Michael F. Dwyer
Montgomery County Courthouse Historic District
Rockville, Montgomery County
The Montgomery County Courthouse Historic District is focused on what remains of Rockville's old commercial, governmental, and residential center. The district is linked visually and aesthetically by a uniformity of building designs, scale, materials, and setting. The district is characterized also by large trees along the street and surrounding the courthouse. The two courthouses, an 1891 red brick Romanesque Revival structure and a 1931 Neo-classical granite building with a 1960s addition; the 1939 Georgian-styled Post Office of limestone construction; and the 1930 Art Deco stone structure built for the Farmers Banking and Trust Company are boldly proportioned masonry structures in an almost park-like setting with trees and lawn that visually dominate and set the character of the area. The residential section to the south consists of seven late-19th and early-20th century frame Victorian and Georgian or Colonial Revival upper middle income houses that are fairly uniform in scale, materials, and design, and placement along a tree-lined street with brick and concrete sidewalks. A mid-1880s Gothic brick Episcopal church stands at the south end of the residential section. The general historical character of the district along the north end is fragmented because of demolition and new construction but because of the scale and massing of the historic buildings that remain in this section, a sense of time and place from the early to mid 20th century is clearly felt. A bronze statue of a standing soldier with folded arms mounted on a stone base commemorating the Confederate soldier stands near the 1891 courthouse.
The Montgomery County Courthouse Historic District is significant both historically and architecturally. Although modern redevelopment has encroached upon the district and resulted in some fragmentation, the district retains sufficient integrity to reflect the growth and development of Rockville, the seat of Montgomery County, from the mid 19th century to the era of World War II. The district comprises a cohesive collection of civic, commercial, and residential buildings within an area of two city blocks; the close juxtaposition of these various building types is characteristic of small county seats of the period in Maryland and elsewhere, as the establishment of important centers of business and government fostered the development of middle-to-upper-income housing on the immediately adjacent streets. The civic/commercial and residential sections are strongly linked visually and aesthetically, characterized by buildings exemplifying late-19th and early-20th century architectural styles, complementary in design, scale, materials, and setting. The setting is enhanced by mature trees lining the streets and surrounding the courthouse. The focus of the district is the courthouse square, location of governmental activity continuously for 200 years; on this site stand the 1891 and 1931 courthouses, Montgomery County's third and fourth courthouses respectively. The 1891 courthouse, a red brick building designed by prominent Baltimore architect Frank E. Davis, represents the best example of Victorian Romanesque architecture in the county. Its successor is constructed of limestone in the Neoclassical tradition. The district also comprises the First National Bank (formerly Farmers' Banking and Trust Company) building, Rockville's only surviving example of Art Deco influence, and the English Georgian-style Post Office. The 1939 post office is significant as Rockville's first permanent post office building and the last major public edifice constructed in the city prior to World War II. The houses along South Washington Street reflect vernacular Victorian and Revival styles popular around the turn of the 20th century, exemplifying the type of dwelling favored by professionals in the period who chose to reside in close proximity to the civic and commercial center of town.