Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy 150th Birthday Willard R. Ross

Today is the 150th birthday of Washington, DC photographer Willard R. Ross.  Born in Ohio on December 24, 1860, Ross moved to the District of Columbia around 1910 and commenced business for himself as a postcard photographer specializing in "hometown" views.

Ross documented Silver Spring twice with his large format camera that utilized glass plate negatives, once in 1917 and then again in 1928.  This view of Brookeville Pike, today's Georgia Avenue, was taken on June 21, 1917 and tweaked to reflect the spirit of the holiday season.

If the buildings in the left foreground look familiar to you that is because all of them have miraculously survived to see the 21st century.  The porch on the left is today's display windows of Plaza Artist Materials (the unseen American four-square house attached to the porch is encased in the present structure).  Next is a two-story wood frame structure that today houses Bell Flowers.  Other than having been covered in stucco, this circa 1910-15 structure looks almost like it did a century ago.  Just across Silver Spring Avenue is the original 1914 Maryland National Guard Armory, which begat the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Dept. #1 that in turn begat today's Fire Station 1 Restaurant & Brewing Co.

To view all of the other known images that Ross took of Silver Spring, see chapter one "Through the Lens of Willard R. Ross: Silver Spring in 1917 and 1928" in Historic Silver Spring.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a Healthy and Happy 2011!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Downtown Silver Spring" THE BOOK is Here!

WHAT: Release and book signing of Downtown Silver Spring by Jerry A. McCoy

WHEN: Saturday, November 6, 2010, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

WHERE: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station, 8100 Georgia Avenue (@ Sligo Ave.), Silver Spring, MD

Jerry A. McCoy and the Silver Spring Historical Society are proud to announce availability of the newly published book Downtown Silver Spring. Featuring a foreword by nationally renowned mystery writer and local resident George Pelecanos, this 96-page softcover book contains over 100 never-before-published "Then & Now" images of downtown Silver Spring.

The cost of the book is $21.99, cash or check only. With the holidays right around the corner, Downtown Silver Spring is an excellent gift for current and former residents or those who would just like to learn more about the fascinating history of downtown Silver Spring.

Also available will be the 2005 book, Historic Silver Spring, for $19.99. Buy both for $35.00 (a 16.5% savings).

For recent articles about the book and author, see:

(301) 537-1253

Hope to see you Saturday!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Peeling Back the Layers of Silver Spring's History

Over the next few weeks I will be posting images that superimpose archival views of Silver Spring over the locations where the photographs were originally taken.

In most cases nothing of the earlier image survives, as is the case with this 1940s photograph of Wright's Jeweler-Optician at 8229 Georgia Avenue.  This was watchmaker William M. Wright's second location on the avenue, his first being at 8421 that opened in 1936.

Wright had the one-story brick building, constructed in 1933, refaced with black Vitrolite glass panels that served as background to a prominent neon sign that spelled out his name in cursive letters.  It is not known what color the neon was.

Vitrolite was a popular opaque glass available in various colors that was associated with the Art Deco movement.  It was used in both new construction as well as renovations.  Nothing of this striking facade survives.  Today, passersby are treated to a bland glass and corrugated metal facade.

This never-before-published photo is from the archives of the Silver Spring Historical Society and will appear in the forthcoming book Downtown Silver Spring, authored by myself and featuring a fascinating foreword by George Pelecanos.  A book signing (sorry, George will not be there!) will take place on Saturday, November 6th, from 10-3 at the historic Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station, 8100 Georgia Avenue. Cost of the book is $21.99.

Copies of the 2005 book, Historic Silver Spring ($19.99) will also be available.  Only cash or check will be accepted.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

There But For the Grace...

Most every morning when I walk to the Silver Spring Metro station I see a red motorized wheelchair parked in a corner of the glass "V" bus shelter at Bonifant Street and Dixon Avenue.  The wheel chair is occupied by a slumped individual with a coat draped completely over his or her person.

One morning I actually observed a passing pedestrian lift up the corner of the jacket to check if the person was OK (i.e. alive).  At that moment I still couldn't make out the person's gender.

It was thus with great surprise and concern that I saw the red motorized wheelchair with its fully revealed occupant today around noon sitting next to the Safeway on Fenton Street.  An elderly homeless man was sleeping in the wheelchair under the shade of a tree.

Does anyone know anything about this individual?  It deeply distresses me that here in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, this disabled senior citizen is living out on the streets of our "revitalized" community.

I suspect that if this man decided to spend the night or take a nap on Ellsworth Drive, he wouldn't be there long.  Surely our local social services know of this individual.  Why is he not being helped?

Any insights would be welcomed.


This gentleman was sleeping  at the "V" bus shelter this morning at 7:45 am.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little Tavern Lives On (Somewhat)

Good to Go Carryout: Laurel Tavern Donuts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Washington Post
p. E3

When Will Kwon opened Laurel Tavern Donuts in 2008, he stepped, quite unaware, into one long shadow. "It's a doughnut shop," he insisted, referring to the business plan he had crafted. "But people kept asking for burgers!" 

Message received. Within a week of opening the doors to the cozy, green-and-white, faux-Tudor space, Will and his wife, Jin, rolled out mini-burgers, pairing them with house-made doughnuts. That did the trick.

The burgers (three for $2.99) are still small, square and topped with the same blend of chopped onions and Montreal steak seasoning as those sold by the previous tenant: Little Tavern, part of a now-defunct chain. The Kwons got the recipe from a woman who was a longtime manager there, "but now we buy a better grade of beef," Will said.

They also make sure the burgers are uniformly cooked, unlike those I remember from the Georgetown outlet I frequented during my bar-hopping days. The flavorful meat is nestled in a soft bun.

"Club LT," which started up in 1927 in Louisville, popularized the slogan "Buy 'em by the bag," selling single burgers for a dime and coffee for a nickel. The company relocated to the Washington area in 1928. Opened in 1939, the Laurel shop was among the last few in the chain to shut down.

In its new incarnation under the Kwons, who owned a doughnut franchise in Memphis, the doughnuts are the headliners. And for good reason. The glazed doughnut (79 cents) is as light and fluffy as a Krispy Kreme, and it melts in your mouth. Ditto the angel creme, strawberry jelly and apple cinnamon.

Will, 49, begins making them from scratch starting at 3 a.m. "The first batch is ready at 5," he says. "We open at 5:30." During the next three hours or so, he will have turned out two giant batches (he won't divulge numbers) of assorted doughnuts displayed for public inspection in bright yellow trays.

The menu recently evolved to include a short list of traditional breakfast items. Eggs and cheese and ham and eggs ($2.49) come off Jin's tiny grill in perfect condition: no watery interior, no singed edges. And like everything on the menu, they're served from sunup to sundown. The eggs taste rich, but Jin, 46, insists she doesn't slather the grill with oil or butter when making them. "People don't like greasy," she says.

Other winners include the breakfast platter: two eggs with a generous helping of bacon, sausage or turkey, home fries and toast ($3.99); grilled cheese ($2.49); and grilled ham and cheese ($2.99).

The shop is all about takeout. Missing are the eight or 10 stools at the busy counter where the person who cooked your food was the same one who rang the register.

Laurel Tavern attracts a motley crew. Feds from Fort Meade and NSA grab and go. Washington-bound MARC train riders show up for their fix. And employees of the Laurel Park racecourse have a standing order of five dozen doughnuts each week, Jin reports.

It should be against the laws of nature to serve fine eggs and doughnuts without also pouring good coffee. Not to worry. The Kwons brew a Colombian blend that's bold and beautiful.

- Tony Glaros

Laurel Tavern Donuts 115 Washington Blvd. S., Laurel. 301-362-7551. Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m; Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Its good to know that a remnant of the great Little Tavern chain survives. Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Kwon.

Jerry A. McCoy, President
Silver Spring Historical Society
Silver Spring, Maryland
(Former home of Little Tavern #1, built 1935, destroyed 2003.)

Circa 1940 advertisement for Silver Spring's Little Tavern
#1, formerly located at 8230 Georgia Avenue (corner of
Ripley Street).  Collection of the Silver Spring Historical Society.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time to Move?

While flipping thru the Whole Foods "Whole Deal" bi-monthly newsletter I spot an "article" on sale wine they are featuring.  "Wait a minute," I think.

Then I see it at the bottom..."Please note: in some governmental and geographical areas, we are not legally permitted to sell wine in our stores. Time to move?"

No, time for our Montgomery County government to privatize the sale of alcohol.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Discovery Communications HQ Hostage Crisis

For two hours while at work in DC I kept tabs on the unfolding drama of the hostage situation playing out at the Discovery Communications headquarters in downtown Silver Spring. Far more riveting than any crime drama on television, the event came to conclusion around quitting time a little before 5:30 pm.

Hopping onto a practically empty Metro (see what you folks who leave town early for a long Labor Day weekend miss?) I arrived at Silver Spring.  From the Metro platform I could see that Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue were still closed to traffic but that commuters were being allowed to exit Metro on the Discovery side of the station.  

Approaching Wayne Avenue I could see a press conference taking place and went over to see what I had seen earlier on the air.  It was somewhat surreal to see it all in person.

Unfortunately this was not downtown Silver Spring's first high profile hostage event. Just two blocks away on February 9, 1977, seven individuals were taken hostage in the Citizens Bank and Trust Co. of Maryland at Blair Park Shopping Center, known today as Blair Plaza.  Twenty-seven-year-old Vietnam veteran Stephen Wyatt Gregory, armed with two rifles and 250 rounds of ammunition, fired about 200 shots inside the bank.

Seven hours later Gregory surrendered after negotiations with police, FBI, and his mother.

Pedestrians were allowed on Colesville Road
but only on the opposite side of the street from
Discovery Communications.
Copyright Jerry A. McCoy 2010.
News 4's Pat Collins reporting from the scene.  Copyright Jerry A. McCoy 2010.
A scene you don't see every day during PM rush hour.  Copyright Jerry A. McCoy 2010.
WUSA-TV 9's Derek McGinty (on knees in white shirt and nice tie) asks Montgomery County Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger about the death of terrorist James J. Lee who held three people at gunpoint.  The press conference was held at the corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue.  Copyright Jerry A. McCoy 2010.

Broadcast satellite trucks on Colesville Road between the Silver Spring Metro Station and 2nd Avenue..
Copyright Jerry A. McCoy 2010.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Maryland News 83rd Anniversary

Front page of the June 22, 1934 Maryland News.
The public was invited “…to read it, criticize it, make
suggestions and send in news.” The subscription was
$2.00 per year. Collection of Silver Spring
Historical Society.

Last week was the 83rd anniversary of publication of the first issue of The Maryland News, Silver Spring's first newspaper, on August 27, 1927.  Silver Spring businessman E. Brooke Lee and Bethesda Chevy Chase Gazette editor and publisher Robert I. Black established the publication as a bi-weekly, countywide newspaper whose mission was to report “All the News of Montgomery County."

Initially printed on presses located in the District of Columbia, by May of 1928 the publishers had opened the Maryland News building, located at 8081 Georgia Avenue.  This two-story brick structure still stands prominently on the corner of Georgia and Sligo avenues and is today part of Jackie's Restaurant.

The newspaper was composed and printed here until 1953.  In 1956 the newspaper moved into the newly constructed Gist Building at 933-A Gist Avenue. Designed by Ted Englehardt (architect of the wonderful Weller's Dry Cleaners at 8237 Fenton Street), The Maryland News shared the Gist Building with the Silver Spring Shopper newspaper.  Publication of the News ceased June 15, 1975.

Local newspapers have long been recognized as important sources for documentation of a community's history, for found within their pages is information available no where else.  That is why their preservation through the the long-established process of microfilming and the increasingly popular digitization is critical to undertake.  In my job as special collections librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library's Washingtoniana Division and Peabody Room, I am in charge of having microfilmed both past and current newspaper titles in our collections.

The Silver Spring Historical Society is fortunate to have The Maryland News preserved on microfilm covering the years 1934 to 1967. Here are found fascinating news events and human interest stories...along with occasional photographs...recording what life was like for Silver Spring's residents several generations ago.  Access to the microfilm is available to researchers by appointment. 

Several years ago SSHS located a private repository of original bound volumes of The Maryland News that include the years 1927 to 1932 and 1968 to 1973.  Multiple requests to the owners to microfilm the materials have unfortunately been refused.  The early material is especially fragile and unless preservation is undertaken soon, all of this important history will be forever lost.

If readers have knowledge of a repository of the final two years of The Maryland News from 1974 to 1975, please contact me at or 301.537.1253.  Thank you.

Metal and plywood Maryland News sign.  Measuring 9 ft. wide x 2 ft. high, the sign (along with other
Silver Spring architectural artifacts) was offered to the Montgomery County Public Libraries system
 ("Where the County READS...MEETS...LEARNS") on long-term loan for display in the planned 
Silver Spring Library.  The offer was denied.  Collection of the Silver Spring Historical Society.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Farewell Chevy Chase Bank

I have had an account at Chevy Chase Bank since my wife and I moved to downtown Silver Spring in 1992.  Chevy Chase is only the third bank that I have had since moving to the area in 1978.

My first bank as a sophomore at American University was Madison National Bank.  I opened an account with them because they had a branch bank within walking distance in Spring Valley.  During my senior year in 1980, Madison opened its first  automatic teller machine on campus called "Dolley."  I covered the dedication ceremony for the school's Eagle newspaper. 

This ATM (which wasn't even known then by that moniker) was conveniently located in Clark Hall a few steps from my dorm, Letts Hall.  With 24-hour access, I thought "Dolley" was amazing as I would be able to withdraw what little money I had. 

This was the first ATM I had ever seen. My hometown bank in Lorain, Ohio...Lorain National Bank...where I had had a savings account since I was a kid, only had human beings that sat behind an open counter.

(Does anyone know what was the first bank in metropolitan Washington, DC that offered ATMs?)

I stayed with Madison until around 1984 when I got married and moved to Adams-Morgan.  Madison had been experiencing irregularities in its operations and I didn't feel confident in them so I switched to Riggs National Bank, who had a branch at 1779 Columbia Road, NW that was within walking distance of our apartment.  Good thing.  Two years later Madison was shuttered after being in operation for only 23 years.

I really liked Riggs.  This was a bank that had history and even looked like a bank!  Established in 1896 Riggs'a Admas-Morgan branch was designed by George N. Day and constructed in 1928.  With its two-story limestone facade designed in restrained Neoclassical style, this structure certainly symbolized what I had always thought a bank should look like.  That and the fact that 22 U.S. Presidents had banked at Riggs gave me confidence that it would outlive me.

When my wife and I bought our bungalow in pre "revitalized" downtown Silver Spring in 1992, Riggs was unfortunately not located anywhere in the Central Business District.  If they had been present I would still be a customer today...well, with its successor, PNC Financial Services, who took over in 2005.  So instead, we opened accounts at Chevy Chase Bank, then located where Bombay Gaylord is at 8401 Georgia Avenue.

I never liked their name due to the obvious connection with the Saturday Night Live comedian.  But it certainly was convenient to home, especially since they also had ATMs located in Safeway, a mere one block from our house.

I knew that change was coming to Chevy Chase be re-named Capital One Bank...but I was still caught off guard when I came across this scene at the corner of  Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street yesterday on my way home from work.  A worker was getting ready to install new signage over the corner entrance.

I just hope they ditch the "What's in your wallet?" Vikings commercial, but something tells me they will not.  If so, the image of Chevy Chase the comedian wasn't all that bad.


What's in your wallet?

Uh, stolen money.

Little did I know when I took these photos of the bank that it had been robbed earlier that day!






Media Services Division, 240-773-5030

Bank Robber Arrested

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division - Robbery Section announce the arrest of a man who robbed a Chevy Chase Bank in Silver Spring this afternoon.

Today at approximately 2:15 p.m., 3rd District officers responded to the Chevy Chase Bank located at 8315 Georgia Avenue for the report of a bank robbery that had just occurred.

The male suspect entered the bank and presented a note to the teller demanding cash and implying that he had a weapon. He left with an undisclosed amount of cash. A weapon was not seen and no one was injured. A look-out description of the suspect: black male, 5’10” tall, heavyset, hair in dredlocks, and wearing a red and blue plaid shirt was broadcast.

Responding patrol units located a suspect matching that description walking casually southbound on Georgia Avenue toward East West Highway. He was taken into custody without incident. The cash stolen from the bank was recovered.

Carl Coleman Purvis, Jr., age 42, of the 500 block of Peabody Street, NW Washington D.C., was charged with armed robbery and theft. He is currently being held at the Montgomery County Detention Center. Bond information is not yet available.

To see a photo of the bank robber, go to

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Happy" Birthday Silver Spring Armory

On this date 83 years ago, Silver Spring's Maryland National Guard Armory opened. Despite being a designated Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation structure, this community landmark was demolished in 1998 by vote of the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission.

Bordered by Wayne Avenue, Fenton Street, and the no longer extant Pershing Drive*, this monumental structure was eventually replaced five years later by the Wayne Avenue parking garage.  The Armory is "commemorated" by architectural fragments scattered along the sidewalk in front of the garage.

*So much for Silver Spring's honoring of General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing.  The only segment of the drive that remains in the Central Business District is the short section that essentially serves as Whole Foods' entrance off of Cedar Street.
Regular U.S. postage stamp issued in 1961.

Summer dance program at the Silver Spring Armory. 
Photo copyright 1998 Jerry A. McCoy.
Silver Spring Armory front (west) elevation.
Photo copyright 1998 Jerry A. McCoy.

Silver Spring Armory architectural fragments placed alongside
Wayne Avenue parking garage.  Photo copyright 2005 Jerry A. McCoy.

The ultimate sacrilege committed against the Silver Spring Armory was the severing of the concrete bas-relief Maryland State flag into four quadrants. Two of the quarter sections were placed back to back, on this pylon, and erected at one of the parking garage's entrances. The other two quarter sections were similarly placed at the opposite end of the garage. This disrespect would have never been shown if this had been the United States flag. The same etiquette applies to state flags but our Montgomery County Government was/is ignorant of this fact. Photo copyright 2005 Jerry A. McCoy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Greetings from Silver Spring, Maryland

During the brief, violent storm that blew through Montgomery County last Sunday, I was standing in front of my house under the porch and watched in amazement as a torrent of water flowed south down the full width of Grove Street.  Suddenly, the transformer at the top of the telephone pole on the corner of my lot exploded...a deafening, chest-thumping sound that I am all too familiar with.  I immediately thought to myself, "Well, how many days will we go without power this time?"

After three days of living and trying to sleep in a dark house where the post-storm temperature quickly climbed into the nineties, my wife and I bailed and checked into the Courtyard Marriott.  Located on Fenton Street a short three blocks from our house, I couldn't believe that we were paying $199 a night.  This was more than we paid last year at this time when we stayed at the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel off of Union Square in San Francisco!  But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I quickly decided to experience our visit as if we were first-time visitors to Silver Spring and to see how well this corporate chain hotel acknowledged the community beyond its Dryvit-covered walls.  Walking into the hotel's Fenton Street lobby across from Whole Foods we were greeted with three large framed vintage photographs of Silver Spring.  "Nice," I thought.

I should know, as the Silver Spring Historical Society provided them to the hotel when it opened in 2005.  Three more framed photographs are located up on the third floor, two behind the registration desk and one next to the fake fireplace in the lounge area.  All have descriptive labels indicating what the images show.

Other than these photos, that was it for informing a visitor unfamiliar with Silver Spring what local "attractions" were available.  The complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal newspapers were on the counter.  I guess having copies of the Gazette or the Silver Spring Voice would have taken up too much space.  I couldn't even find the traditional hotel rack of brochures publicizing local businesses...a perfect venue for copies of the Buy Local Silver Spring Guide.

I didn't even bother to check the postcard rack in the hotel's small gift shop for a "Greetings from Silver Spring, MD" postcard to send the folks back home.  Has it really been 70 years since the last one was published? 

Tichnor Brothers, Inc. of Boston published this 1940s Tichnor Quality View postcard.  A generic design, the postcard featured a blank pennant upon which a community's name could be overprinted.  From the collection of the Silver Spring Historical Society.

I decided to make my own postcard and hereby share it with all.

The photo was taken out of the window of Room 525 at 6:23 am on the morning of July 29, 2010. The steeple belongs to St. Michael's Church.  I was really impressed by the tree canopy of our East Silver Spring neighborhood (PEPCO blames the area's prolific trees for all of the power outages in the area that it serves...the third-densest "tree population canopy" in the US behind Atlanta and Portland, OR ).

Why, Silver Spring almost looks like a New England village!  Wish you were here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

I'm at work today at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G Street, NW in Washington, DC.  I just went outside to mail some letters and the temperature is approaching 100* F.  Out on the library's plaza I came upon this site.

I felt so sorry for these dogs. The black puppy looked absolutely lethargic.  There was a bowl of water.

The owner was certainly inside the library.  Gotta wonder where he is peddling from and where he is going.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Acquisition - Silver Spring Society of Model Engineers B&O RR Station Arch. Drawing

The Silver Spring Historical Society recently received this reproduction of an architectural drawing of the 1945 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station, located at 8100 Georgia Avenue.

Donated by Mr. Frederick Dorsey, the 17 1/2" x 23 1/4" copy was drawn by C. F. Wilding in September 1950 for the Silver Spring Society of Model Engineers.  The scale is 3.5mm = 1'0" "Full Size for HO Gauge."  The location of the original rendering is unknown.

Nothing is known about the Silver Spring Society of Model Engineers, Mr. Wilding, or for what purpose this copy was created.  It could have possibly been a souvenir of the station for the members of this society.

If anyone has additional information, please post it to the comments section.  Thank you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

See the Fake Children...

I was pleased to see this recent commentary written on the backside of a LONG FENCE metal sign that had been bent backwards. The sign is attached to the chain link fence that surrounds the empty lot in the 900 block of Thayer Avenue.

The fake children refers to an art installation that appeared in this lot last month and surprisingly is still on display.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"This Used to be a Helluva Town, Officer"

These were the last words uttered by Lloyd Nolan's character to a Los Angeles police sergeant played by George Kennedy in the 1974 camp disaster flick Earthquake.

Silver Spring may not have been destroyed, but based on all the anecdotes posted on various area listserves, the 3.6 magnitude rumble felt by many this morning at 05:04:47 AM left quite an impression.

Help add to the historical record by taking a few minutes to recount your experience at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good Time Had By All at B&O RR Station

With temperatures hovering in the high 90s, better attendance than expected greeted the 13th Annual Montgomery Heritage Weekend at Silver Spring's historic 1945 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, June 26-27, 2010.

Returning again this year was the Northern Virginia N-Trak Model Railroad Club with their impressive scale model train layout.

This year they added a dramatic trackside building in flames that all too much reminded me of my place of employment, the Georgetown Branch Library, when it went up in flames in 2007!

Musician Rick Franklin performed and sang wonderful acoustic Blues music on his impressive 1929 guitar and old timers (L-R) Rick Nelson and Robert Davis discussed trains.

The highlight of Saturday was the opening of the Moose Lodge "time capsule."  Stay tuned for the results!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Time Capsule Reveals Further Silver Spring "History Mystery"

Today's time capsule opening was reported by the Associated Press.  If you didn't attend, you'll just have to wait until the video is posted here (and on YouTube) to see what was inside!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Love a Local Business (Kefa Cafe)

Intuit Small Business is sponsoring Love a Local Business, "Where praise pays your favorite local business."  Please vote for Kefa Cafe on Bonifant Street!

•Voting is easy.  Just share a few brief sentences about why you love the business.

•Your vote is like a raffle ticket. The more voes a business gets, the more chances they have to win one of three grants awarded each month that are worth $5,000.

•Your words matter! Our judges will review the 9 businesses who win between April and June to select one who will win the Grand Prize, small business grants worth $30,000.
Since 1996 Kefa Cafe has occupied a wonderful 1928 structure located at 963 Bonifant Street.  This organic coffee/tea and sandwich business has become a beloved neighborhood institution, offering not only drink and food but art displayed in the connected “Space 7:10” gallery, named for the clock on the wall perpetually stopped at 7:10.  Owned and operated by (L-R) sisters Lene and Abeba Tsegaye, the below photograph of them will appear in my new book, Downtown Silver Spring.
Please vote for them!
                                                      Photo Jerry A. McCoy, copyright 2010.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Elysian Fields

Sometime over the past week four whimsical foam core and cardboard figures were placed in the empty lot on the south side of the 900 block of Thayer Avenue. Considering that there is a chain link fence around most of the property, someone scaled the 6 ft. cinderblock wall at the rear of the lot (as I did to take these photos) to install figures of three Dick and Jane era figures as well as one Man in the Gray Flannel Suit businessman.

What does this art installation mean?  Perhaps pending loss of green space represented by the children running through grass (well, actually weeds) while being observed by the businessman in the distance who personifies continued redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring.

A year ago this same field really represented its natural potential.  Two Mallards appeared to have set up home in a pond that formed in a depression in the lot after heavy rains.  The "pond" was where two wonderfully maintained early 1920s bungalows (razed in 2007) used to be located.  This free duck lodging was short lived when debris from brick and cinderblock garages, that were located around the corner on Mayor Lane, was used to fill in the low spots.

The rest of this lot was occupied by an important piece of Silver Spring's history.  Located  at 958 Thayer Avenue was a rare example of an intact 1946 pre-fabricated facade designed by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.  The Silver Spring Historical endeavored to have the facade preserved and installed, complete with Roadhouse Oldies sign and 45 rpm records displayed in the windows, in the new Silver Spring Library.  This effort was greeted with disinterest by library officials.  SSHS disassembled all of the aluminum trim and still has it in storage for recreation of the facade elsewhere.

I'd  like the thank the artist who brought a smile to my face with their figures and for a moment made me forget about all of the lost Silver Spring history that this empty lot represents.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rolling Down the River...

Today I did something I never did before in the 32 years I've lived here...kayaking on the Potomac River.  My friend Patty and I  launched from the delightful Jack's Boathouse in Georgetown.

 I knew immediately where I wanted to head, Analostin Island/Mason's Island, known today as Theodore Roosevelt Island.  What I particularly wanted to see up close are large outcroppings of rocks on the north side of the island (facing Georgetown).  This was the location of a well-known Civil War photograph taken by George N. Barnard that shows Union soldiers sitting and standing on the rocks as well as riding on the Georgetown ferry-boat. 

The ferry-boat is leaving the the island and transporting a couple of wagons.  The docking site was at the foot of High Street, today's Wisconsin Avenue.  In the far background is the Aqueduct Bridge, an amazing feat of structural engineering (1833-43) that transported canal boats across and above the river from the District of Columbia side to Virginia.

What is even more amazing is what the wagon on the left is transporting.  Not military armaments or supplies, as one might think, but snacks!  Stenciled on the side canvas flap of the wagon is:


There is an address underneath that appears to be somewhere in Washington, DC but is not legible.  Perhaps some later research will reveal the location of this important war-time purveyor of victuals.

Not all of the rocks appear to have survived 150 years, but most of them are still there.  The Aqueduct Bridge survived until 1933 when it was removed.  One of its rusticated piers remains near the Virginia side and on the DC side the bridge's abutment that includes two of its arches is intact (left of the green Potomac Boat Club).

Patty and I heading ashore after our two hour tour.