Agricultural PalimpsestUncovering the legacy of farming in the built environment of Gaithersburg, Maryland
Gaithersburg The City is tightly connected to the Washington, DC metropolitan region. However, it was not developed as a suburb until the second half of the twentieth century. Until then, it was a very rural, agricultural area. Gaithersburg is located in the DC metropolitan area.Founded in 1 802
Predominantly Agricultural Gaithersburg closely corresponds to Keating’s “agricultural settlements” category.Summit Hall Barn The city’s landscape comprises: • Farms • Mills Other institutions: • Rail station • Granary • Cannery A I demonstrate, sometimes the original edifices s are no longer standing, or are fundamentally redeveloped, but names revealing the original purposes of the sites nevertheless remain. Gaithersburg Train Station
Summit Hall Farm Summit Hall Farm occupies a central location in Gaithersburg; it gives its name to a maj road and an elementary school. or Walking in the farm, 1 937• Originally a tobacco plantation Summit Hall Farm today• House constructed between 1 807-1 81 2• Exchanged between the Fulks and DeSellum families• When Ignatius Fulks died, it was sold to Frank Wilcot, who later sold it to the City of Gaithersburg
Summit Hall Farm A it was bought by the City of Gaithersburg, Summit Hall was fter transformed into a large park. Slides in theforeground; barn in thebackground With a water park, too!
Kentlands Farm The Kentlands Farm, first called the Wheatlands by former owner Frederick Tschiffely, was bought by Otis Beall Kent in 1 942. Kent turned the 200 acre estate into a nature reserve. It was annexed in 1 988 by the City of Gaithersburg and sold to developer J A oe lfandre, who established a New Urbanist community there called Kentlands. A aerial view, from the sixties, n of Kent’s wildlife sanctuary on the farmThe Kentlands Mansion, Today, Kentlands houses abuilt by Tschiffely’s son in neo-traditionalist neighborhood1 901
Crown FarmThis centuries old, 1 80-acre farm is presently being razed to make room for the development of a New Urbanist community. The proj is being spearheaded by the same developers ect responsible for the Kentlands neighborhood. The Crown Demolished in 201 0 House, 1 894
Casey Community Center • Casey Barn was built in 1 938 as a dairy barn. • The 60 cows at the dairy barn produced 300 gallons of milk daily, which were sold to the Thompson and Chestnut Farms dairies. • Eugene Casey gave the barn and land to the City of Gaithersburg in 1 971 to be used as a community center. The barn was also used as a platformCasey Community Center today. for political advertising, as seen here.(My mom was married here.)
Mills Because Gaithersburg was such an agricultural town, mills are continuously embedded in the City’s topology. Mills figure prominently in Gaithersburg. Even in cases where they no longer physically exist, their legacy remains, as many roads, schools, and neighborhoods in the City are named after mills. • Clopper Mill (1 777) • Watkins Mill (1 783) • Muncaster Mill (1 820) • Walker’s Mill (1 799) • Goshen Mill (1 737) 201 1 dedication of a plaque marking Muncaster Mill the site of Goshen Mill“People identified with their local community and this local community was not centered on thepost office or the general store or the school, it was centered on the nearest mill.” – SusanSoderberg
Clopper Mill Clopper, the miller, was a leading citizen in Gaithersburg in the mid 1 9th century. He was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Gaithersburg. (A a result, the railway was built right s along his mill.) Both a lake and a heavily trafficked thoroughfare near his mill bear his name, as well as a school named Clopper Mill Elementary.• There has been a mill on site since 1 777.• Clopper built this gristmill in 1 834. He also built a woolen mill.• The mill was destroyed by a fire in 1 947.
Watkins Mill This mill was owned by several millers, but Levi Watkins was the last owner. A long road winding from Route 355 up to Germantown is named after the mill. There is also an elementary and high school named after Watkins Mill—and I attended both! • There was a water-powered grist mill on site since as early as 1 783. • In the 1 800s, the grist and saw mill was run by Levi Snyder and then by Remis Snyder. The road the mill was on was known as Snyder’s Mill Road. • In 1 877, Levi Watkins bought the mill. The road is now known as Watkins Mill Road. • The mill itself burned down in 1 908, and the miller’s house also burned down twelve years later.The mill no longer stands, but aplaque marks its original location.
Railroad Station In 1 873, the B&O Railroad completed the Metropolitan Branch of the network, which connected Gaithersburg to Washington, DC. The arrival of the rails catalyzed the growth of this agricultural town.• The station was built in 1 884.• The railway integrated Gaithersburg in a broad, regional transportation network, allowing farmers to transport goods.• Today, the station functions as a community museum. It also houses three train cars for exhibit.
Bowman Brothers Mill Y another mill was built in Gaithersburg in 1 91 9—but this time, it was strategically et located along the railroad. The Bowman brothers had success with another mill nearby in Germantown and expanded to Gaithersburg. Today the mill has been redeveloped into the award-The old Bowman winning “Granary Row,” whichGristmill, built in 1 91 9, houses a salon, an auto shop,processed feed and and a graphic design businessgrain. It was located directly among others. on the railroad.“Granary Row is an example of how several of the citys former industrial buildings today givea nod to the past while taking a step toward the future.” — Sean Sedam
Thomas & Company Cannery This cannery enabled this very agricultural area to boom, by giving farmers an opportunity to preserve their produce and ship it immediately all across the country. • Started operations in Gaithersburg in 1 91 7 • First and largest vegetable cannery in Montgomery County. • V egetables were brought here from Buckeystown, A damstown, Poolesville, Fairfax, and elsewhere.From the back, located on the railroad • Until after WWII, the cannery was the primary employer in Gaithersburg. Employed more than 200 people directly, and hundreds more migrant workers. • Closed in 1 963.Converted into an office building
Thomas & Company Cannery Inside the Cannery today
Gaithersburg todayToday, the City’s focus is largely on redevelopment, as we saw, to some extent, in the repurposing of Kentlands Farm, the Cannery, and the Bowman Mill. Nevertheless, Gaithersburg’s agricultural heritage evinces itself, through remnants in the built environment. (I am, after all, a graduate of Watkins Mill High School!) The service sector playsThe area rebranded itself the a large role in“technology corridor”—with the Gaithersburg’s economy Cars are the predominant form ofarrival of NIST and IBM. transportation