Monday, June 27, 2011

World's Largest Acorn & Other Amazing Sites

Yesterday I conducted a free walking tour of south Silver Spring as part of the 14th Annual Montgomery County Heritage Days WeekendAbout a dozen engaged and interested participants attended which was a really nice antidote to recent criticisms expended about SSHS's historic preservation efforts.  Here are a few photographs taken by George French.  As always thanks George!

I hereby proclaim this structure WORLD'S LARGEST ACORN
(pay no attention to Raleigh, North Carolina's claim)!  Located
in Acorn Park, corner of East-West Highway & Newell Street,
this gazebo was constructed circa 1850 by Benjamin C. King at
the bequest of Silver Spring founder Francis Preston Blair for
his wife Eliza Gist Blair.

Directly across from the Acorn Gazebo is the "birthplace" of Silver Spring, the original
spring discovered by Francis Preston Blair in 1840 (courtesy of his horse Selim). 
Blair began construction of his country estate Silver Spring nearby in 1842 which
 led to the growth of our community.  No, the water is not from the spring,
which ceased flowing about 70 years ago, but WSSC tap water!

Across from Acorn Park is the 1946 Canada Dry Bottling Plant, designed by New York City
industrial architect Walter Monroe Cory whose motto was "Factories CAN be beautiful."
The bottling plant closed in 1999 an reopened in 2005 as the Silverton Condominiums
(although everyone I've ever talked to who resides there say they live in "Canada Dry").

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silver Spring's Lost Bungalows

One hundred years ago a real estate advertisement for a nine room Silver Spring bungalow appeared in the June 18, 1911 Washington Evening Star newspaper. Owned by James H. Cissel, president of the Silver Spring National Bank (est. 1910), this new slate-roofed home featured a full basement, front porch, furnace heat, hot and cold running water, electric lights, and a fireplace.

Situated on a 50 ft. by 220 ft lot all of this was yours for $5,500. If not ready for home ownership, the bungalow could be rented for $40 per month. Adjusted for inflation, these costs would be about $127,000 and $925 respectively. Still a bargain!

Courtesy Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library

Unfortunately this house is no longer extant. It was originally located at 913 Sligo Avenue and was typical of the residences constructed in the Silver Spring Park subdivision, located on the east side of the Washington & Brookeville Turnpike (today's Georgia Avenue).

Beginning in the mid 20th century, this home and dozens of others located on Sligo, Silver Spring, Thayer, and Bonifant streets between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street were converted to commercial use or simply razed to make way for larger structures. A few of the homes escaped destruction and can be seen in the area known today as Fenton Village.  Today, a portion of the bungalow's footprint is occupied by The Nora School, 955 Sligo Avenue.

Another view of 913 Sligo Avenue (right) taken on June 21, 1917 by
Washington, DC postcard photographer Willard R. Ross.

Five homes were located on the north side of the 900 block of Sligo Avenue
between today's Mayor Lane (above the "G" in "SLIGO") and Fenton Street on
the right.  From 1931 Atlas of Montgomery County, Vol. One.  Collection of
the Silver Spring Historical Society.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More Was Misplaced Than the Extra "S" !

Recently I had the opportunity to use the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, an on-line database of citations to articles in approximately 300 current and over 1,000 retrospective architectural and related periodicals dating from the 1930s to the present.  Access to such a database is invaluable when researching architects, their buildings, or even structures located in specific locations.

Unfortunately this very expensive database is not available via Montgomery County or District of Columbia public libraries or even Montgomery College.  It is primarily found at universities and it was through Catholic University that I was able to access it.

A quick keyword search of "Silver Spring, MD" pulled up multiple hits but one immediately jumped out at me:

Title: Tourist Center [Silver Springs, Md.]
Source: Progressive architecture, 1958 Apr., v. 39, p. 146-148, illustrations, plan
Language: English.
Abstract: Victor A. Lundy, archt.
Subject(s): Vacation camps
People: Lundy, Victor Alfred, 1923-
Document Type(s): journal article

A tourist center was planned for Silver Spring in 1958?  That was news to me!  It made perfect sense.  Perhaps the center was to serve as a gateway to tourists planning to visit the Nation's Capital.  Visions of an awesome example of mid-century roadside architecture formed in my mind.  I couldn't wait to see not only what this structure looked like but where it had been planned to be built. 

Palm Spring, CA Visitors Center, originally built in 1963 as the Tramway Gas station. 
Photo courtesy Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.

Luckily the DC Public Library carries original back issues of Progressive Architecture and I was able to access to April 1958 issue.  I laughed when I flipped to page 146 of the issue only to see:

Photo courtesy DC Public Library.

Oh well.  I still think a tourist center in downtown Silver Spring is a good idea.  A great location would be the empty c. 1850 Moorings mansion in Jesup Blair Park near Georgia Avenue and the DC/MD line.