no means definitive and advanced apologies if we have left off your favorite building or opened people’s eyes to your much-loved secret place, here is what can only be considered a partial list of thirty-one Montgomery County hidden gems, one for each day of Preservation Month. Some are hidden in plain site; others are known to some, but should be enjoyed by many.
2. Baltzley Castle| Victorian “fantasy” castle, built by the developers of Glen Echo and funders of the Glen Echo National Chautauqua| 5415 Mohican Road, Glen Echo Heights; visible from MacArthur Boulevard
7. Button Farm | living history center telling the story of 19th century plantation life and the Underground Railroad, located in Maryland resident curatorship property in Seneca Creek State Park| 16820 Black Rock Road, Germantown
8. Carderock Springs (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) | A “visual community” of 275 mid-century modern houses designed by Keys, Lethbridge, and Condon and developed by Edmund J. Bennett between 1962-1966 | vicinity of Seven Locks Road and Lilly Stone Drive, Potomac
15. National Park Seminary (listed in the National Register of Historic Places; listed in Endangered Maryland 2011) | Short-lived resort served as a finishing school for young women and annex to Walter Reed Army Hospital before being saved and rehabbed as a residential community | Linden Lane and Dewitt Drive, Silver Spring
19. Rock Creek Woods (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) | community of 76 mid-century modern houses designed Charles Goodman between 1958-1961 | vicinity of Spruell Drive and Connecticut Avenue, Silver Spring/North Kensington
21. Seneca Historic District (listed in the National Register of Historic Places)| more than 3,800 acres of agricultural and parkland rich with historic sites| River Road and Sugarland Road, vicinity of Poolesville
25. Sugarloaf Mountain Chapel | 1861 brick chapel built in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain by local builder William T. Hilton using bricks fired nearby and slate shingles from Hyattstown quarry | 24700 Old Hundred Road, Dickerson
27. Walter Johnson House | Home of the “Big Train,” Washington Senator Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson, who had a chicken farm here in Bethesda | 9100 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda
28. Warren Historic Site, Love and Charity Hall(listed in Endangered Maryland 2008)/Warren M.E. Church/Warren M.E. Church Cemetery| a rare surviving collection of a church, school, and social building associated with the African American community, recognized by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center as a Local Legacy| 22625 White’s Ferry Road, Martinsburg
29. Washington Grove (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) | known as “a town within a forest,” Washington Grove is an incorporated town that evolved from a religious camp meeting and later a summer retreat | vicinity of Grove Road, Washington Grove
Keep in mind that many of these places are privately owned, so if you visit, please respect their owner’s privacy and limit your visits to looking at building exteriors from publically accessible locations. Additional information about many of these resources is available in Places from the Past and from the sources linked-to in the preceding list.
We hope you will get out and visit our county’s great historic resources during Preservation Month, and tell us what would be on your list? To help you with your list, use our interactive mapping tool to discover historic places across the County.