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County Council approves Potomac Overlook Historic District

April 21, 2022

Black and white two story house at Potomac Overlook
The Amendment to the Master Plan for Historic Preservation is the first Mid-Century Modern historic district in Montgomery County

Wheaton, MD — Montgomery Planning, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is pleased to announce the approval by the Montgomery County Council of an Amendment to the Master Plan for Historic Preservation of the Potomac Overlook Historic District. The Amendment was approved on April 19 by the County Council and covers nineteen houses located approximately two-and-a-half miles to the southwest of downtown Bethesda and overlooking the Potomac River. Potomac Overlook is the first Mid-Century Modern historic district in Montgomery County.

This is also the first historic district designated in the county since 2011. Designation as a Master Plan historic district: 1) recognizes significant architectural and cultural sites; 2) protects buildings and neighborhoods from demolition; 3) manages exterior alterations to resources; 4) provides owners with information on care, restoration, and preservation; and 5) qualifies owners for special tax benefit programs.

“I would like to thank the residents of Potomac Overlook for spearheading this effort to preserve their outstanding mid-century modern community. I would also like to thank the families who shared the stories of their remarkable relatives who lived in Potomac Overlook and made lasting contributions to Montgomery County and the nation,” said Rebeccah Ballo, Montgomery Planning Historic Preservation Supervisor.

The Potomac Overlook designation reflects the importance of site development and land planning in creating communities respectful of the natural surroundings, topography, and tree canopy. The contemporary-styled dwellings are recognized as outstanding examples of situated modernism. In addition, the contributions of several of the first homeowners in Potomac Overlook augment the historic significance of the district.

This Amendment recognizes the achievements of six of the first owners who influenced local, state, and national affairs: Pao-Chi and Yu Ming Pien, Dorothy Gilford, Helen Wilson Nies, and Abraham M. and Helen W. Sirkin. Their achievements reflect the following themes: Asian American heritage, Jewish American heritage, women’s history, law, and mathematics, science, and engineering.

Learn more about the residents who live in the Potomac Overlook Historic District by viewing a short video produced by Montgomery Planning.

Designation of resources to the Master Plan for Historic Preservation requires the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Board and County Council. The Council approval of the Potomac Overlook Historic District follows a process started by the community in 2019. In June 2021, the Historic Preservation Commission recommended that the Planning Board list the Potomac Overlook Historic District in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites and recommended that the County Council designate the resources as a Master Plan Historic District. Following the Planning Board’s approval in November 2021, the County Council held a public hearing, a Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee work session and approved the Amendment in its capacity as the District Council for that portion of the Maryland-Washington Regional District within Montgomery County.

Read the Potomac Overlook Planning Board Draft – Amendment

View the Amendment’s appendix and the Potomac Overlook Design Guidelines.

Learn more about the Montgomery Planning Historic Preservation Office and historic designation and research.

About Potomac Overlook

Builder Edmund J. Bennett and the architecture firm of Keyes, Lethbridge, and Condon developed Potomac Overlook in the late 1950s. The partnership celebrated the aesthetic design, functional advantages, and untapped commercial potential for modern architecture in tract housing and recognized the importance of creating communities respectful of the existing natural surroundings, topography, and tree canopy. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) awarded them the “excellence of their cooperative efforts to create better homes and communities for Americans” award in 1961.

About the Historic Preservation Office

The Historic Preservation Office supports the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission by providing for the identification, designation and regulation of historic sites in Montgomery County. Historic Preservation staff also maintains an archive and library of documentation on historic resources in Montgomery County and provides preservation outreach and guidance on preservation best practices to the public.

If you are interested in historic buildings, sites and programs in Montgomery County parks, visit the Montgomery County Parks website for more information.