Thursday, August 31, 2023

Aggravated assault with gun in Rockville

Rockville City police responded to a report of an aggravated assault with a gun in the King Farm area early yesterday morning, August 30, 2023. The assault was reported in the 100 block of Pasture Side Place at 12:50 AM.

Fairchild Apartments in Germantown recall the golden age of Montgomery County (Photos)

Montgomery County was once the economic engine of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Today, it's recognized as economically-moribund by everyone from The Washington Post to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, and has ceded the spotlight to Fairfax County and other booming job centers in Northern Virginia. To see how far Montgomery County has fallen, one only has to look back at its golden age, which lasted roughly from 1960 to 2000. Lockheed Martin and Marriott International are among the few remaining vestiges of that boomtime, a time when a big player like IBM had not just one, but three sites in the county. A new apartment building in Germantown pays elaborate tribute to one of the brightest jewels in Montgomery County's golden age crown, Fairchild Aircraft.

Fairchild was a major aerospace design and manufacturing firm. Its presence in Maryland included a corporate and R&D campus at 20301 Century Boulevard in Germantown, and an aircraft manufacturing plant in Hagerstown. A short runway outside the Germantown site was used by corporate executives to travel between the company's two Maryland campuses aboard a Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) turboprop airplane. Curiously, the STOL runway bore a large Iron Cross insignia - - even more curious given the background of the firm's most famous executive, one who is excluded from the tribute.

It's almost hard to believe today, but during the 1970s, the father of spaceflight had an office overlooking I-270. Wernher von Braun served as Fairchild's Vice-President of Engineering and Development from 1972 until his retirement in 1976. A brilliant and complicated man with an equally-complicated history, von Braun was a German pioneer in rocketry. He was also was a member of the Nazi Party and the SS, and fully aware of the use of slave labor that was utilized at the underground Mittelwerk V-2 rocket assembly plant, labor that was drawn from the adjacent Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

The U.S. government looked the other way at the questionable parts of von Braun's resume following World War II, as it did with so many former Nazis it brought to America through the controversial Operation Paperclip, ostensibly to ensure these scientific and engineering wizards didn't end up working for the Soviets. Only through dogged investigation by journalists did the wartime actions of many of these men sooner or later come to public light. Von Braun, through his work for the Department of Defense and NASA, was largely responsible for the United States winning the race to the moon in 1969. He died from cancer shortly after his retirement from Fairchild.

Fairchild Aircraft logo "easter egg"
on the Fairchild Apartments facade

The 1980s brought great changes to Fairchild. Its Hagerstown plant closed in 1984. The end of the Cold War hit the company hard. Orbital Sciences Corporation acquired the Germantown division of the firm, now known as Fairchild Space and Defense Corp., in 1994. Orbital sold FS&D Corp. to the Smiths Group in 2000. Five years later, Smiths announced it would be closing the Germantown campus, which once employed over 1000 people.

Since then, the old Fairchild campus area has slowly begun to redevelop. The latest addition is the Fairchild Apartments development at 20013 Century Boulevard. While many new apartment buildings offer little more than a gimmicky brand name and cookie-cutter design, the Fairchild Apartments development displays great thought and effort in memorializing its namesake company.

A Fairchild Aircraft logo is sculpted right into the facade of the building, for starters. One museum-quality display provides information about the history of the Germantown Fairchild campus, noting that the A-10 Thunderbolt and the landing gear for the space shuttle were both designed there. The Iron Cross runway and campus layout are depicted. It even features a photograph of the Fairchild Porter turboprop lifting off from the Germantown runway!

Another display pays tribute to the founder of Fairchild Industries, Sherman Mills Fairchild. It notes his memorial foundation in Chevy Chase, Maryland "distributes more than $35 million annually to support higher education, fine arts and cultural institutions." There's no display for von Braun.

Fairchild campus layout, including the 
runway with Iron Cross at right

Other displays feature the A-10 Thunderbolt "Warthog," also known as the "Tank Killer," and the Germantown facility's last major project, the Topex/Poseidon satellite. Designed with a NATO-Soviet European ground war in mind, the A-10 instead ended up as the most-feared nemesis of tank crews in the third-world nations America invaded in the post-Soviet era. The Topex/Poseidon mapped the topography and circulation of Earth's oceans as they had never been seen before, from its launch in August 1992 until its mission-ending malfunction in 2008. It's still up there somewhere, circling the Earth.

Down on Earth, part of the Fairchild campus is still here, as well - - albeit reclaimed by nature. Street names at a townhome development further up Century Boulevard recall Fairchild, and some of its famous products, like the C-119 "Flying Boxcar." One street there, Stol Run, is a nod to Fairchild's iconic STOL runway. More developments, especially those built on or near historic sites, should incorporate those past landmarks and associated individuals to the same degree that the Fairchild Apartments have here in Germantown.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Juvenile stabbed in Rockville

Rockville City police responded to a report of an aggravated assault in the Rockville Town Center area Monday night, August 28, 2023. The assault was reported in the unit block of Monroe Place at 10:20 PM. A juvenile victim told officers that he was stabbed several times at 10:10 PM, after having agreed to fight another individual. The victim "was reluctant to give additional details," police say.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Intruder trashes Rockville apartment

An intruder broke into a Rockville apartment on the morning of August 20, 2023, trashed the place, and then fled. Rockville City police report that the intruder forced entry to an apartment in the 300 block of N. Van Buren Street near Rockville Town Center sometime between 7:00 AM and 9:25 AM that morning. The suspect "strew items about," police say, and damaged property. But police did not indicate that any items were actually stolen from the apartment. If you have any information about this incident or suspect, call Rockville police at 240-314-8900.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Montgomery County's first Sheetz opens in Gaithersburg (Photos)

Montgomery County was years overdue to have a Sheetz convenience store, and it has finally happened at 751 Progress Way, off of MD 355 in Gaithersburg. Now that Montgomery County's first Sheetz is open, the first thing I noticed is that this store is about half the size of the ones I stop at on road trips. However, the outdoor dining area is spacious.

Not surprisingly, given Montgomery County's archaic liquor sales monopoly and rules, there is no Beer Cave at this Sheetz. There isn't even any beer! Again, Montgomery County Prohibition-era liquor rules still in effect. The store does have a drive-thru, and self-checkout.

Given the smaller size, the store doesn't have the amount of merchandise I'm used to seeing at Sheetz. But, no complaints! The made-to-order food and beverages are among the major reasons people stop at Sheetz, and they are finally available in Montgomery County!

Rockville Wendy's renovation update (Photos)

The Rockville Wendy's at 808 Rockville Pike has had a distinctive look for so long, it's surprising it's getting a makeover now. Gone are the yellow-and-red "awning," and unique curved glass atop the roofline above the rounded portion of the facade at the front end of the restaurant. The dining room entrance door is gone, too, replaced by a wood board. Customers are being directed to the Derwood Wendy's during the "refresh," which does not have an estimated completion date.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sunglass snatcher strikes in Rockville

Rockville City police responded to a report of designer sunglasses being stolen in the Maryvale neighborhood on August 21, 2023. The sunglasses were taken from a Kia SUV parked in the 600 block of Pinewood Road. It is believed the sunglasses were stolen sometime between 11:30 PM on August 20 and 9:00 AM on August 21. If you have any information about this incident or suspect, call Rockville police at 240-314-8900.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Rockville thief with marijuana tattoo flees scene on Trek mountain bike

Rockville City police are seeking to identify and find a mountain-biking thief who stole merchandise from a store on Rockville Pike. The suspect entered an employees-only area of a store in the 1600 block of Rockville Pike around 10:00 AM on August 17, 2023. Based on the block number, that sounds like a business at Congressional Plaza, but police did not identify the store.

After allegedly stealing an Apple Air Pods case and a pair of shorts, the suspect fled the scene on a blue Trek mountain bike. Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic male 5' 8" inches in height, with tattoos of a marijuana leaf and stars on the back of his hand. He was wearing a black Baltimore Ravens hoodie, black "ripple-type" jeans, and a pair of black Nike Air Force shoes. If you have any information about this incident or suspect, call Rockville police at 240-314-8900.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Police called after assault at Rockville restaurant

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at a restaurant in Rockville on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. The assault was reported at a restaurant in the 15200 block of Frederick Road at 5:55 PM, just south of Gude Drive. An individual was also accused of theft in the same incident.