Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Big Engine that Did


One of the sites that I point out on my walking tour to Silver Spring's original "Silver" Spring is this section of mosaic mural located at the Georgia Avenue underpass (where Georgia dips under the Metro/CSX tracks). The murals were designed and put together by Arts on the Block youths that I worked with back in 2005 to incorporate Silver Spring images into the designs.

 
 
I have fun pointing out to tour participants that this iconic streamline modern locomotive never ran through Silver Spring as part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad but was one of the New York Central Railroad's legendary "Hudson" locomotives. I'm sure the youths saw a photo of this engine, thought it was cool (which it is!), and decided to reproduce it in their mural.


This engine was designed by the famous industrial designer Henry Dreyfus. If you live in an
older house you probably have a Dreyfus original hanging on your wall...his 1953 Honeywell T87 circular wall thermostat!

 
The next walking tour will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Cost $10.00, children under 13 free. 

RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.  Email sshistory@yahoo.com or call (301) 537-1253.

Tour begins at:
 
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station
8100 Georgia Avenue (at Sligo Avenue)
Silver Spring, MD  20910

(301) 537-1253
 
 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

So Monday Night I'm Gonna Party Like It's 1978

Here are some of the places that folks rang in the New Year thirty-four years ago in downtown Silver Spring.  All of the advertisements are from the pages of the December 29, 1978 The Suburban Record.


The Record, which started publishing in 1944, was located at 8505 Dixon Avenue in 1978.  Today this address is part of an office building located at 1010 Wayne Avenue.

The Silver Spring Historical Society owns a rare bound copy of this newspaper's run from 1978 that was generously donated by Chip Py a few years ago.  If anyone has copies of this important newspaper, please consider donating them to SSHS.


Spring Garden was located at 1160 Bonifant Street which is no longer extant, having been replaced by a portion of the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center.


Courtesy Silver Spring Singular

Villa Rosa was located at 813 Ellsworth Drive which is also long gone.  The restaurant was located about where Zpizza sits today.


Beacon Auto Body was located at 8111 Mayor Lane.  Beacon closed in 2010 after being in business for 38 years.  The building is still there (and empty) but not Beacon's awesome sign which was the side of the actual 1956 Nash Metropolitan automobile.  This car is in the collection of the SSHS and it has been offered, along with other vintage Silver Spring business signs, for permanent display in the to-be-constructed Silver Spring Library!




And lastly Mike offered a "Cheers" from 1052 Ripley Street, now the site of the Solaire Apartments.

Wherever you spend this New Year's Eve, may it be memorable!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Trash to Treasure

Every morning when I walk out of my house to pick up the Washington Post (Now where has it been flung today?) I never know what trash I will pick up out of my yard along with the newspaper. Usually though, said trash doesn't get accessioned into the collections of the Silver Spring Historical Society!  

This "Ladies Night Concert @ Lucy's" ticket for a party held last night at 8301 Georgia Avenue (known as Langano Ethiopian Restaurant during the day) will be added to the society's "8301 Georgia" vertical file as a great piece of early 21st century ephemera.  



Back in 1948 EVERY day was ladies day at 8301 when it operated as the Silver Spring location of the NorBud Shops, a women's undergarment store.



Over the past twenty years, 8301 has been a revolving door of restaurants with none of them seeming to last very long.  Anyone remember Mr. Minari American and Japanese Food when it opened in July 1998?  In February 2011 it became the short-lived Taste of Morocco which had relocated from City Place Mall.  Before the year was over it sequed into Marrakesh Restaurant whose food has now moved to the eastern side of the African continent and is presently Langano.  Somewhere in between Minari and Morocco it was a Jerry's Subs and Pizza.



The building itself was constructed in 1923 and features some really beautiful multi-hued cream/yellow/beige/brown brick that is only visible on the Thayer Avenue elevation.  This is some of the most beautiful commercial brickwork from the early 20th century still surviving on Georgia Avenue.  The Georgia Avenue elevation features the same brickwork but you wouldn't know for it has been encased for the past two decades in tacky wood siding painted dark brown.

Perhaps some year/decade a new owner of 8301 Georgia Avenue will give this building's exterior the sensitive restoration that it deserves.




Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thayer Avenue Setting for New Work of Fiction Set in WW II

Last year New York author Cheryl A. Pula contacted me inquiring about an appropriate street in Silver SPring for the protagonist of her planned book, "The Ragged Irregulars:  The Eighth Air Force Series, Book Two." to live on.


Her character, Kelly Davenport, is an 18-year old bombardier with the 8th Air Force, the base's resident genius (IQ 189), and a Princeton graduate with a major in nuclear physics. The character is based on a real WW II veteran that the author interviewed.

Ms. Pula needed a WW II-era middle class neighborhood within walking distance of Montgomery Blair High School, from where Davenport graduated. She chose Silver Spring because she always liked the name of the town.  "My brother taught at Catholic University in D.C. for a while. My niece and her family are from Lanham, but just recently moved to Columbia, MD, so I am familiar with the modern day city, but I imagine it has changed immensely since WW II," Pula told me last year.

While Silver Spring's Central Business District has certainly changed over the past sixty plus years, I suggested that an excellent location for her character to live would be on Thayer Avenue in the Silver Spring Park, a neighborhood that physically has seen very few changes to its building stock.
Plated in 1904, it is still a tree-filled neighborhood sprinkled with bungalows and four squares and is within easy walking distance of MBHS. Oh, and the fact that I live in one of those bungalows...on Thayer Avenue.

I received a copy of the book yesterday in the mail and was tickled to see chapter one titled "Friday, 11 September 1936 Michael Davenport Residence, Thayer Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland." As far as I'm concerned, the Davenports lived in my house!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Silver Spring Realia

Recently the Silver Spring Historical Society acquired this realia (library-speak for three dimensional object) with no information regarding its history.  Appearing to be an automobile license plate, I posted a query on the Facebook group page You know you grew up in Silver Spring when... to see if any of its members might know something about it.  A couple of months later local longtime resident Rick Nelson provided the information I sought supplemented by Rick Kretschmer's amazing web site ricksplates.com.

Collection of Silver Spring Historical Society

The state of Maryland started requiring the registration of automobiles in 1904 but it wasn't until 1910 that vehicles had to display state-issued plates.  Front and rear license plates were required from 1910 to 1943, 1948 to 1951, and 1956 on.  The only years that a single rear plate was required was 1944 to 1947 and 1952 to 1955.  Correctly I assumed that this plate was manufactured as a novelty to be placed on the front of a vehicle.  Perhaps a variety of front plates were sold as fundraisers by fraternal organizations, high schools, or simply given away by auto dealers and the like. 

Mr. Nelson remembers that when only single plates were required in 1954 and 1955, front plates could be purchased at any auto supply store.  In 1954 the state-issued rear plate was yellow on black and in 1955 it was black on yellow.  All of the other single plate years were monochromatic black and white.

Courtesy ricksplates.com.
Another example of a 1955 Maryland plate may be seen at http://alpca8123md.50webs.comWhen compared to the 1954 yellow on black plate next to it, the 1955 plate definitely looks more orange than yellow.  My guess then is that the society's plate was sold and used in 1955. 

Certainly there must be other versions of Silver Spring automobile plates out there, perhaps ones featuring the names of car dealerships or other local businesses.  If you own one, please let me know.  Thank you!



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Silver Spring Heritage Trail Finally Gets Props in the Post

In April 2010 the Silver Spring Historical Society dedicated the first six signs of the Silver Spring Heritage Trail along historic "Main Street" Georgia Avenue.  In all there will be twenty signs located throughout downtown Silver Spring extolling the amazing hidden history that our community encompasses.


As the first designated heritage trail in Montgomery County, and one that the SSHS worked on for over a decade to create, our organization felt that the trail's dedication deserved coverage in The Washington Post which, of course, it did not receive.  Well, finally it has...sort of.

In today's "Local Living / Montgomery Edition" of the Post on p. 17 the article "Piratz Tavern bar gets a Spike TV makeover" appears with two photographs. One of the photos prominently shows our "Post Office 1936" sign in the foreground with the late Piratz Tavern in the background!


Of course to the uninformed reader no one would know what this sign is much less what is written on it.


Hopefully Montgomery County print readers of the Post who are curious about what the sign is will check it out in person and in the process will seek out the other five signs.  Stay tuned because two more heritage trails signs are in the works and will hopefully be dedicated later this year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Delights to the Eye

"Takoma and Takoma Park, Silver Springs (sic) and Forest Glen are all picturesque and beautiful villages lying along or within the boundaries of Maryland. They are reached by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as well as by the trolley. During the summer season many of the people of Washington take up their residences there, where they live in the midst of nature and at the same time of civilization. Glimpses of rural scenery in these neighborhoods are a constant delight to the eye."

From "Every-day Life in Washington...with Pen and Camera" (p. 372) by Charles M. Pepper (New York: The Christian Herald, 1900).

Collection of The Peabody Room,
Georgetown Branch, DC Public Library.