Silver Spring church not historic, says Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission

I testified at tonight’s hearing. The HPC voted 6 to 2 against designating the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring. Here is the testimony I delivered earlier this evening: Continue reading

Montgomery County Executive denies access to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” archaeology reports

After spending more than $1 million to buy a building oral tradition suggested was the “real Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Montgomery County paid an archaeological consultant to conduct research at the property to identify intact archaeological resources to assist in interpreting the property. Last year I requested copies of the archaeology reports that the consultant produced. Funded by county, state, and federal dollars, the archaeological research was undertaken to complement Montgomery County’s plans to develop the property as a new heritage park.

Screen capture of Montgomery County Parks Department Josiah Henson Park master plan Website with maps showing archaeological excavation locations. Captured Nov. 1, 2010.

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MoCo eruvim just before Sabbath

This week I am documenting Montgomery County’s eruvim. While out shooting video and photos along the Capital Beltway I encountered one of the eruv inspectors who makes weekly checks to ensure that the eruv is intact for the week’s Sabbath. This video captures some of the chance encounter. Continue reading

Mapping MoCo’s Jewish Courtyards: The Eruvim (updated)

This is the first post in a series: Courtyards of Convenience: Montgomery County’s Eruvim

Blues guitarist Buddy Guy frequently tells interviewers that when you stretch a string, you are stretching a life. When Orthodox Jews stretch a string to build an eruv, they are creating a community. Eruv is a Hebrew word and in English it means “to mingle.” An eruv is symbolic space created by Orthodox Jews to enable them to carry and push things on the Sabbath as they move around their neighborhoods and travel to and from synagogue. Rabbinic law, Halakhah, prohibits Jews from working on the Sabbath. This includes carrying such items as house keys; pushing baby carriages and strollers; driving; playing ball; walking dogs on leashes; and, using medical devices like canes and walkers. and, carrying rain gear. Continue reading

Will MoCo get another Frankenpine?

AT&T Wireless and the International Monetary Fund want to build a Frankenpine in Germantown. The Montgomery County Planning Board earlier this month (Oct. 14) heard testimony in the case involving a proposal to construct a telecommunications facility dressed up like a fake tree on IMF property: The Bretton Woods Recreation Club. After reviewing the evidence and hearing from its attorney, the Planning Board unanimously voted that the AT&T application was incomplete. Continue reading

MoCo Bridge to a Speculative Past?

Washington Grove "Humpback Bridge"

At yesterday’s Montgomery County Planning Board hearing to designate the Kensington Park Cabin, the Planning Board — before voting unanimously to recommend designating the cabin — raised some interesting questions about a stone arch bridge near the park. The Kensington residents advocating for the cabin’s designation think the bridge was built at the same time as the cabin (early 1930s). Owned and maintained by the Town of Kensington, the bridge carries Kensington Parkway over a tributary to Rock Creek Park. The discussion reminded me of another Montgomery County bridge. In 2005 the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission recommended designating a bridge — Washington Grove’s “Humpback Bridge” — built in 1988 as historic. The bridge carries East Deer Park Drive over the CSX Railroad tracks. Continue reading

Historian for Hire Interviewed on The Takeaway

6:40 AM is awful darned early to be doing phoners with public radio stations. This morning I was interviewed about Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Celeste Headlee, host of WNYC’s The Takeaway.

Yesterday’s Washington Post article on the site formerly known as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” spread globally at Twitter speed. Montgomery County’s 2006 purchase of the property is being painted by bloggers and reporters as incompetent at best and corrupt at worst. It is disappointing to see Montgomery County and historic preservation portrayed this way. Continue reading