Neighborhoods Ready for Change -Forest Glen & Lyttonsville -Part 1

Silver Spring is changing.

The downtown has a long history  – early 20th century vibrancy, death by mall and a recent successful resurgence. And today, with so many projects in the pipeline, the future urban landscape of the area will almost be unrecognizable. The” Brooklyn” of DC has transformed – but what about the surrounding areas?

Arguably, the next chapter of Silver Spring’s future involves its close-in neighborhoods – particularly Forest Glen and Lyttonsville. The upcoming transformation of these two neighborhoods will undoubtedly change the way we look at the Silver Spring area and how we define the new “urban -suburban” mixed neighborhoods. While the Forest Glen neighborhood transitions from Silver Spring to Wheaton and Kensington, Lyttonsville straddles both downtown Silver Spring and Chevy Chase.

Combined, both neighborhoods have a Red line metro stop and two future Purple Line stops, not to mention direct access to I-495, Rock Creek Park and the Georgia Ave. and 16th Street corridors. And with excellent schools, a plethora of parks, and a potential for real walk-ability – these two transitioning neighborhoods serving almost 16,000 residents will redefine the MoCo “suburb.” Over the next few weeks, FFG will be presenting a multi-part series on these two neighborhoods – their shared past and  future – and how their development is  critical to how Silver Spring grows and what it means for the future of suburbia.

A Shared History

Forest Glen and Lyttonsville have a shared and distinct history. During the 18th century, large tobacco plantations were established within parts of Lyttonsville and Forest Glen. The owners, the influential Carroll family, introduced a large slave population to the area. The land known as Forest Glen today was also purchased by Daniel Carroll, whose son, Daniel Carroll II, would later become a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the U.S. Constitution and Articles of Confederation. His other son, John Carroll, would go on to establish Georgetown University.

Daniel_carroll
Daniel Carroll
As parts of MoCo were ceded to the District in 1792, the “North Corner Boundary Stone” was erected off today’s East-West Highway to establish the District’s boundary. When Brookville Road in Lyttonsville and Georgia Avenue in Forest Glen were built, both became very important thoroughfares for commerce and public transportation. 

rock

Early Lyttonsville

By the 1850s, Francis Preston Blair, the founder of today’s Silver Spring, established several country estates within the Lyttonsville area. Samuel Lytton, a free black laborer in the Blair’s household, purchased a nearby four-acre plus tract, eventually becoming the center of pre-Civil War free black settlement area  known as Lyttonsville.

FG_lytton

Beginnings of Forest Glen

Meanwhile a quarter-mile north of Lyttonsville, Forest Glen was being redeveloped into a resort hotel after being used for almost a century to grow tobacco.

Ye Forest Inne - Photo courtesy of Save our Seminary.
Ye Forest Inne in 1887 – Photo courtesy of Save our Seminary.

In 1894, the resort’s business model had failed and was purchased by John and Vesta Cassedy, former educators at the Norfolk College for Young Women in Virginia. The Cassedy family turned the resort into a women’s “finishing school” called National Park Seminary.

National Seminary Park campus - Photo courtesy of Save our Seminary
National Seminary Park campus – Photo courtesy of Save our Seminary.

One of the most prestigious women-only schools in the country, the institution was an upper-class an all-white finishing school from 1894-1942.

nps women
Students participating in May Day (1907) Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress
Two Nearby Schools – Very Far Apart

While the Seminary served an elite population in Forest Glen, the Linden School  in next-door Lyttonsville served a very different demographic. Constructed in 1917 on land purchased from the same  Cassedy family of Forest Glen, the school’s  two-room segregated setup was starkly different than the Seminary’s grand Greek-Roman inspired buildings. The school, which had no running water or plumbing, served the African American community until Montgomery County’s schools were integrated in 1955.

Linden school.jpg
The Linden School
1960s to 1980s

Until the 1960s, Lyttonsville’s general infrastructure was considered severely substandard by MoCo standards – lacking paved public roads, running water and even indoor plumbing. Lyttonsville residents and Civic Association leaders Lawrence Tyson and Gwendolyn Coffield, led an urban renewal effort from the 1960s to the 1980s to change their under-served neighborhood. This urban renewal activism eventually brought paved roads, street lighting and modern water and sewer facilities to the community. Meanwhile, in nearby Forest Glen, the 7-story Americana Finmark condo complex was being completed and nearby farm communities like the Thomas Riley Estate, became large planned single-family communities. Directly in between Lyttonsville and Forest Glen, the Forest Glen Annex began to take shape and  took over parts of the National Park Seminary while expanding the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Navy Medical Research Center. By the 1980s, both Forest Glen and Lyttonsville became established communities where new homes and community centers were part of a vibrant and diverse neighborhood.

Forest Glen Metro Station

By 1978, downtown Silver Spring received its first metro station and with the expansion of the Red Line in 1990, destiny would change Forest Glen forever by establishing its very own metro station. In 1998, the Red Line was extended to Glenmont, decreasing ridership and making Forest Glen one of WMATA’s most underused stations. With the Forest Glen Metro Station being the subject of redevelopment, the station’s 8-acre parking lot and surrounding areas are currently the subject of a new sector plan review in conjunction with neighboring Montgomery Hills.

IMG_3803
Forest Glen Station’s 8-acre parking lot and future redevelopment site.
Lyttonsville and the Purple Line

By the late 1990s, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) began to study the need for an east to west mass transit system inside the Capitol Beltway. After many studies and political transitions, the Purple Line was funded and approved in 2015 with work  expected to start in 2016 and operations beginning in 2022. Lyttonsville’s Sector Plan includes two Purple Line stops, one at Brookville Rd. and the other at 16th St and Spring St. Both sites have substantial redevelopment opportunities and are the subject of current redevelopment proposals and rezoning.

proposed stop

In Part 2 of this series – FFG will explore how the future of the Lyttonsville and Forest Glen are interconnected and what this inter-connectivity means for potential redevelopment and the greater Silver Spring area as whole.

Stay tuned!

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Neighborhoods Ready for Change -Forest Glen & Lyttonsville -Part 1

  1. Dear Pratap Verma, Thank you for this tersely written aided by historical photo BLOG comparing and contrasting the Forest Glen neighborhood with the Lyttonsville neighborhood over 1 &1/2 centuries. Please take note their histories are quite distinct as neighborhoods due to legally separated, formally segregated residential communities until1950’s and 60’s. Lyttonsville’s1960’s renewal and upgrade in basic infrastructure and utilities was a direct result of early 1960’s Supreme Court decision to eliminate scourge of segregated housing, and Great Society/MOCO investments to upgrade minority housing, This was NOT Urban Renewal. Lyttonsville was a ‘village’ transformed into a suburban neighborhood, and by working with adjacent neighborhoods surrounding the Lyttonsville/Rosemmary Hills Local suburban Park created in the early 1960’s, became a leading part of the first racially integrated community in Montgomery County, MD – we call it ‘Greater Lyttonsville’ that consistently champions progressive educational and socio-economic improvement policies, diversity, and caring values.
    While Forest Glen and nearby Linden are linked by Linden Lane north of the Army installation, Lyttonsville neighborhoods are linked by Lyttonsville Road. But, M-NCPPC Planning Board is attempting to eliminate Greater Lyttonsville and replace it with very dense apartments and mixed use urbanization Sector Plan supposedly because of a small Light Rail Station coming to Brookville Road, while Forest Glen has been turned into built out suburb with new homes on the old Seminary land, and deliberately excluded by Planning Board from its natural (Rock Creek Park, etc.) geographical linkage to Greater Lyttonsville – curiously G.L. Sector Plan tries (unsuccessfully to tie this suburban neighborhood to high rise apartment complexes off 16th St with its own future Light Rail Station.
    Discrimination continues in new and underhanded forms – called ‘Long-Range Planning’ an oxymoron.
    Joel Teitelbaum, Greater Lyttonsville.

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    • Thanks Joel! Yes – while FG & GL have a similar beginning – they definitely have evolved differently over the years. With transit orientated development occurring – both neighborhoods will be facing similar challenges and issues in the future. Both GL and FG have spectacular locations – making it very attractive for some potential new use. Hopefully the planning board can work with the community to address some of these concerns and create a future for GL that reflects the neighborhood consensus and for future growth.

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  2. Partak, Thanks for your encouragement. I agree with most of what you say above, EXCEPT – “making it very attractive for some potential new use”. We would rather not be so “attractive” to Planning Board’s ongoing and increasingly desperate efforts to literally “Force” NEW LAND-USE on Greater Lyttonsville by means of HUUUGE densification and mixed-use with commerical square-footage, using stealthy re-zoning trickery. True, both of our adjacent neighborhoods will be affected by so-called TOD {transit-oriented development} – an empty buzzword of ‘slipperiest’ kind to justify almost anything that unethical Planners may wish for. Forest Glen will likely remain a residential suburban upscale community now that it has been ‘built-out’ on former Seminary land. But, what Planning Board wants to impose on our residential/small business community is much worse than TOD —

    ROT = Redevelopment-Oriented Transit – accurately describes the goals of Sector Planning in Greater Lyttonsville. TOD and “Connectivty” are ‘double-speak’ for Planners’ until-recently ulterior motives. This acronym I dubbed ROT means mis-using the advent of a ‘glorified’ TRAM light rail as a ‘fig-leaf’ excuse for Over-Reach: gross densification and urbanization of a small, modest suburban enclave- the real Greater Lyttonsville. Light Rail transit is not that new (Purple Line’s design uses off-the-shelf old DC-electrical power for traction, a safety-compromised, out-dated transportation technology no longer built in Western Europe – which invented Light Rail as we know it. Yet the Purple Line is ballyhooed as ‘high tech’ – soon to be constructed at ‘humongous’ cost to taxpayers, then operated as a 36-year long exclusive (guaranteed profitable) Public-Private Partnership contract. Watch Out!

    In fact, the already out-moded, quite small-scale Purple Line E-W Light Rail does not actually threaten small residential communities like Greater Lyttonsville and others in suburban parts of Silver Spring. It could have been a transit benefit. The real menaces are ‘greedy’ government institutions in cozy arrangements with corporate Real Estate owners and go-go Developer companies that now have the upper hand in Montgomery County. For example, look at what Planning Board is doing to urbanize and densify Westbard – which has no ‘Mass Transit’ TOD excuse.
    The emerging TOD urbanizing redevelopment onslaught is led and maneuvered by ideological New URBANIST zealots at Planning Board and other ‘high’ places in County Government. Regardless of context, they deploy a pre-conceived ‘cookie-cutter’ AGENDA to transform dozens of down-county free-standing legal suburbs into mere de-facto urbanized attachments to CBDs like Silver Spring. If approved by County Council and Executive, Greater Lyttonsville’s history will become ‘dead’ historical images of the past, rather than a living history continuing into the future.

    How can you and your BLOG help us, your long-term neighbors, overcome this kind of destructive centralized planning scheme? We have proposed moderate forms of redevelopment/renewal of garden-apartments along Lyttonsville Road to Sector Planners in open-minded response to their public requests for so-called “transparent collaboration with the community” – to virtually no avail. ‘Schemers’ are pretending to be Planners! They first promised to perform detailed research on residential demographics and environment which they would try to sustain – they never did this research and Planning Department has no competent applied demographer on staff or consultants who are capable of doing so. They made a real mess of their ‘Demographic Chapter’ in G.L. Sector Plan, claiming that our community is composed mainly of young single Millenials without children at home, and has a dearth of resident Senior Citizens – in reality the very opposite is true. Planners say that we need many more small-size apartment units because of heavy demand for this kind of rental housing from young adults and ageing in place Seniors who would “flock” to move in here once Purple Line begins operating.

    Planners committed publicly to accomodate flexibly to community needs and well-being. But, since the beginning of 2015 they have simply gone over to the ‘Dark Side’. Planning Staff (and Planning Director) – constantly pressured by Planning Board Chairman -repeatedly dissimulate and evade involvement in real community collaboration. Instead they force through last-minute major changes in the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan ‘Working Draft’ just before sending it to Planning Board for approval without consulting our community – that double and triple total numbers of new small-sized apartment units and pushes thru mixed commercial square footage concentrated mainly in our small residential neighborhoods. Sadlly, their betrayal of historical values means the 1960’s renewed and upgraded Lyttonsville African-Amerian (now fully integrated) neighborhood will take the heaviest densification hit.

    It is literally SHAMEFUL, probably involves obscured forms of hidden corruption – Montgomery County style! Planners propagandize with glossy documents full of idealized photos of high-quality neighborhoods and new public facilities; they use progressive-sounding ‘concepts’ like Green-spaces and ‘Connectivity’ to extract and transfer to private Real Estate corporations crucial public goods and community assets – including several acres of current Local Park’s forested and recreational land that just happens to be located next to garden-style apartment complexes and fronts directly on Lyttonsville Road, for example. Such high Market-value land areas are currently in use or need Park Department improvements. Instead, the land is to b transformed into totally fungible $$$$ Windfalls for corporate Real Estate owners – supposedly to ‘incentivise’ (induce) corporate private investment in more and more redevelopment along Lyttonsville Road. These tear-down and rebuild actions will inevitably displace entire families of low/moderate income renters, hard-working parents with children. Does Sector Plan include methods to help displaced families adapt and find replacement housing. NO and NO!

    Planners tried repeatedly to take by devious re-zoning/Eminent Domain several single family homes in Lyttonsvile/other neighborhoods for private redevelopment. They proposed putting in two new cut-through roads traversing (and thus ruining) Local Park, and cut-thru streets next to DOT ROWs on suburban street segments next to the Park. They said this is aimed at improving internal vehicular circulation – yet specific cut-thru streets chosen are intended as thruways to State highways and County bridges to let congested vehicular traffic on E-W Highway, Georgia Ave. use them to cut thru our Streets during daily Rush Hours, etc. AND SO IT GOES……

    Do you want to hear more of this ‘Planning’ horror-story with facts and figures?
    If so, come to the ‘Make-Over Montgomery 3 (MM3) Conference at U of Maryland College Park and Silver Spring Civic Center on May 4-6, 2016. I will make a presentation on “Equity for Suburban Communities impacted by the Purple Line”. Free, Open Registration for MM3 is On-Line. Check it out. Spread the word.

    Regards, Joel T.

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    • Thanks Joel! You’ve put a lot into this one comment so I won’t be able to address every issue but I do have some thoughts. At this point we do know that the Purple Line is happening and now is the time to get the best zoning and planning for Lyttonsville that addresses present concerns AND takes into account the future/next generation. Lyttonsville is a special neighborhood and many areas of DC would be envious to be in such proximity to transit, great parks/schools and all inside the beltway. I will definitely try to shed some light on some of these issues and hope it resonates with some of our readers!

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  3. […] SHA’s Montgomery Hills Project hopes to tackle these issues while giving the area an aesthetic boost. The Montgomery Hills section (the area between Forest Glen on the north-side and 16th street on the south) has been the topic of many redesign conversation over the past several years, including recent news that its master plan will be consolidated with Forest Glen’s own master plan. According to M-NCPPC, Forest Glen’s master plan review should begin later this year after Lyttonsville’s plan is finalized.  […]

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