Garrett Park in 1898
Paul Edlund, Mayor
By the time of its incorporation as a Town in 1898, Garrett Park was a busy
small town with a population of over a hundred and containing more than 30
buildings. Much of life centered around the trains and the station, the
railroad being the only public transportation in the early years. The trains to
were numerous, as many as nine a day into the city, with train service on
Saturdays and Sundays.
It seems clear that through much of the 1890s, the sounds of construction,
hammering and sawing and all that went with them, continued unabated in Garrett
Park. During the 1890s, 14 houses as well as a one-room schoolhouse were
making this street the most heavily populated at the time, being the location
of nearly half the houses in Town. Seven houses were built on Waverly, six on
Montrose, five on Keswick, and one lone house, long know as the
Cleveland house, on
In 1893, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad build a train station in Town, one
quite similar to that built in Kensington in 1890, the only one that still
stands today. The sights and sounds of horse-drawn wagons, bringing from the
B&O siding the building materials to be converted to homes, must also have
been pervasive. The unloading of freight cars on the Town siding proceeded at a
regular rate. A load of coal weighing 31,984 pounds was delivered on November
3, 1891: freight charge $9.60. Two days later, 192 feet of lumber weighing 600
pounds was unloaded: freight charge 30¢!
Facing the Garrett Park station was the building now called
Penn Place, but
which was at that time called Hardesty and Crehan's store. The first telephone
in Town was installed there in 1896, and according to the Montgomery Press,
"the Park people have already begun to realize what a convenience it is
and how it fills a long felt want."
The Garrett Park Chapel (today's Town Hall) was opened in July 1897. The Montgomery
Press had reported that the building was to cost $1,100, stating
"we are anticipating a very pretentious building." We wouldn't agree
with such a statement today, of course!
By 1898 the Town had a solid architectural base with its Victorian homes.
Trees were not as evident as they would become, although the planting of new
ones went forward with considerable zeal. Today, people and buildings have
increased tenfold, and there seems little more room for growth. The Town
remains a small town, both in its size and atmosphere, much to our satisfaction
and great pleasure.
Garrett Park, MD 100 Years as a
By Eric Jay Dolin
Thirty minutes from downtown
D.C., in lower
sits Garrett Park, one of the region's hidden treasures. Although this small,
incorporated town of 358 homes is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year,
many people in the area have never heard of it. They are missing something
special. Whether you're looking for an architectural ramble, a leisurely stroll
or ride along quiet, winding, heavily-wooded streets, or a bite to eat, Garrett
Park is an excellent place to spend part of a carefree day.
Nestled between Route 355 and
Garrett Park came into being in the late 1880s. A brochure at the time extolled
the virtues of this new community, stating that it would "be the suburban
town of the National Capital." In 1898, Garrett Park was incorporated in
response to a controversy over sewage. At the time, waterborne typhoid was a
major health concern. Fear of the disease led the citizens of Garrett Park to
protest a one Mrs. Sprigg's indoor plumbing and associated cesspool which was
seen as potential source of contamination to local wells. Responding to this
concern, the town fathers incorporated and immediately passed an ordinance
banning cesspools and requiring all residents to use "above-ground"
privies. Mrs. Sprigg fought the ordinance in court, lost, and left town.
Your visit to Garrett Park is best begun at
Penn Place in the heart of
"downtown," at the intersection of Waverly and Rokeby Avenues. Don't
expect too much. Downtown consists of a small train station, The Garrett Park
Cafe, town offices, a beauty salon, a market, a few other small businesses, and
the Post Office. It is easily accessible by car, as well as by bike or foot.
Penn Place is only
200 yards from the bike path in
and there is a pathway that connects the two.
Since there is no home delivery of mail in Garrett Park, the Post Office is
a social center, where residents empty their P.O. boxes, chat or read the town
bulletin board. The cafe is a popular place, especially on weekends when
bicycle, running, and walking groups take time for lunch, brunch, or dinner.
With an unusual menu, featuring items such as seared rockfish with hunter style
tomato sauce & chevre risotto, the cafe is also a great place to eat.
Before you begin your tour, look across from the cafe for a boulder with a
plaque which will tell you a bit of Garrett Park's history, including the
town's placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Now,
start out in whatever direction you choose. Don't worry, you won't get lost! In
the late 1940s, all through streets, into and out of town, with the exception
were blocked off to reduce traffic. Thus, on both sides of Strathmore, which
cuts Garrett Park in two, as long as you stay on the streets, you'll never
leave town. You can't go too far, Garrett Park has only 4 miles of roads.
You will immediately see why the town earns its official designation as an
arboretum. Along every street are a great variety of trees, rare and common,
short and tall, with some old giants rising well over one-hundred feet into the
air. And don't just look at the trees. Most Garrett Parkers are avid gardeners,
whose yards hold many pleasant surprises.
The most unusual thing about Garrett Park are the houses. Unlike the
architectural monotony that blights so many suburbs, in Garrett Park virtually
every house is different. There are sprawling, brightly colored Victorians with
turrets and spires reaching towards the sky, and beautiful wraparound porches.
At the other end of the spectrum are the tiny Chevy Houses, built in the 1920s
and so-named because they were originally sold with a brand new Chevrolet in
the driveway (good examples can be found at 10926 Clermont Avenue and 4517
Clermont Place). Pick an architectural style and it is here -- colonial, ranch,
bungalow, Swiss chalet, stone cottage,
Sear's Catalogue Farm House, and those that defy categorization.
Do not restrict your tour of town to the Penn-Place side of
Go to the other side for some more beautiful houses, trees and gardens. There
you will also find Town Hall, just off Strathmore on
Kenilworth Avenue. Originally built in
1897 as a chapel, the hall is a beautiful building that is available to anyone
for civic and social functions (for information on renting, call the Keeper of
the Keys, Dolores Harris, at 301-933-7275).
Because of the 100th anniversary of the town's incorporation, now is a great
time to visit Garrett Park. Along Strathmore, signs placed in honor of the
anniversary proudly proclaim interesting facts about the town's history. Here
you will learn that Garrett Park became a Nuclear Free Zone in 1982 and an
arboretum in 1977. If you time your visit right, you can participate in some of
the Town's festivities, [including the Attic in the Street Sale,
a Tree Walk, and Tours of Houses 100 years or older, all of them on different dates in October.]
If you are looking for something different, unexpected, and relaxing, visit
Garrett Park. You'll be surprised by what you see.
[Article first appeared in the August 1998 issue of Recreation News
(Vol. 16, No. 8), page 3.]