20th Century History
Development as the Century Turned
At the turn of the century, the Maryland Geological Survey pronounced the “Rockville Turnpike Road” “one of the worst pieces of main highway in the state,” due to its neglected, cut-over condition. The land along the turnpike was farmland. [MHT1]
After 1890, street cars made the land around Rockville Pike accessible, and in the early 20th century, the North Bethesda area was on a trolley line that connected Georgetown and Rockville.
In the 1890s, the Tennallytown & Rockville Electric Railway Company ran a trolley service from Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown to Bethesda Park, an amusement park in Alta Vista, near Old Georgetown Road and what is now the National Institutes of Health. The park was damaged as a result of a hurricane on September 29, 1896, and never recovered.
The Washington & Rockville Electric Railway Company was formed to bring street cars to the county seat and, by 1900, tracks led to Courthouse Square. Later, the last section of tracks was extended to the western end of town, to the Woodlawn Hotel (later the Chestnut Lodge Sanitarium).
From 1900 to 1935, street cars ran from Wisconsin and M Streets, N.W., in the District of Columbia, up Wisconsin Avenue and then onto Old Georgetown Road. At Alta Vista, near what is today Charles Street, they veered off and ran along what is today Fleming Avenue (east of Wildwood Shopping Center), over a steel trestle and behind Georgetown Prep, then through dense woods at Montrose and onto Rockville Pike. The trolley continued through Rockville on Montgomery Avenue, to Laird Street — and then returned. The cars could be driven from either end. In 1929, the cars ran 24 trips a day between 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Major stops included Georgetown, Alta Vista, Bethesda, Montrose, Halpine, the Fairgrounds, Courthouse Square, and Chestnut Lodge. [PR] [RD] Today, a hiker-biker trail runs along a portion of the old trolley route.
The following photos of the trolley lines south of Montrose Road show what Rockville Pike looked like around 1910.
As a result of these improvements in transportation, Rockville Pike had changed by 1917 into an improved road with country houses and suburban lots, with a few residential subdivisions sharing frontage on the Pike with farms. [MHT1]
The 1894 map below shows evidence of continued development in the areas surrounding Luxmanor. However, the immediate Luxmanor area remains farmland. The Riley house now appears to be the home of “Mrs. Mace.” The unnamed road south of Montrose Road that runs from west to east appears to be a county road that later became Tuckerman Lane. South of this road, also running from west to east, is the “Orndorff Mill Road.” At the intersection of this road with Old Georgetown Road can be seen the Mount Zion Baptist Church, later renamed Wildwood Baptist Church. Orndorff Mill Road is the predecessor to Democracy Boulevard. [HM]
In 1928, the old Wagner farm on Rockville Pike was leased to the Congressional School of Aeronautics for a flying school and private airport. In 1929, the Wagner family sold the land to the airport but retained a parcel that they wanted to develop commercially. The residents of Rockville Pike appealed to the County Commissioners to stop encroachment of what they claimed was “the most beautiful Pike in the county.” As a result, no further development took place there (for awhile).
Historically, prominent Washington families, especially publishers, had established country estates in lower Montgomery County – for example, estates were founded in Silver Spring by the Washington Globe’s Blair family (in the 1840s) and the Washington Star’s Crosby Noyes (in 1882). By the turn of the century, Rockville Pike land was considered a choice location. This was reinforced by the arrival of the automobile, and the Pike was in good condition for automobile travel by the 1920s. [PD] A line of estates and country clubs stretched from Bethesda up Rockville Pike. Most of the grand houses along the Pike reflected the colonial history of the country and were designed in a corresponding Georgian Revival style. [NIH]
One of the first prominent estates in North Bethesda was that of the Grosvenor family, “Wild Acres,” which was founded at 5400 Grosvenor Lane in 1912, originally consisting of about 105 acres. Gilbert Grosvenor was born in Turkey, graduated from Amherst College in 1897, and taught briefly at a private school. He met and became engaged to Elsie May Bell, the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell who, in addition to being the inventor of the telephone, was president of the National Geographic Society. On the elder Bell’s recommendation, Grosvenor became associate editor of the National Geographic Magazine, and later was the editor from 1903 to 1954. Under his supervision, circulation grew from 1,000 to over 2 million. He is considered the father of photojournalism and his influence also extended to expansion of the national park system. Gilbert and Elsie Grosvenor were related to or acquainted with many of the leading men and women of their day. Gilbert Grosvenor died in 1966 and Elsie died in 1968. [PD]
Grosvenor’s mansion is considered a fine example of pre-Depression architecture. The residence was designed by Arthur Heaton, who was also the supervising architect for the National Cathedral. [PD]
Other prominent publishers also came to the area. Following Grosvenor’s 1912 purchase, John F. Wilkins of the Washington Post built a house in the area. Grosvenor’s estate was bordered by Pooks Hill, which was the estate of Merle Thorpe, editor and publisher of Business Week. Grosvenor’s colleague John Joy Edson, treasurer of National Geographic, built Timberlawn on Sugarbush Lane. [PD]
In addition, Captain James Frederick Oyster and Charles I. Corby, who developed methods that revolutionized the baking industry, lived in the area. Development in the early 20th century continued around train and trolley stops. However, the area remained sparsely populated through the 1920s. [W]
In 1919, Georgetown Preparatory School moved to its current location on 92 acres in North Bethesda. The first classes were held that year. [GP]
Also in 1919, the defining property of the Luxmanor area, the Riley house, was described in a newspaper article as –
A quaint home, with mossy shingles, log kitchen, rough, stout chimneys and a very old-fashioned air ... It sits far back from the west side of the road. Around it cling vines and above it tall walnut trees spread their strong and crooked arms. Late roses were blooming in the garden ... In the garden of the old house is a spring, whose sweet water is famous over a wide range of country. [WS2]
Here is a photograph of the house from around 1926, taken from Old Georgetown Road.
The property was reportedly identified as the “Mace Place” for many years because of its association with the Riley-Maces. The great-grandson of Isaac Riley, Charlie Mace, was a veterinarian and the primary resident of the house during in 1910s. In addition to Charlie Mace, the Bracket family also lived in the house in 1919. [HSR]
A look at the area at this time can be seen below in a map from 1916. Luxmanor is a series of farms west of Old Georgetown Road stretching from Montrose Road in the north (which is just above the boundary of this map) to “County Road” (now Tuckerman Lane) in the south, and then continuing south with additional farms (some of which are owned by Floyd Davis) to Orndorff Mill Road (now Democracy Boulevard). [RA]
The Beginning of Luxmanor
In 1928, Morton and Ernestine Luchs acquired 94 acres and ran a farm, the main buildings for which were on the northwest corner of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane. Luchs was a partner in the Washington, DC real estate firm Shannon and Luchs, founded in 1906. On his farm, Luchs enjoyed country pursuits and advertised the sale of pigs in the Washington Evening Star. He later called his farm “The Squab Farm,” selling pigeons through Schmidt’s bird store downtown. [CLK]
Luchs established Luxmanor Corporation and subdivided the property adjacent to the Riley house. In 1934, Shannon and Luchs began advertising Luxmanor homes with their characteristic large lots: “One-half acre of ground gives each home an already planted small farm development, including stocked chicken houses, grape arbor and vegetable garden.” This was intended to be attractive to people in the depression area. [CLK]
The Washington Post published a sketch of a new Luxmanor home:
Here is the same house in 2011 — the trees have grown a bit:
Unlike many other developments in Montgomery County at the time, Luxmanor deeds did not have a restrictive covenant preventing Jewish families from purchasing the homes. As a result, the neighborhood attracted a number of Jewish residents. However, the deeds (like those of many other neighborhoods in the county and the country) did include restrictive covenants preventing purchase by African-American families – part of a practice of segregation that was legally sanctioned at the time. [CLK]
The Post’s article reported:
Shannon & Luchs Development Co. announced last week the opening of a new subdivision for 190 homes, which will be known as Luxmanor, a community planned for people who appreciate peaceful suburban living, with all modern city conveniences.
Located on the famous Old Georgetown road just north of Bethesda. It is easily reached by following the car line road. [WP1]
The article went on to describe the houses –
Two beautiful farm Colonial brick bungalows, one of white and the other red, are already completed for today’s opening. ... Each home has its own small farm development with one-half acre, more if desired, of vegetable and flower gardens, grape vines and chicken houses. ... Luxmanor is only 25 minutes from the heart of Washington, on a perfect road, a road lined on each side by homes of Washington’s most representative citizens. ... Luxmanor is the estate of Morton J. Luchs, vice president and treasurer of the Shannon & Luchs Development Co. [WP1]
A few days later, on July 22, 1934, the Post carried another article that provides an interesting insight on why the lot sizes in Luxmanor are so large. The neighborhood was intended to be an example of “subsistence homesteads”:
Located on the Old Georgetown road just north of Bethesda, Md., Luxmanor offers a delightful five-room sturdily built brick bungalow on one-half acre of ground at a moderate price.
The house itself is 50 feet wide and has a studio living room 15 by 20 feet, opening on two spacious porches. One wing of the house contains two bedrooms and bath and the opposite wing contains a dining room and electric health kitchen. There is recessed radiation throughout and new style windows giving modern ventilation.
The basement is under the entire house and contains a vegetable storage room, furnace room and a two-car built-in garage. The beautiful back yard has over 14,000 square feet of ground which may be cultivated or planted with flowers in addition to the vegetable garden that is already laid out and planted.
The Post continued, “This is a community entirely different from anything developed by Shannon & Luchs or any other Washington builder. It is similar in idea to the subsistence homesteads advocated by Mrs. Roosevelt. The chicken house and run stocked with chickens will provide ample eggs for household needs and the vegetable garden will produce sufficient supplies to last through the winter. They can be properly stored in the vegetable storage room in the basement. In addition to the subsistence layout, the house is modern in every detail and contains every city convenience at city costs.” [WP3]
The Luxmanor Citizens Association began on January 1, 1938 when all nine of the families in the area formed an association to more effectively oppose the Capitol Transit Company’s threatened abandonment of the bus line on Old Georgetown Road. After the association presented its case, the bus line was ordered to be continued. [LD]
At first, the Luxmanor neighborhood was limited to a small area in the southwest corner of the intersection between Old Georgetown Road and Tilden Lane. The first houses were built on Old Georgetown Road, Tilden Lane, Sedgwick Lane, and the northern end of Luxmanor Road, near Sedgwick and Tilden. Some of the houses on Sedgwick, for example, were constructed as early as 1934, and others on Luxmanor Road were built in 1938. [S, WP1, HSR, WP2, PA]
Also in 1938, the first Luxmanor picnic was held. This tradition continued on until at least 1956. [S] Morton Luchs died in 1938 but his farm and farm buildings could still be seen on maps in 1959. [CLK] Later, this southern portion of the Luxmanor neighborhood was subdivided and developed into homes.
The old Riley farmhouse was transferred in the 1930s and, at that time, there were still “many old slave quarters and outbuildings” on the property. By 1955, however, these buildings had been torn down. [HSR]
South of Luxmanor, one of the defining features of Montgomery County -- the National Institutes of Health -- began to take shape in the 1930s. An estate known as “Tree Tops” was located in Bethesda on a high knoll on the southwest corner of Cedar Lane. This estate was distinct from many of the other local country houses because of its rustic English style. In 1924, the estate was purchased by the Wilson family. Luke Wilson was the son of a successful men’s clothing importer and manufacturer. Wilson helped manage the family firm, Wilson Brothers. In 1910 he had married Helen Woodward, a daughter of one of the founders of Washington, D.C.’s Woodward and Lothrop department stores. In 1935 the Wilsons agreed to donate their land to build the expanding campus of the National Institutes of Health. [NIH]
In 1946, the builder R.L. Willis developed a row of new houses on the 6100 block of Roseland Lane (Roseland was a “Lane” then; it is now Roseland “Drive”). They were typical of much postwar construction: built quickly and inexpensively of cinderblocks and bricks, with no basements.
These homes cost about $10,000 when new. Mr. Willis, who lived on Poindexter Lane, went on to build several more houses on that street. He also laid out a new street called Stephalee Lane – named for his daughter Stephanie and his son Lee. [S, M]
The original homeowners on Roseland Lane were the Benbow, Bukowsky, Lucino, Fink, Tipton, Rigby, Matchett, Hopgood, Morgan, Steel, Ventry, and Gray families.
Interesting residents at the time included the Bayh family, which lived on Sedgwick Lane. Col. Bayh was the family patriarch and a son, Birch Bayh, later became a prominent senator from Indiana. [Q]
Sedgwick Lane was planted with the cherry trees that continue to distinguish it in the early spring. [S]
By 1949, the neighborhood and its environs had expanded to the point shown in the map below.
As can be seen, Luxmanor consisted of a triangle whose sides were Old Georgetown Road, Tilden Lane and Poindexter Lane.
Other close-by neighborhoods were like separate city-states, not part of Luxmanor. The largest of these in terms of acreage was Old Georgetown Estates, whose prominent feature was the circular road comprised of Danville Drive and Cushman Road (today also including a portion of Marcliff Road). This area was connected to Luxmanor only by Tilden Lane. Another autonomous region was Marcliff Road, which then grew off of Tuckerman Lane but was unconnected to anything else. [AM1]
On May 8, 1946, the Washington Evening Star carried the following note, demonstrating that, even then, the area’s citizens were “cutting edge”:
Though the population was growing, the Luxmanor area in the 1950s was still relatively undeveloped. Traffic was sparse. There were no streetlights on Old Georgetown Road or in Luxmanor. There were few shops and no schools. [S]
During the 1950’s the Luxmanor Citizens Association was a central part of community social life. Most of the residents participated, and some were particularly distinguished – for example:
Allan Stern served as president, treasurer and director of activities.
Gene Suto served as treasurer in 1956, vice-president in 1957-58, and president in 1959-60.
I.M. Labovitz served as president in 1956. [S]
The association also participated in important development activities; for example, Luxmanor expressed its views on the building of power lines near Tuckerman (Luxmanor opposed the power lines but had only a minute to state its case, after which the vote was contrary to the community’s position). As a 1956 announcement stated: “We have in the past, and will in the future, work for such diverse benefits as LAND BEAUTIFICATION, ZONING RESTRICTIONS, YOUTH ACTIVITIES, CHRISTMAS EVENTS, ANNUAL PICNIC, and many other things redounding to the betterment of our community and its residents.” [S]
The Association sponsored the first editions of the Luxmanor Directory and later the Luxmanor Greensheet. These publications, as well as other notices to residents, were delivered to residents by volunteers. [S]
During the 1950s, Tilden Lane ended at Parkedge Drive. Beyond that point was Tilden Park and woodland – the neighborhood that is now Old Farm had not yet been built. Near the end of Tilden Lane was a large sawdust pile that was accessible by an old, rickety footbridge that crossed the creek and led into the woods. The origin of the sawdust pile was a sawmill that cut down many of the trees in the area. Children would climb on and play in the piles, and residents would visit and shovel mulch for use on plants. [S]
Because cherry trees had been planted on Sedgwick Lane, the homeowners on Roseland Lane began a similar project in 1951-52, run by Bob Benbow. They started planting cherry trees but ultimately turned to planting flowering crabapple trees in front of many homes. Each home had three or four trees planted across their front lots. [S]
The Citizens’ Association sponsored picnics in the summer and also holiday activities in the winter. The summer picnics were held at the “recreation area,” a field north of the intersection of Tilden Lane and Luxmanor Road. The cost was $3.00 per family, and tickets were sold by a committee that canvassed the neighborhood. Organizers included Alice Gray, Walter Steele, Elizabeth Bukowsky, Bob Benbow, Sue Tipton, Betty Smith, and Talbot Bielefeldt. Allan Stern, who was a long-time, dedicated organizer of Luxmanor activities, used the truck of his employer, the Gitchner Iron Works, to haul supplies for the picnics.
The 1955 picnic flyer said:
Our program this year will be much like last year. Food for all, beer and soft drinks to wet our schnozzles. Lucky number gate prizes, baseball, volley ball, horseshoes and other games; special events for the younger set. Come everyone and enjoy THE BEST TIME! THE BEST FOOD! THE BEST COMPANY! THE BEST BARGAIN! OF 1955. [S]
The day started with setting up the ball field, moving in picnic tables and seats, and bringing ice for drinks. Baseball games began at about 2 p.m., and dinner was held at 5:00 – hams, turkeys and other meats, beans, salads, deviled eggs, and cakes and other desserts. That year, about 250 people attended the picnic. [S]
In the winter, the Association put up a 4-by-8 foot Luxmanor Christmas sign at the corner of Poindexter Lane and Old Georgetown Road, and another at the corner of Roseland Lane and Luxmanor Road. These signs, which were built by Gene Suto, were lit with red and green lights. Carol singing was held throughout the neighborhood was a part of each holiday season. [S]
In 1954, the Association planted an evergreen tree at the corner of Poindexter Lane and Old Georgetown Road on the Bukowsky’s lawn. (The Bukowskys had moved to this location from Roseland Lane and Ed put out a shingle as a dentist.) This tree became “Luxmanor’s new permanent community Christmas tree.” Carol singing was planned at the tree, and the announcement read:
This beautiful tree, from The Coburns – moved and planted by Mr. Stock on the property of Mr. & Mrs. Bukowsky, and trimmed by our own teen-agers – is to be a permanent part of our community and is greatly appreciated by all. [S]
At the southeast wooded corner of Rockville Pike and Montrose Road a large barn stood – the American Legion Barn. This was the site of the “Annual Christmas Party of the Luxmanor Citizens Association.” The party in 1954 was planned to have “fun, games, dancing and refreshments for all.” [S]
The new tradition of a gathering at the community tree continued in 1955. The announcement read:
Community Tree Lighting
8:30 P.M. December 24, 1955
Poindexter and Georgetown Road
SANTA CLAUS – HIMSELF WILL BE THERE!!!!
For the children — Gifts
By the children — Carol Singing
For the community — A bigger and brighter tree [S]
The “Santa” was Gene Suto, who played this role for over twenty years. He would come down the roof of his own house. (In later years, he was invited to the roofs of other houses and also made appearances at Luxmanor Elementary School.) The Suto family provided hot chocolate, cookies, candy canes and gifts to all of the children who attended. [S]
The Christmas Party at the Legion barn continued also – in 1955 the festivities began at 8:30 p.m. on December 22nd, and included refreshments and “square dancing to professional callers.” Also, “As usual, everyone is urged to bring a gift for the needy.” [S]
During the rest of the year, the American Legion hall served as a dance site for Luxmanor teenagers. At the current site of Congressional Plaza, there was a roller rink. This building had been an airplane hanger for the Congressional Airport, which had been on the site. [S, M]
During the 1950s, the Luxmanor Garden Club held meetings in the homes of participants. Active members included Agnes Lerch, Marjorie Rigby, Evelyn Willis, Betty Leahy, Mary Powers, Barbara Suto and others, who entered many shows in Bethesda and surrounding areas. Later, the club met on the upper floor of the Gustin Gardens Nursery office, which had recently been built at the corner of Montrose Road and Old Georgetown Road (where the Pavilion condominiums were later built). [S]
In 1955, the Garden Club held a “Christmas House Tour” on December 17th. The open homes were:
Mrs. Donald Lerch — Tilden Lane
Mrs. Robert Pitzer — Ralston Road
Mrs. Roswell Stinchfield — Poindexter Lane
Mrs. Herbert Eastwood — Luxmanor Road [S]
According to the announcement for this event:
Please make Mrs. Eastwood’s home the last to visit and join us for refreshments. The dining tables and fireplaces in each of the above homes will be decorated by an assigned team and will be in competition with each other. Judging will begin at 12 noon.
1955 also saw the Garden Club sponsor the “Christmas Doorways Show,” a competition for spirited decoration of doorways, with judging by “nationally accredited judges.” [S]
There was plenty of nearby shopping in the 1950s. E.J. Korvette’s had a store on the north end of Mid-Pike Plaza. This was one of a chain of discount department stores founded in 1948 in New York City and was a model for such stores as Costco and Wal-Mart. It later declined and went into bankruptcy in 1980. The Mid-Pike Plaza also held many other stores, including a grocery store with an Italian Ice stand outside, which was very popular. [S, Q]
Serio’s had a fruit stand on Rockville Pike (where a 7-11 was later built) and they sold excellent country corn and tomatoes. Hechts in Silver Spring and Sears in the District (off Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.) were the nearest large department stores. [S]
In 1958, on the site of the old Congressional Airport and Flying School, the “Congressional Shopping City” was built. It was one of the first retail developments in Montgomery County of the “plaza” design (similar to Wheaton Plaza, which was built around the same time), and was the first unified retail area built as an alternative to the traditional downtown commercial center in Rockville. The old administration building and hangar of the airport functioned as the Congressional Roller Arena until it was demolished in 1984. One building from the airport days that still remains is the Womack building at 131 Congressional Lane. [MHT1]
In the 1950s, there were no schools in Luxmanor. An elderly gentleman lived on the site of what is now Luxmanor Elementary School. Younger Luxmanor students attended Ashburton Elementary School. [S] Georgetown Preparatory School was located on Rockville Pike.
Luxmanor’s phone numbers in the 1950s were prefixed by “OL,” for example, “OL 9-9077.” [S] “Oliver” was the local vernacular for “OL,” so that if a person was asked their phone number, he or she would answer, “It’s Oliver 9-9077.” Why “Oliver” was used in preference to some other name is unknown. [Q]
By 1959, Luxmanor looked as portrayed in the map below. By this time, Ralston Road and parts of Huntover Drive and Rosemont Drive had been developed, and some development was occurring along Mazwood Road in the area that would become Windermere. [AM2] The old Luchs farm can still be seen at the northwest corner of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane.
The Gruver-Cooley Corporation, a builder in Leesburg, Virginia since 1908, was responsible for building a number of Luxmanor houses on the southern end of Luxmanor Road, the southern end of Stephalee Lane and Rosemont Drive. In 1964, when Alice and Joe Maloney moved in to their house on Stephalee at the corner of Crossover Lane, theirs was the only house on that end of the street. Behind them was a wide field, open and empty of trees or houses.
In the turbulent decade of the 1960s, while the country was wrestling with college protests over the Vietnam War and the rise of the flower children, Luxmanor was still a quiet backwater. Martha and Harold Quayle moved to the neighborhood in 1968, just as the area was changing from “growing countryside” to “exploding suburb.” They came to Luxmanor like so many others have: for proximity to the public schools and NIH. They moved to Sedgwick Lane into a house that was then part of old, established Luxmanor, having been built in 1935. They came to the neighborhood via a new, wider Old Georgetown Road, which had just been widened to four lanes (up to the Nicholson Lane intersection). Their children were among the first generation schooled in Luxmanor: they entered third, fourth and sixth grade at Luxmanor Elementary School. The next year, their oldest child went to Tilden Junior High School on Tilden Lane, which had just opened in 1968. Eventually, their children continued on to Charles W. Woodward High School on Old Georgetown Road. [Q]
Hal and Martha considered other houses in Luxmanor. At that time, there were 4-bedroom houses being built on Whisperwood Lane that they considered, priced in the $40,000s. They finally settled on the Sedgwick Lane house because it fit their family better – with three bedrooms and priced at just under $40,000 – and because it was closer to Old Georgetown Road and the convenient bus line that ran directly to NIH, where Martha worked. At that time, Sedgwick was a concrete road. [Q]
The 1960s saw the development of Luxmanor’s sister community, Old Farm. The communities were separated by the creek that runs along Tilden Woods park. Tilden Lane ran up to the creek and stopped. On the other side of the creek a new Tilden Lane began that was part of Old Farm. This, of course, was a situation that County planners could not leave untouched – but more on this subject in the next decade. [Q]
The main street for Luxmanor and all of North Bethesda had long been Rockville Pike. Elleen McGuckian describes Rockville Pike in the early 1960s as an “ancient thoroughfare” that grew into a four-lane divided road with commercial enterprises of every type. Traveling south from Rockville, one could find a general store, Montrose Motors, the Dixie Cream Donut Shop, drive-in restaurants such as Morrell’s and McDonalds, the Rainbow Motel, Hank Dietle’s Tavern and Wheeler’s funeral home. [EM] As discussed above, Congressional Shopping Center, built in 1958, was the first large plaza on the Pike, and led a pattern of development through the 1960s.
Luxmanor students at Ashburton Elementary School were subsequently transferred to Fernwood Elementary. The tradition of Halloween parades was observed by Luxmanor children as early as 1961. On October 27th of that year, Fernwood Elementary announced its parade and said that “Parents are invited to watch.” [S]
On April 29, 1963, Fernwood Elementary announced that Farmland Elementary School was under construction and would be open in September 1963. “This school will provide facilities for the rapidly expanding area surrounding its location.” As a result, Luxmanor students were able to move to a closer school beginning with the 1963-64 school year. Mrs. Agnes Kain was appointed the new principal at Farmland. [S]
Luxmanor students were finally transferred from Farmland to Luxmanor Elementary when that school opened in 1966. In that year, Mrs. Grace Kurtz was the new principal. The Charles W. Woodward High School also opened in 1966 and Luxmanor students attended that school from grade 7 through 12. The new principal was Dr. Leonard Orloff. In 1968, Tilden Junior High School opened and the principal was Mr. Frederick Cialli. [S] (Tilden later became a Middle School when that concept reached Montgomery County, with grades 6 through 8 rather than 7 through 9.) [Q]
The evergreen tree that stands in front of Luxmanor School was planted there by Barbara Suto and Irene Van Yuga, in memory of Mr. Hickey, who had been the school caretaker. [S]
The Garden Club was active and participated with other clubs in the area in organizing shows. For example, in October 1963, the Luxmanor Garden Club and the Fernwood Garden Club presented the “Silver Bells and Cockle Shells” show at Bethesda Congregational Church. The price of admission was 35 cents. [S]
To the south, Wildwood Shopping Center on Old Georgetown Road was developed in the early 1960s. The Luxmanor Citizens Association pressed for careful development of this new resource. Many residents opposed the shopping center and the Association only gave its approval after the developer promised that shrubbery and trees were to be planted near the roadway and ample parking provided. [S] Wildwood contained an Acme grocery store (later Balducci’s), a People’s Drug Store (later CVS), and Emerson’s Steakhouse (later Gepetto’s). [Q]
To the north, E.J. Korvette’s was still in the Mid-Pike plaza. Pantry Pride grocery store was on the south end of the plaza, along with a barber shop, a beauty parlor, and other stores. Across the Pike was the Rio Grande restaurant, located in an old house. [Q]
Going south on the Pike, at the corner of Nicholson Lane, was a Kinney Shoe store.
The Rainbow Motel was located on the northwest corner of Rockville Pike and Wall Lane (the portion of Nicholson Lane that runs between Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road was then called “Wall Lane”). It was, through at least part of the late 1960s and early 70s, a “house of ill repute.” [Q] [PHH] A picture of the building is below, taken on May 14, 1975, when the Maryland Historical Trust inventoried the property.
The building is believed to have been build in 1902 for Herman and Lucia Hollerith. It was an example of “estate” style architecture, one of a number of such estates that could be found up and down Rockville Pike. The house was sold in 1912 and again in 1926, when it became the “Villa Roma Club” or “Roma Gardens.” It was a club and restaurant featuring dinner, dancing and live entertainment. The club had a 14-piece band and brought in a variety of entertainers (Kate Smith sang here before she became famous). It was remembered as being “really something,” the only dining and entertainment between Rockville and Bethesda. After the depression, however, the club closed. It was sold several more times and, in 1948, became the property of the Green Acres Corporation. It became a motel, which was described in 1975 as being “rather run-down” and “seedy-looking.” Although the Maryland Historical Trust thought the building had some historic value, it was nevertheless torn down and the site is now occupied by a shopping center that includes Stella’s Bakery.
The Tilden Woods Incident
In 1972, the country was in a turmoil of protests and civil unrest against the Vietnam War; rock music was blaring from the bedroom windows of Luxmanor teenagers, and George McGovern and Richard Nixon were campaigning for president. In the midst of this mayhem, the County decided that this would be the time to connect Luxmanor to Old Farm via Tilden Lane. This was supported by the Old Farm neighborhood and by the fire department, both of which wanted easy access to the neighborhood. [Q]
This move was seen by many Luxmanor residents as an irrevocable thrust into modern urbanization and was strenuously opposed. As the bulldozers arrived to take out the old bridge and build the new one to link the two pieces of Tilden Lane, a group of Luxmanor women prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. They laid down on the bridge and dared the bulldozers to continue.
It was perhaps a scene that would remind us now of that great student in Tienanmen, China, who, in 1989, stopped a row of tanks by standing bravely in front of them. However, just as the tanks ultimately succeeded in China, so did the bulldozers in Luxmanor. As a result, Luxmanor was linked with the northern thoroughfare of Montrose Road by way of Old Stage Road and Tildenwood Drive. [Q]
And sure enough, traffic through Luxmanor began to increase. The number of cars cutting though Luxmanor Road and Sedgwick lane, for example were counted at up to 100 per hour in a survey done in the mid-1970s. As a result, a long history of traffic “calming” measures began. That was the origin, for example, of the “No left turn” sign on Old Georgetown Road that prevents a turn onto Sedgwick. (Of course, this same sign permits a U-turn, so instead of turning down Sedgwick you can make a U-turn and then enter the neighborhood on Roseland Drive. Apparently the Sedgwick political lobby was more influential than that of Roseland.) [Q]
Shopping and Amusements
The Midpike area on Rockville Pike was a hangout for teenagers at the time, and more local teens also enjoyed the Tilden Woods Recreation Center and park, and the Tilden Woods Swimming Pool. [S]
Rockville Pike and its sister roads held their usual bounty of amusements. Here are a few:
Congressional Roller Rink, at Congressional Plaza, where teens enjoyed skating.
A drive-in movie theater, farther up on Hungerford Road, near Montgomery College.
The Pike Theater, a movie house located on the east side of Rockville Pike, south of Nicholson Lane.
A movie theater at the northwest end of Congressional Plaza.
A bowling alley on the lower level of Congressional Plaza, where bowlers could enjoy either tenpins or duckpins.
Murphy’s 5 & 10 Cent store at the southwest end of Congressional Plaza. It housed a sit-down soda and luncheon counter.
A J.C. Penney store in the middle of Congressional Plaza.
A Marriott “Hot Shoppes” in the eastern section of the Congressional Plaza parking lot, facing Rockville Pike.
The Jolly Ox Steak Restaurant, a cozy dining locale, on Old Georgetown Road. This later morphed into a Japanese restaurant, and then was torn down and replaced by bank branches.
Across Rockville Pike and down the block near what is now 5050 Nicholson was Peaches Record Store. All the teens loved to browse and hang out at Peaches, where the records (33 LPs and 45s) were kept in wooden crates.
Gene’s on the Pike was a restaurant and bar where great beer times were to be had.
A driving range was located at the location of the White Flint Metro. Across the street, where McDonalds is now, was a “Burger Chef” – also a popular teen hangout.
A Putt-Putt Miniature Golf course was located across from the fire station on Rollins Avenue. [S]
The 1970s saw the development on Old Georgetown Road of some properties that had previously been residential. For example, the doctors’ offices at 11404 Old Georgetown replaced a brick house that had stood empty for some time. The Citizen’s Association opposed the development, concerned about overflow parking and traffic. [Q]
The Citizen’s Association continued to sponsor social activities. For example, caroling was held in the late 1960s and early 1970s around the pine tree in the cul-de-sac on Meadow Court. [Q]
The Woodward High School Incident
In November 1985, at the end of a long process of review by Montgomery County Public Schools, a proposal was made to close Woodward High School on Old Georgetown Road and transfer all the students to Walter Johnson High School.
According to a Washington Post article on November 24, more than 500 parents and students attended an “emotionally charged” hearing. Many testified that it would be a mistake to close the storied high school. The Post reported the former Luxmanor principal, Reed Snyder, as stating, “It would be tragic and devastating if you were to wipe out the identity of that entire Woodward cluster” of schools. Parents and students carried signs saying, “Support continued excellence.”
However, the two schools, within a half-mile of each other, were plagued by low enrollment. Woodward was at 955 (down from 1,143 in 1977) and Walter Johnson was at 1,023 (down from 2,277 in 1961). As a result, the school closed and the building was converted into Tilden Middle School. The old Tilden Middle School, on Tilden Lane, was originally slated to become an elementary school, but those plans did not materialize, and it became a holding school for other schools that were under construction.
If Mr. Luchs or one of the early Luxmanor residents from the 1930s were to come back today, they wouldn’t recognize much. In fact, residents from the 1960s and 70s don’t recognize much. Luxmanor has changed with the times.
In a few cases, change came as a result of disaster. For example, in March 1996, longtime Luxmanor residents, the Sutos, suffered a devastating fire that destroyed the home they had lived in since 1950. The fire department arrived promptly but they were unable to obtain water from the nearby hydrant because of a water main break on the same day. By the time the fire department found a working hydrant, the house had been gutted. As a result, the Sutos replaced their house with a grand, contemporary structure. [S]
In most cases, however, change came less dramatically, as a result of a desire to replace small old houses with big new ones. Since the 1990s, many older buildings have been razed and replaced, and almost all of those that remain from the early days have been modified and expanded. These have typically been architectually unique, reflecting the distinctive tastes of their owners. As a result, Luxmanor continues to be eclectic, with a broad range of housing styles, from “subsistence homestead” to country cottage to French castle to Spanish villa to Adirondack lodge. For many years, there was a copy of a Frank Lloyd Wright berm house on Roseland Drive, but “all things must pass” — it was torn down and replaced by a new home.
THE JOSIAH HENSON PARK
For about 200 years, the Riley/Bolten house (1800-1815) on Old Georgetown Road was privately owned. In January 2006, Montgomery County acquired the property for use as a park. Currently, the Josiah Henson Park is comprised of two parcels of land, the first, at 11420 Old Georgetown Road, is the Riley/Bolten house. The second, at 11410 Old Georgetown Road, was purchased in July 2009; the existing house and garage were demolished in June 2011 to make room for a future bus drop off, small parking lot, and visitor orientation building for the partk. The Riley/Bolten site is designated as an individual resource on the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. As such, it is protected under local preservation law as a Historic Site where exterior changes require review by the Historic Preservation Commission. The Riley/Bolten house is also listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
According to the County, ongoing archaeological excavations seek to find where Josiah Henson may have lived on the site. Josiah Henson’s quarters, described by him in his autobiography as a “log hut,” and part of a “village of log huts” was located somewhere on the plantation grounds. The Riley/Bolten house includes an attached log kitchen that has been dated by tree-ring analysis to 1850. Given that 1850 is after Henson’s 1830 escape to Canada, but before emancipation in Maryland, the County historians assume that enslaved people, such as a cook, would have worked in the kitchen and that the cook’s family slept in a loft above the kitchen, which was known to exist, but is now removed. The log kitchen also is the site of an interior archaeological dig, which has discovered three previous earthen floors inside the kitchen space. These earlier dirt floors indicate the presence of an earlier kitchen that stood on the same spot as the current one. The County indicates that It is probable, therefore, that the kitchen space represents where Henson recalled being forced to sleep upon his return to the plantation from Kentucky in 1828. [MC]
With all of its changes,
Luxmanor still remains true to the claims made for it back in 1934 – “entirely different” from any other neighborhood.