Showing posts with label historic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historic. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Bethesda Juneteenth event to be meaningful celebration with march to save a Montgomery County Black cemetery

Macedonia Baptist Church at 5119 River Road in Bethesda will host a Juneteenth celebration this Sunday, June 19, 2022 from 2:00-4:00 PM. The event will be about a current civil rights struggle as much as a remembrance of past history, as the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition will lead a march from the church to the nearby site of the Moses African Cemetery. Desecrated by construction workers building the Westwood Tower apartments in the late 1960s, the majority of the gravesites remain hidden under paved parking spaces at the apartment tower, and on a second site across the Willett Branch stream next to the self-storage construction site behind McDonald's. The church and coalition have been battling Montgomery County officials and developers to restore and memorialize the burial ground, prevent any further construction on it, and potentially transfer stewardship of the land to the church.

A banner will be raised on the Capital Crescent Trail bridge over River Road during the ceremony, and a traditional African libation ritual will be presented by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Speakers at the event will include former resident of the lost black community on River Road Harvey Matthews, historian C.R. Gibbs, County Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks, Circuit Court Judge candidate Marylin Pierre, and activist Robert Stubblefield. 

Musical and dance performers will include Luci Murphy, Karen Wilson Ama Ethefu, Freedome Nsaroma Lee-El, Martha Peterson, and EverGreen Productions. Representatives from the Poor People's Campaign, UNIA, Party for Socialism and Liberation, The Claudia Jones Organization, and the Green Party will also be in attendance.

It will be a celebration, and also a tremendous educational opportunity to learn more about not only the past, but the direct legacy of that past in our own community of Bethesda and Montgomery County. Impacts of the loss of the River Road community in the 1960s included former residents moving and making major contributions to historic and growing African-American communities in East Rockville, Silver Spring and beyond, while still representing that living legacy of the Loughborough plantation in Bethesda. That makes this event of interest to residents of the entire Washington, D.C. region seeking meaningful ways to celebrate Juneteenth this year.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Rockville Pike bank recalls Rockville history (Photos)

Rockville history buffs may want to attend the Grand Opening of a TD Bank on Rockville Pike this weekend. This new branch is in the Pike District, south of the city boundary. It opens this Saturday in the Montrose Crossing shopping center at 12003 Rockville Pike. Between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM Saturday, they'll be providing food, giveaways, "fun and games", and - of course - banking offers.

Green features at the bank include solar panels, modern-design bike parking, LEED certification, and native plants growing in the landscaped area outside.

The bank also has an interesting easter egg inside that hints at the future of this site, which is currently labeled many things - Rockville by the USPS, North Bethesda by many, White Flint by many others, but newly branded as the Pike District. All of that nomenclature may be irrelevant in the not-so-distant future.

That's because there is real potential that the City of Rockville may eventually extend southward to Montrose Parkway, as more unincorporated territory is annexed by the city. The possibility is such that it frequently comes up in discussions of the city's Planning Commission regarding long-range annexation plans.

Tour the bank, and you'll find a premonition of that future on display. A display recalls a historic drugstore in Rockville's now-demolished and redeveloped downtown. That drugstore was built in the 1880s, and is known to many as Vinson's Drugstore, after it was bought in 1911 by Robert William "Doc" Vinson. But a previous owner of the store was D.F. Owens. 

A document on the Rockville website says the drugstore was also a popular gathering place for city politicians, and that President Woodrow Wilson once personally traveled there to buy Wolfhound tablets (they don't say what Wolfhound tablets were, though...). The building was torn down in 1962, and replaced with an office building during Rockville's "urban renewal" craze. According to Joanna Church of the Montgomery County Historical Society, artifacts from the drugstore can be found today in the Stonestreet Museum and Rockville Memorial Library (which has the store's soda fountain in one of its meeting rooms).

Here in this mural inside the bank is Owens Drug Store, as it looked at some point between the 1880s and 1911.
It's particularly interesting because the bank is not near the site of the former drugstore. But the bank will now be perfectly positioned if it finds itself annexed into the City of Rockville one day - the historic mural already on the wall in anticipation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


What's left? Not much. The demolition of the historic Suburban Trust Building at 255 N. Washington Street may well be the most shameful land-use decision by the city since its disastrous "urban renewal" of the 1960s. Virtually the entire historic downtown was demolished back then, in contrast to Maryland cities like Frederick and Hagerstown, who have maintained their original downtowns as desirable assets. This recent demolition was opposed by Rockville's Historic District Commission, as well as by historic preservationists in the city.

The demise of the "Pink Bank" not only cost Rockville a rare example of New Formalist architecture, and a historic building that represented the primacy of the suburban lifestyle that defines Rockville. It also eliminated the "sense of place" developers often cite facetiously. Whether you liked the Pink Bank, or not, you knew exactly where you were when you passed it. The same cannot be said of the cookie-cutter town centers around the DC area, with few exceptions. All the same restaurants, shops and indistinguishable architecture leave the visitor puzzled and unimpressed. Why go "there," when all the same stuff is "here?"
Remnants of the bank's

The bank's drive-thru gate
is still standing

Just a pile

Mixed-use development
will replace the Pink Bank

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The shameful disgrace that is the demolition of the historic Suburban Trust Building in Rockville continues to unfold at a snail's pace. One might describe the slow destruction of the "Pink Bank" as a death by a thousand cuts. Here is where things stand right now at the site of this rare example of New Formalist architecture in the DC area, at 255 N. Washington Street:

A full moon caught in the
background, just left of
center in the photo