Category Archives: History

Happy New Year Bethesda

Dear readers,

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year!

I have noticed that many pundits, writers etc. have marked the change from 2016-2017 by noting how terrible the last year was and how relieved they are to move into 2017.

My take is slightly different. It is true that there were elections both in the US and around the world that seemed to be filled with negativity but, hidden in plain sight, so many positive things happened last year. Many of these are global and big picture in nature – US carbon emissions dropped, a ninth planet was discovered and Colombia moved closer to peace.

But, in some ways, of equal significance were the millions of positive things that happened much closer to home.

Let me give you three with a local twist:

1. At a local and global level – Bethesda’s NIH started Zika vaccine trials and showed an ability to assist infected people.

2. Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky dominated the Rio Olympic games.

3. Bethesda Green and Bethesda Magazine awarded prizes to groups of individuals and businesses for their contribution to greening our community.

Please email me your thoughts on the best things that happened in 2016 – from the personal to the local to the global.

We will feature the best ones – my email, as ever, raj@rajabout.com

 

 

Repost from summer 2010: (Remains of) Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad

Ventured into Washington, DC yesterday after deciding to walk the Capital Crescent Trail and take advantage of the fantastic weather.  Admittedly the starting point wound up being the metro station rather than the trail, but while we’re on the subject of abandoned railroads, I thought I’d post these items that might be of interest to the local history fanatics out there!

While walking through Georgetown, we stumbled across this old railroad trestle just west of the university towards Foxhall Road:

railroad

Clearly an old railroad bridge, some post-walk research told me this was the remains of the Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad.  Not strictly a Bethesda issue, although the railroad, also known as the “Cabin John Trolley” (where it eventually terminated, never actually being extended to Great Falls!), ferried passengers through Glenn Echo, where they could board a Bethesda-bound streetcar.  We covered this previously in relation to the Bethesda North Trail (read more here).

Further exploration in the woods along Foxhall turned up further remains, while the old track bed was still clearly visible across the road.  The old track bed today is a pleasant right of way that is well preserved in certain sections along the route.  This is also not the only trestle that remains intact, with others further down the line in Maryland.

railroad 2

The Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad was incorporated in 1892 and opened in 1895, beginning in Georgetown at the junction of 36th and Prospect Streets.  It was bought by the Washington Railway and Electric Company in 1902 and finally dismantled during the 1960s.  Running along a private right of way, the journey must have been extremely pretty on its vantage point along the hillside above the Capital Crescent Trail.  Original photos here.

Grosvenor Heights

Friends,

As noted yesterday I visited the site for a new town home development in Bethesda (on Grosvenor lane) called Grosvenor Heights. It is a 33 acre space tucked away close to Grosvenor metro/ 270 access and reasonably close to Wildwood Shopping Center.

The 33 acre space is interesting because it includes a historic property or two + a small office building that seems to be reserved for environmental orgs. It is surrounded by trees and vegetation (and apparently their are efforts to work on increasing native vegetation).

The town home community itself is just being built. The properties will range in price from 1.1 million (approx) to just under 1.4 million (approx) and will have a lot of terrific features including roof terraces and elevators.

I had a very good discussion with the staff there and am happy to set up a private hard hat tour/ viewing if that is of interest to readers of this blog. As ever, you can email me raj@rajabout.com or call at 240 486 3921

I took a few snaps to showcase the work so far and also a map of the area:

 

grosvenor heights 1 grosvenor heights 3

Capital Crescent Trail a Little Bit of History

Just wanted to repost this for our new readers:(Images: Environmental Protection Agency, public domain; APK licensed under cc-sa-3.0)

Long-term Bethesda residents may remember the Capital Crescent Trail in its previous incarnation as the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O).  It’s hard today to imagine heavy freight trains passing through the buzzing yet relaxed Bethesda downtown, emerging around Barnes & Noble before crossing Woodmont and trundling past Bethesda Row Cinema in the direction of Silver Spring.  But as recently as 1985, trains regularly rumbled along our favourite local trail.

Building began on the Georgetown Branch in 1892 and reached Chevy Chase the same year.  The railroad was originally intended to cross the Potomac River just north of the DC line and connect with the B&O-controlled Virginia Midland Railroad at Fairfax.

But financial problems forced a halt to proceedings and the B&O lost control of the Virginia Midland Railroad.  Revised plans on a less grand scale finally saw the line completed as far as Georgetown by 1910.  Trains ran along the route for the next 75 years, serving the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), the Washington Mill and Federal government buildings.  But with the changing nature of Georgetown’s historic waterfront and a shift away from industry, the line became obsolete and finally closed in 1985.

In 1988, the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Silver Spring and the DC line was purchased by the Montgomery County Government under the Trails System Act of 1968.  Two years later, the National Park Service purchased the remaining 4.3 miles of the right-of-way between Georgetown and the DC/Maryland boundary and the Capital Crescent Trail as we know it was born.  On the DC side it was developed as a component of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

The abandoned Arizona Avenue Railroad Bridge was utilized and volunteers built a wooden deck over the structure for walkers and cyclists.  This was replaced with concrete decking two years later and the seven mile paved section of the Capital Crescent Trail from Georgetown to Bethesda was formally dedicated in December 1996.

A further trail bridge was added in 1996 over River Road.  Known as the Dalecarlia Bridge, the structure reused components of an original bridge that carried the Georgetown Branch over the Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad, a now-abandoned streetcar line that, despite its name, never made it as far as Great Falls and came to be known as the Cabin John Trolley.

In June 2000, Montgomery County committed $1.3 million to repair the Rock Creek Trestle, which had been damaged by arson.  The trestle was dedicated on May 31, 2003 and today, if you’re feeling energetic enough, you can begin at Georgetown, lunch in Bethesda and take tea in Silver Spring.  If the improved weather that we’re currently having holds, this could be the perfect weekend stroll.

Darcy’s Store is a weekly feature article about the history of Bethesda

Some Changes in Content at Bethesda Actually

Friends,

I went to a very interesting meeting earlier this week given by the head of the Friends of White Flint. It got into a lot of details about the new development – matters that will certainly impact our community. Further more, it is also clear that parts of this project are likely to incorporate the “Bethesda North” tag and that we may see, over time, an expansion of what we consider Bethesda including this northern section. SO, here at Bethesda Actually we are going to try and cover bits of the Bethesda North development and will make sure that it is tagged as such.
Cheers!

Reposting: A Brief History of the Dalecarlia Tunnel

Just wanted to repost Tom’s earlier story as our site went down Sunday eve and Monday:

dalecarlia-tunnel-georgetown-branch-baltimore-ohio-railroad

In a previous edition of the “Darcy’s Store” column, we wrote about the historic Capital Crescent Trail, well known to Bethesda residents and NW DCers alike as the suburban cycle path that winds its way from Georgetown to Rockville, MD. In this post we thought we’d zero in on the old Dalecarlia Tunnel, located just down the line from Bethesda in the Brookmont neighborhood.

Reminder: Bethesda is Part of an Awesome Trolley Trail!

DSCF5044

Have you walked the whole trail? Drop a line and tell the community whether you enjoyed the walk!

Darcy’s Store: The Capital Crescent Trail (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad)

Just wanted to repost this for our new readers:(Images: Environmental Protection Agency, public domain; APK licensed under cc-sa-3.0)

Long-term Bethesda residents may remember the Capital Crescent Trail in its previous incarnation as the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O).  It’s hard today to imagine heavy freight trains passing through the buzzing yet relaxed Bethesda downtown, emerging around Barnes & Noble before crossing Woodmont and trundling past Bethesda Row Cinema in the direction of Silver Spring.  But as recently as 1985, trains regularly rumbled along our favourite local trail.

Building began on the Georgetown Branch in 1892 and reached Chevy Chase the same year.  The railroad was originally intended to cross the Potomac River just north of the DC line and connect with the B&O-controlled Virginia Midland Railroad at Fairfax.

But financial problems forced a halt to proceedings and the B&O lost control of the Virginia Midland Railroad.  Revised plans on a less grand scale finally saw the line completed as far as Georgetown by 1910.  Trains ran along the route for the next 75 years, serving the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), the Washington Mill and Federal government buildings.  But with the changing nature of Georgetown’s historic waterfront and a shift away from industry, the line became obsolete and finally closed in 1985.

In 1988, the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Silver Spring and the DC line was purchased by the Montgomery County Government under the Trails System Act of 1968.  Two years later, the National Park Service purchased the remaining 4.3 miles of the right-of-way between Georgetown and the DC/Maryland boundary and the Capital Crescent Trail as we know it was born.  On the DC side it was developed as a component of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

The abandoned Arizona Avenue Railroad Bridge was utilized and volunteers built a wooden deck over the structure for walkers and cyclists.  This was replaced with concrete decking two years later and the seven mile paved section of the Capital Crescent Trail from Georgetown to Bethesda was formally dedicated in December 1996.

A further trail bridge was added in 1996 over River Road.  Known as the Dalecarlia Bridge, the structure reused components of an original bridge that carried the Georgetown Branch over the Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad, a now-abandoned streetcar line that, despite its name, never made it as far as Great Falls and came to be known as the Cabin John Trolley.

In June 2000, Montgomery County committed $1.3 million to repair the Rock Creek Trestle, which had been damaged by arson.  The trestle was dedicated on May 31, 2003 and today, if you’re feeling energetic enough, you can begin at Georgetown, lunch in Bethesda and take tea in Silver Spring.  If the improved weather that we’re currently having holds, this could be the perfect weekend stroll.

Darcy’s Store is a weekly feature article about the history of Bethesda

Historic Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Open to Visitors

Image by Kmf164

(Image by Kmf164, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Old Georgetown Road will open to visitors for the first time over the weekend of June 24-25 (limited hours).

The cabin in Bethesda, which is the former home of slave Josiah Henson, whose autobiography was the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, was recently purchased by Montgomery County Planning Board.  It will be opened to provide the public with a rare view of the cabin during the county’s Heritage Days event.

Historian CR Gibbs told 9 News: “We have a chance to bring together the strands of farming, of slavery, to tell the interconnected and complex story that has long since been desired to be told.”

Should be a fascinating event!  More here from the Washington Post.

Maryland Day Commemorated!

Maryland Flag

I’ve been out of town for the last week and can’t believe I missed this… Still, better late than never as they say!

March 25th is Maryland Day, commemorating that day in 1634 when settlers first disembarked from two small sailing vessels – the Ark and the Dove – only Maryland soil.

On June 20, 1632, Charles I of England granted a charter authorizing the Maryland settlement to Cecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore.  Lord Baltimore’s brother, Leonard Calvert, lad the settlers on the journey to find their new world.  140 souls departed Cowes on the Isle of Wight on November 22, 1633.  Three days into the voyage a severe storm almost put pay to the expedition, and no trace could be found of the smaller Dove.

But remarkably, while Calvert’s ship, the Ark, was refitting on the island of Barbadoes, the Dove reappeared, having managed to weather the storm.  The travelers continued on and reached Virginia by February 27th.  They reached Maryland shores the following month and after reaching a peaceable accord with the Conoy Indian chief, they continued down the Potomac and disembarked on March 25, henceforth commemorated as Maryland Day.

Find out more about Maryland Day here.