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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Old Town College Park Historic District
Inventory No.: PG:66-42
Date Listed: 12/4/2012
Location: College Park, Prince Georges County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1889-1965
Architect/Builder: Architects: Samuel W. Curriden, Henry Wright Cutler, John O. Johnson, Elmore Power, and R. Webster Ross
Description: The Old Town College Park Historic District, developed primarily between 1889 and 1950, is a residential subdivision located in Prince George's County, eight miles northeast of Washington, D.C. The 125-acre suburban neighborhood was designed to attract middle- and upper-middle-income residents. Accordingly, it was strategically located between the Washington and Baltimore Turnpike (U.S. Route 1) and the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad, with the Maryland Agricultural College (now the University of Maryland) to the immediate north. The area developed gradually, with the greatest period of development beginning in the 1920s and subsiding with the end of World War II in 1945. As a result, the architecture reflects the fashionable designs of several periods, beginning with the Queen Anne style of the late Victorian era and moving to the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Craftsman styles of the early- to mid-20th century. The most popular forms are the American Foursquare, Cape Cod, bungalow, and two-story house with side-gabled roof. The strong influences of the Modern Movement are illustrated by the ranch and split-foyer houses. These single-family dwellings stand alongside low-rise garden apartment complexes, multi-family dwellings, and university-affiliated fraternity and sorority houses. As the architectural styles became more vernacular, ornamentation and stylistic expression was exhibited solely through the building materials like rock-faced concrete blocks, formed stone, brick veneers, aluminum siding, vertical-board siding, and asbestos siding. These materials were, for the most part, made popular by wartime shortages and/or production innovations. The residential neighborhood is supported by a Gothic Revival-style church, an altered fire station, and few commercial buildings, most of which have been rehabilitated to serve as housing. The modest wood-frame post office and B&O train station that served the neighborhood when platted in 1889 have since been replaced with a modern brick-veneered post office and Metrorail station. Significance: Old Town College Park, a cohesive residential subdivision that developed in the late 19th century through the mid 20th century, exemplifies the railroad, streetcar, and early automobile suburbs that emerged in the Washington metropolitan area during this time. The neighborhood's evolution illustrates the gradual transformation of Prince George's County from a semi-rural landscape dominated by farms in the late 19th century into a thriving commuter suburb of Washington, D.C., in the 20th century. Platted in 1889 by real estate developers John O. Johnson and Samuel W. Curriden on farmland historically associated with the wealthy and influential Stier and Calvert families, the 125-acre neighborhood of College Park was laid out specifically to attract middle- and upper-middle-income residents, and persons associated with the nearby Maryland Agricultural College (later University of Maryland). The development of the subdivision, inextricably tied to its strategic location between the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad to the east and the Washington and Baltimore Turnpike to the west, rapidly grew with the introduction of the streetcar line that traversed the neighborhood in the beginning of the 20th century and heightened with the marked expansion of the University of Maryland in the second quarter of the 20th century. As the principal subdivision planned and developed near the college, Old Town College Park exists today as one of the first successful commuter suburbs located along the B&O Railroad and Washington and Baltimore Turnpike in Prince George's County. With the period of greatest residential development beginning in the 1920s and subsiding with the end of World War II, Old Town College Park consists of buildings that reflect the periods in which they were erected, illustrating fashionable styles, forms, and materials. The variety of architectural styles found within the neighborhood included Queen Anne and Colonial Revival, as well as later designs and forms such as the American Foursquare, Cape Cod, and bungalow. To meet the needs of the burgeoning University of Maryland, residential buildings for the school's fraternal organizations and modestly sized apartment complexes were constructed, further uniting the neighborhood and the university. These university-maintained buildings, generally occupying large lots with landscaped yards, illustrate many of the architectural fashions presented by their single-family residential neighbors, but on a much grander and more imposing scale. Today, Old Town College Park presents a well-defined and singular neighborhood characterized by landscaped streets and well-built, freestanding single-family dwellings, garden apartments, and university housing. The primary period of significance for the Old Town College Park is 1889, when Johnson and Curriden platted the neighborhood, to 1950. This captures the development of the suburban neighborhood from its establishment as a railroad suburb to its greatest period of growth as a streetcar and automobile suburb of Washington, D.C. The second period of significance, extending from 1935 to 1965, captures the contribution of the University of Maryland to the neighborhood.
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