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. 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 on my website, (you may want to go and read it) 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. 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 and growth in Rockville, Maryland.
By now, we should know that the first people who lived in this country were who we have identified as “American Indians.” The country was not named “America” at the time. We should also know that Indians would like to be identified by their tribal names, rather than American Indians. The number of tribes in this country, at least two thousand years before anyone other than tribal people arrived was well over two hundred. I don’t want to get too much into this history, but some either don’t know this or they treat it the same way they do the Holocaust, Slavery, Internment of Japanese and Covid, as it did not exist. There is evidence, and much of it, that the Indians walked the very ground you are sitting or standing on now, centuries and centuries ago. I heard someone being interviewed on the news some time ago, say that “this country was founded by immigrants.” That is not true. This country was already founded; it was already occupied by the many Indian tribes who had made this country their home for many centuries. They lost their lives and land to invaders and many Indians had to flee their homes and move to Canada, Mexico, and South America.
Indians created paths in Rockville as well as many other places, where they walked and hunted. In the 1700’s people who came to this country saw the paths the Indians took. In the central part of this country, Indians followed the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. They travelled from the east coast to the west coast and back again according to the change in weather. They were more nomadic. Some of the streets and roads we now drive or walk on may have been a path travelled by the Indians.
Rockville was a small settlement of over 50 people and was originally called Owen’s Ordinary when General Edward Braddock’s troops marched through in 1776. By 1774 the place was referred to as Hungerford’s Tavern. After 1776, at the founding of the county, most people called it Montgomery Court House although it was officially named Williamsburg. The Williams family offered lots for sale adjacent to the courthouse and by 1801 the name was changed to Rockville after Rock Creek. The town was incorporated. So, Rockville had several names before it was finally given its name Rockville. What do you want to bet that Hungerford’s Tavern was a gathering place where men drank beer and ale. Can’t you just see these soldiers gathering at Hungerford’s after a hard day of fighting Indians and drills?
The early settlers were English (of course), Scotch and Irish. In other words, the UK or almost. At the various times they arrived, they scattered over the county and most of the little communities they started such as Barnesville, Brookville, Laytonsville, Poolesville were not as large at Rockville.
Rockville is the county seat in Montgomery County. Many people worked in D.C. and commuted from Rockville. Rockville is still one of the major places where people live, but work in Washington, D.C. These people are professionals interested in governmental and civic affairs. They are well educated and professional. I don’t think this holds true today. At the time, many Marylanders were not native Marylanders, and they brought political philosophies to the state.
Rockville was and still is 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.”
Did you know Rockville was a resort town? Well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but “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, Zelda, 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 drive by the exact corner where this sanitarium was located 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.” But it is not that today.
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. The homes were small then, but many people have added on to those homes making them more attractive and of course, larger. 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. 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.
I wonder what the founders and those who lived here in earlier times would say about Rockville now? Would they like it? See it as a better place to live now? Think they were the ones better off? Today, we have people jammed tightly in small communities, as opposed to being spread out. I would think that would be hard for those who lived before us. There are apartment buildings that take up entire city blocks. You don’t have to worry about a place to live because there are townhouses, condos, and single-family developments everywhere you look. If you can afford it, it’s yours. How about when we go into stores in Rockville we are plagued with long lines and customers who always seem to have special problems that impose on others who are waiting their turn. I think those who lived before us would make a comment to the person holding up the line, bringing to the person’s attention that they are being inconsiderate. And what about cars? Should I bring that up? There are too many cars on the roads. So many that driving is dangerous, especially when people are on the phone, eating, eating soup (I’ve seen that so many times. I hope the soup is not hot.) Cars (including SUVs and trucks) are everywhere. It is even difficult for a homeowner to park in front of his/her house. I don’t think those who came before us would appreciate this either. We no longer pride ourselves on the fact that we are educated and professional people because we have too many people who are not educated or professional or who live in poverty in Rockville. Progress does not always mean something good. Instead of saying progress, we can say “change.” Rockville has certainly changed from the ideas and principles that began this city.
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.
That’s all for now. Purchase your copy of The Attractiveness of Wisdom and/or Blessings and Curses. Go on to my website as well. Don’t forget to send me an email. Take good care and many Blessings.