Montgomery Modern madness

Montgomery County historic preservation planners have begun exploring, analyzing and recording local mid-century modern buildings and communities, part of an effort we call Montgomery Modern. — Montgomery County Planning Department website

A few years ago the Montgomery County Planning Department’s historic preservation staff began an initiative it calls “Montgomery Modern.” The initiative has included a massive public relations campaign to raise public awareness for, and appreciation of, Montgomery County’s mid-twentieth century architecture. Montgomery Modern has included bus tours and bike tours of residential subdivisions and architecturally significant office buildings, churches, and public buildings. And it’s yielded a book written by one of the agency’s historic preservation planners.

In its zeal to highlight other’s peoples’ buildings, the agency appears to have overlooked its own headquarters: the Maryland-National Capital Planning Commission’s Montgomery Regional Office (MRO) at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

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Snowzilla 2016

The forecasters did label it historic, after all.

On Wednesday January 20, 2016, weather forecasters issued a blizzard watch for the Washington, DC, area. The following day, the notice was upgraded to a blizzard warning. The National Weather Service has named the event ‘Winter Storm Jonas”; Washington Post meteorologists have named it “Snowzilla.” For me, Snowzilla it is. Seriously, does the name “Jonas” inspire fear and awe?

Anywhere from 1.5 to 2 feet of snow was predicted. Mass transit is shutting down for the weekend. There’s a run on grocery and hardware stores — even Washington City Paper reported that a local Trader Joes had sold out of all its veggie flaxseed tortilla chips. Pepco, the electric company, announced that we could be spending days in a pre-electric living history museum.

Clearly, this is the BIG ONE. Besides staging firewood and all the necessary supplies (except the flaxseed anythings) to cope with the storm, I’ll be documenting the event as it unfolds. So sit back, grab something to eat and drink, and watch the end of the world from the comfort of your browser window. Continue reading

Historic 1939 World’s Fair home on the market

A Maryland Realtor emailed to let me know that Silver Spring, Maryland’s 1939 World’s Fair Town of Tomorrow home is on the market. Built as a marketing gimmick and used as collateral advertising for the New York fair, the home has had only two owners since it was completed in the summer of 1939.

Construction progress photo. The Washington Post, June 11, 1939.

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Adverse Effects Assessments In Historic Preservation: Get Off The Road, Onto The Rails

When it comes to evaluating impacts to historic properties, why are historic preservationists so hung up on views from roads? What about views from railroads and other heavily traveled transportation corridors?

I’ve often wondered why architectural historians and others evaluating impacts to historic buildings, structures, and landscapes by construction projects limit themselves to looking at how a proposed project will look from the road.

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McMansions and community character in Montgomery County (Updated)

[See below for updates to this post]

Teardowns and mansionization are a nationwide problem and Montgomery County has few regulatory controls to prevent property owners from demolishing older homes and building new houses that are out of scale and character with neighboring buildings.

Although Montgomery County has a historic preservation ordinance, not all old homes are historic and there are few tools currently available to residents to prevent speculators from building McMansions like the one under construction in my Silver Spring neighborhood. Continue reading

Family Dry Cleaners may be ousted from Silver Spring

Downtown Silver Spring may lose another locally owned and operated business. According to a November Silver Spring Singular blog post, the Peterson Companies are pressuring the Family Dry Cleaners to leave the prominent Wayne Avenue Shopping Center location they have occupied since 2000 when the center opened. The dry cleaner’s lease expires next March. The blogger wrote that Peterson — which manages Downtown Silver Spring under an agreement with Montgomery County — is courting CVS to occupy the space now held by the cleaners, along with adjacent spaces formerly occupied by Hollywood Video and MotoPhoto (later, an Upscale Pharmacy outlet).

Family Dry Cleaners, Downtown Silver Spring. Photo by the author, December 2010.

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Silver Spring Drum Circle: Starting the Groove

August 28, 2010

Since July 2010, when the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza opened, a drum circle has gathered Saturday evenings. I wanted to see how the drum circle forms each week so I arrived at 6:30 PM to see how it comes together. Performances are complex social events. The activities leading up to the actual event can be as significant as the music or drama performed during the performance. With that in mind I tried to catch how the Silver Spring drum circle comes together as a performance. This video is compiled from clips I shot while watching the drummers and their audience gather between 7:00 and 8:20 PM in Veterans Plaza.

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Architectural Adaptations: Silver Spring’s 1939 World’s Fair Home [Updated]

Update: See this later post on the home’s inclusion in a National Building Museum exhibit.

I am slowly getting around to revising my 2010 Vernacular Architecture Forum paper on Silver Spring’s 1939 World’s Fair Home. One of the areas that I was unable to deal with in the VAF paper was how the Silver Spring house differed from the one built in the World’s Fair Town of Tomorrow. This brief post is drawn from my ongoing work.

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Saturday Night Live

The Silver Spring drum circle reconvened last Saturday night. My BlackBerry (and its crappy camera) and I again wandered over to the drummers after catching the great show put on by Chicago blueser Joanna Connor. Note to self: Carry a real camera in Downtown Silver Spring.

Joanna Connor. Silver Spring, Maryland. July 31, 2010. Another Blackberry fuzz shot.

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Creating Community

Last night my BlackBerry and I stumbled through near-100-degree heat into the second weekly drum circle convened in the new Veteran’s Plaza by Impact Silver Spring.

Silver Spring is an interesting place. I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years and I still feel like a newcomer. It is an unincorporated place in southern Montgomery County (Maryland) that hugs Washington’s angular northern boundary line. Unlike other places I have lived (e.g., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta), there is no cohesive Silver Spring identity for the community as a whole or its various neighborhoods. It’s a place in search of a culture, it seems.

Two years ago the space where the new Veterans Plaza and Civic Building now sit was a patch of artificial turf that became a community gathering place. One year ago the spot was a construction site.  County planners envisioned the new space as a performance space and a formal and informal gathering place. I wonder how this is going to develop and if Silver Spring will get the culture planners hoped for in building the new space. Okay, they’ve built it and people are coming: skateboarders, loafers, nappers, and voyeurs. And the drummers. Are the drum circles a transitional phase helping (through music therapy?) to move Silver Spring into a new direction? Or are they something else? I look forward to watching how things turn out.

I spent about 45 minutes at last night’s drum circle (it was more of a rectangle with an amorphous fringe) and I wish I could have stayed longer. I enjoyed the improvisation and watching the diverse crowd. I wonder how things turned out with the Krishnas who set up an informational table a few dozen yards away, complete with their own drum.