Love a Good Story! I just Love a Good Story. Don’t you just Love a Good Story?
Here’s another Good Story.
Two weeks ago, when I sat down to write this blog, I wanted to write about all the ugly things happening in this country. I wanted to just let out my thoughts and feelings, without care, and what I would say about some people. I just wanted and still want to let off steam. I wanted to express my views on immigration, sexual orientation, teen violence, covid-19, the “I” generation with their personal rights, and a host of other problems we seem to have. But I changed my mind (remember, I’m a woman, and that is my right). In a previous blog, I gave you a history of Stevensville, the place where my main character, Hamilton, in The Attractiveness of Wisdom, grew up. In the novel, Hamilton lives in Rockville, Maryland. Instead of the “downer” story, I thought it would be nice to give you a little history of Rockville. Please continue reading. I think you will find it interesting.
If you are like me, hearing or reading the word “history” is a huge turnoff. But see history in terms of storytelling. That can make a difference. So this is a story about the changes in Rockville, Maryland.
Years ago, Rockville was an interesting place to live for some. The city has changed greatly since it was founded. Lewis Reed of Reed Automotives stated: “More than 250 years ago, land grants to European settlers formed the nucleus for today’s Rockville, Maryland. By the 1750s, local farmers were transporting tobacco to market in Georgetown down a road formerly used by Indians. The tiny settlement was designated as the seat of the new Montgomery County in 1776. Known as Rockville by 1803, the town’s life centered on Courthouse activity. More homes and shops were built, and the town of nearly 600 was incorporated in 1860. The dynamics that created Rockville in the 18th and 19th centuries are still the same ones attracting newcomers today: the presence of county government, a favorable location close to the nation’s capital, converging transportation routes that bring people here, and identity as an independent municipality.” Can you believe that this town began with 600 people?
Did you know Rockville was a resort town? “Chestnut Lodge was a focal point on historic West Montgomery Avenue. Opened as a luxury hotel in 1889 for Washingtonians seeking to escape the city’s summer heat, the hotel thrived until the economy and more accessible transportation made Rockville a suburb of Washington rather than a summer vacation destination.” Everything changes, huh? Reed goes on to say, “The hotel was then purchased by Dr. Ernest L. Bullard who reopened the building, naming it Chestnut Lodge, as “a sanitarium for the care of nervous and mental diseases.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife stayed in the sanitarium in Rockville. He took the long drive (about 45 minutes) from Washington, D. C. to see his Zelda almost every weekend.
“The Bullard family operated the nationally famous Chestnut Lodge for 75 years. It was closed only three years later. The building was conveyed to a developer in 2003 with the intention of converting it to condominiums as part of the development of the Chestnut Lodge property.” I pass by where this sanitarium was every time I use 270. “Sadly, a fire on June 7, 2009 destroyed the landmark building that began as Woodlawn Hotel and came to symbolize the psychiatric institution of Chestnut Lodge. Today, the Chestnut Lodge campus is preserved for the community and consists of Little Lodge, Frieda’s Cottage, a Stable and an Ice House, and eight acres of forested lawn.”
According to the history put together by Lewis Reed, “During the first two decades of the 20th century, the pace of growth slowed considerably. Between 1900 and 1920, Rockville’s population grew by only 45 persons. However, amenities available in urban areas came to Rockville in this period—electricity, telephones, indoor bathrooms, a sewerage system, trolley cars, a town park, and street trees.”
“The years after World War II were phenomenal ones in Rockville. The population swelled from 2,047 in 1940 to 26,042 in 1960. The newcomers to Rockville included WWII veterans and their young families who purchased starter homes in new subdivisions, including Hungerford Towne, Twin-Brook, and Montrose.” I live near these areas. At that time, the homes were small and built expressly for the veterans. The decade of 1950-60 proved pivotal for the area, as much of the old disappeared and the new was being constructed.
Unfortunately, building in Rockville continues. But look at the past. If you have been to Rockville, just think that just a little before you were born, the city was very different.
This is the Woodlawn Hotel. Wouldn’t it be nice to vacation here?
Rockville B&O Train Station early 1900s. On the left, a horse-drawn carriage has just left the station. Photo by Lewis Reed.
Halpine-Lenovitz General Store, 1906
“The Halpine Store, also known as the Lenovitz General Store, was built on Rockville Pike in 1898, taking advantage of the prime location on the trolley and railroad lines and the Pike. The store sold food, gasoline and other items to locals and Pike travelers. There is a young African American man standing in front of the store. Note the telephone or telegraph poles, and the trolley tracks paralleling the road. The nearby Halpine railroad station also brought customers to the area, and the store became the social/community gathering place for the Halpine area.”
How many times have you passed this place?
Halpine-Lenovitz General Store at Rockville Pike and Halpine Road. Photo taken by Lewis Reed, circa 1906.
Rockville High School, 1911. Photo by Lewis Reed.
Veirs Mill Road looking east prior to paving. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1911.
What does this say, Veirs Mill Road in 1911? This is only one hundred and eleven (111) years ago.
Veirs Mill Road, 1911
“The popularity of the car coincided with the improvement of public roads around Rockville. Rockville Pike’s reputation as “one of the worst pieces of main highway in the state” helped initiate Maryland’s Good Roads Movement. Responding to citizen demands, the newly created State Roads Commission incorporated the Pike into the state highway system. By 1929, when Montgomery County residents owned 13,000 cars, the Pike and Montgomery Avenue had been paved, but less traveled Veirs Mill Road remained a narrow dirt road for decades.”
Veirs Mill Road is a main street now running from Georgia Avenue in Wheaton and ending at Rockville Pike in Rockville. It continues to be crowded and the 13,000 cars and more must all use Veirs Mill Road during the times I use it.
Wasn’t this fun? I found it very interesting and to know that just 111 years ago Veirs Mill Road was a dirt road is amazing. Someone saw this change in their lifetime. And just so you know, I am not speaking of myself. This area has certainly changed since I’ve known it. History is something we all experience. Some events seem more important or historical than others, but history is what we live in and what we help create. History is exciting!
I thank you so much for allowing me to bring you this history instead of what I had planned. I hope you are calm, more relieved, and more at peace. You have given that to me. Focusing on something good, positive, and interesting does help.
Reading won’t hurt either. Reading makes a nice “get-away” as it takes you into a world of fantasy. Enjoy reading. You can get my novels here: Send me an email and let me know what you think.