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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
College Heights Estates Historic District
Inventory No.: PG:66-30
Date Listed: 12/12/2012
Location: Hyattsville/Town of University Park, Prince Georges County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1938-1960
Description: The suburban neighborhood of College Heights Estates contains a noteworthy concentration of imposing mid-20th century residential buildings. The single-family dwellings, set on expansive landscaped lots along winding and dead-end streets, reflect fashionable interpretations of domestic architectural styles from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. The predominant architectural style present is Colonial Revival, with the dominant form during the pre-World War II period of development being those closely associated with the style. The influences of the Italian Renaissance, Tudor Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Streamline Moderne styles were also noted, although minimally, and often in conjunction with the Colonial Revival style. The influences of the Modern Movement shaped the building forms of the post-war period of development, and affected fenestration, exterior cladding, massing, and most significantly the house plan--both exterior and interior. Early domestic forms include the Cape Cod and rectangular box, which led to the ranch house, split level, and minimal traditional forms after 1945. Although these popular forms were designed and promoted for their economies of design and construction, examples in College Heights Estates were typically larger than the national norm and incorporated landscape and/or picture windows that further enhanced the spaciousness of the house by providing views of expansive yards and mature trees. Popular in the early 20th century, the landscape window is composed of a large, fixed pane of glass at the center flanked on either side by casements or decorative muntins. Often called a "cottage window," the landscape window followed the example of the Queen Anne-style window of the late 19th century by providing an unobstructed center pane, while still preserving the muntins that were popularly embraced as "part of the infrastructure of perceptual framing." The succeeding picture window, gaining popularity by the 1940s, abandoned the framing muntins in favor of a larger plate glass window that fused outdoors and indoors, making even the smallest of rooms deceptively larger. The majority of the single-family dwellings in the community were designed by staff architects of the real estate development company, College Heights Estates, Inc. The company established fourteen detailed covenants related to the siting of houses and garages, fencing and walls, grading and slopes, and building uses, requiring design review by College Heights Estates, Inc. for new construction or changes to designs with regard to cost, type, size, materials, color scheme, site plans, and all exterior details and specifications. Therefore, whether constructed within the first area platted in 1938 or in one of the last sections platted in 1960, the houses of College Heights Estates collectively exhibit compatibility of style, massing, scale, materials, setback, and setting. Significance: College Heights Estates is an excellent illustration of a residential automobile suburb in Prince George's County that documents the evolution of mid-20th Century architectural trends. In 1938, the first of the 18 subdivision plats making up this cohesive neighborhood, which was formerly part of the Eversfield farm, was recorded in response to the housing needs of an expanding suburban population. The historic district is composed of properties located within the unincorporated neighborhood of College Heights Estates (subdivided as Plats 1-5 and 9-18) and properties located within the municipal boundaries of the incorporated Town of University Park (subdivided as Plats 6-8). The suburban plan of College Heights Estates was intended to accommodate the automobile, which directly affected the designs of streets, houses, garages, and yards, and the neighborhood's location along highly traveled arterial roads. Some of the houses were speculatively built as models by College Heights Estates, Inc., on expansive landscaped lots and with the newest modern amenities and conveniences to accommodate the discriminating tastes of more affluent homebuyers. Additionally, unlike many contemporaneous neighborhoods in Prince George's County, a number of property owners employed regionally prominent architects to design their houses, thus deviating from the common styles and forms ceased altogether during World War II because of the shortage of building materials, new construction in the late 1940s to the early 1960s ultimately created an automobile suburb composed of impressive mid-20th century dwellings notably larger than most contemporaneous suburban neighborhoods. All designs, whether the work of the development company. As a result, whether constructed within the first platted area in 1938 or in one of the last sections in 1960, the houses of College Heights Estates display a compatibility of style, massing, scale, materials, and siting that allows for a comprehensive study of the evolution of pre- and post-World War II residential architecture in a local context. Consequently, College Heights Estates has achieved significance as the product of the mid-20th century with individual components combined to create a distinguishable automobile suburb with high artistic value. The district is both architecturally significant and historically significant for its association with community planning and development.
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