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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg, 08/23/2003
Takoma Park Historic District
Inventory No.: M: 37-3, PG:65-12
Date Listed: 7/16/1976
Location: Takoma Park, Montgomery County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1883-1920s
Description: Takoma Park Historic District was platted in 1883 by developer Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, and promoted for its natural environment and healthy setting. Originally an early railroad suburb, the opening of streetcar lines led to the expansion of the district in the early 20th century. Takoma Park houses built between 1883 and 1900 were fanciful, turreted, multi-gabled affairs of Queen Anne, Stick Style, and Shingle Style influence. These first houses were substantial residences with spacious settings. Lots were deep and houses were set at least 40 feet from the street. By 1886, Takoma Park had a post office and a new railroad station, and the town's population had quadrupled by 1893. The start of streetcar service along Carroll Avenue in 1893 made the adjacent areas more attractive for residential development, leading to new subdivisions. The inexpensive electric streetcar, the availability of low-cost house plans and kit houses in combination with smaller lot sizes made homeownership in Takoma Park possible for individuals with more modest income levels than during the previous period. By 1922, the population soared to 4,144, making Takoma Park the tenth largest incorporated town in Maryland. The houses built in Takoma Park during the period between 1900 and 1930 reveal changing American tastes in house design from the elaborate ornamentation of the late-19th century dwellings to more practical, simplified designs. Many of these early-20th century houses reflect the aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which emphasized the inherent nature of the building materials and structural elements for ornamentation. Similarly, they reflect a social trend towards a more informal, unpretentious style of living. Scores of Bungalows, and Craftsman-style houses and catalog-order houses were built in this era. After the turn of the 20th century, schools and libraries began to blossom, and several such community service buildings remain, although with new uses. Takoma Park's commercial districts retain their original early-20th century character. Most of these buildings are 1-2 story brick structures with simple ornamentation, although a few display characteristics of such styles as Art Deco and Tudor Revival. Significance: The Takoma Park Historic District, divided into two sections, is a residential community founded in the early 1880s which retains the original relationship of suburban structures to each other and to the town as a whole. The intentions of the town's founder, B.F. Gilbert, to create a sylvan suburb within easy reach of Washington, D.C., have continued to the present day. The district is in two parts in order to isolate those areas of Takoma Park which best represent the historic character of the town. The individual structures possess a sense of cohesiveness of design expressed in the rhythm established by the large lot sizes in relation to the buildings on them; in the vernacular expression of the popular architectural styles of the late 19th through early 20th centuries, including Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, and bungalow styles, in the predominance of wood as the principal building material in both shingle and clapboard exteriors, in the historical associations of Takoma Park with the American suburban movement as well as with the Seventh Day Adventist Church who chose Takoma Park for its headquarters in 1903, and, finally, the integrity of the district derives from an intangible impact of time and place on visitors.
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