The Bridge: a documentary video by Jay Mallin

In the spring of 2017 Silver Spring videographer Jay Mallin asked if he could interview me for a documentary video he was producing. The subject was Lyttonsville’s Talbot Avenue Bridge. I agreed and we met near the eastern approach to the bridge on a comfortable morning in late June.

Jay Mallin sets up to interview me at the Talbot Avenue Bridge, June 27, 2017.

Screen capture from “The Bridge.”

Jay completed the video in August. He invited me along with Lyttonsville residents Charlotte Coffield and Patricia Tyson to view the rough cut and we met in Charlotte’s dining room where Jay had set up an iMac on Charlotte’s dinner table.

Jay Mallin, Patricia Tyson, and Charlotte Coffield discuss Jay’s new video, “The Bridge,” August 30, 2017.

I invited Jay to write a brief introduction to his video and he graciously complied:

When I first moved to Silver Spring a few years ago one of the most charming things about my new neighborhood was a small bridge over the nearby railroad tracks. It was surfaced with wooden planks, and the structure itself appeared to be made of cast iron and been manufactured in the heyday of steam locomotives. Because it’s only one lane wide, cars patiently took turns to cross it, but the steady stream of pedestrians and cyclists didn’t wait for the cars.

But over the next few years, through mentions on the neighborhood listserv and conversations with neighbors, I gradually learned there was a lot more to the story of the Talbot Street Bridge. It connected a historically black and a historically white neighborhood across the tracks. To one community the bridge had served as a lifeline; to the other, it was a disagreeable nuisance they fought to shut down. Then David Rotenstein, though this blog, researched and gave a much fuller account, which was picked up in the press. Seeing a great story in my own neighborhood I put on my filmmaker hat and went to work. Today the bridge is closed to cars and scheduled for removal because of the Purple Line. I wanted to tell and preserve the story while the bridge, and the people who experienced and remember its history, are still available, and to have that in turn bring forward some of the buried history of segregation in Montgomery County.


© 2017 D.S. Rotenstein, Charlotte Coffield, Patricia Tyson, and Jay Mallin

One thought on “The Bridge: a documentary video by Jay Mallin

  1. I’m a North Woodside resident who loves the bridge and everything it stands for. This video unfortunately leaves out the reason the future of the bridge is uncertain: the construction of the Purple Line. It’s closed indefinitely because it is unsafe for vehicles but bikers and walkers use it all day, every day. I am one of them. I welcome the Rosemary Hills and Lyttonsville neighbors who walk along my street, and they have always welcomed me as I walk through theirs. The bridge will be replaced as part of the Purple Line project and it will mean more traffic for us. I know my neighbors’ worries about traffic have nothing to do with local traffic and everything to do with people from far away — Virginia, DC, etc — who used the bridge as a short cut and raced through BOTH neighborhoods to get to Georgia Ave from points south and west. It may have once been about race, but it no longer is. The history is an important reminder and the symbolism of the bridge even more so. But it’s also important to get the facts straight.

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