Category Archives: Historic preservation

Peerless Rockville Brunch Starts New Year

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Today’s Peerless Rockville Brunch at Glenview Mansion was packed with lots of members, friends, residents, and community leaders.  Mayor Marcuccio was joined by Rockville City Councilmembers Bridget Newton, Mark Pierzchala, and Tom Moore; Montgomery County Council by Phil Andrews and Hans Riemer; Maryland State Delegate Kumar Barve and Luis Simmons; and Maryland State Senator Jennie Forehand.  Everyone was generous with their potluck dish and I regretfully made it to the dessert table long after Brigitta Mullican’s famous Christmas cookies had been devoured.  During the presentation, Peerless Rockville noted the important achievement of this last year was the designation of Glenview as an city landmark and that this year they’ll be focusing on simplifying the historic designation process in the city.

Rockville’s Veterans Remembered

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Memorial Day, Remembrance Day, Decoration Day.  The name has changed over the decades but it still has the same meaning–a day set aside to remember those who died in service to the United States.  Rockville has many of those people with us from the days of the American Revolution to the present day and a quiet way to remember them is to visit the many historic cemeteries found throughout the city.  The epitaths carved in stone or the flags pushed into the ground mark those who served, and you’ll find streets and bridges named in honor of some of them. Those who know our nation’s history can easily recognize the meaning of a date and place, such as France 1918 or Burma 1945.  In others, you are reminded of the complexity of life, with soldiers who fought each other in Civil War now silently sharing the same earth or two brothers who leave to fight in the same war, but only one returns.  These places are worth preserving because of the memories and lessons they contain.  These pictures from the Rockville Cemetery on Baltimore Road in Twinbrook are just a glimpse of what’s available in these quiet places.

“Choice Hotels Lane” a Bad Choice for Rockville

Choice Hotels Lane?

Choice Hotels International is proposing to move their world headquarters to downtown Rockville but it includes a request to rename “Middle Lane” to “Choice Hotels Lane.” Really, this is no April Fool’s Joke–in a letter to the City of Rockville on March 11, Dan Slear of Choice Hotels International stated,  “To clarify, Choice requests to change East Middle Lane in its entirety to Choice Hotels Lane.”   It’ll be considered at the April 13, 2011 Planning Commission Meeting–but if it happens, the joke will be on us.

Although the name change was proffered as an incentive by the City of Rockville (really? really??), the staff report to the Planning Commission mentioned several concerns:

  1. it raised eyebrows at the Emergency Communications Center and the Montgomery-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission, who not only were concerned about confusion by emergency responders (are we going to the hotel or the street?) but thought it odd that we’d rename a street after a company.
  2. it changes the name of this street three times within a three block stretch–West Middle Lane, Choice Hotels Lane, and Park Road–in downtown.  Boy, that’ll help people find their way around downtown.
  3. downtown businesses, such as Gordon Biersch and HSBC Bank, who would be effected by the name change haven’t had sufficient time to respond, but I’m guessing they don’t want to change their neutral address to one that advertises another business.
  4. it changes the name of an historic street, indeed, the name of a street that’s been part of downtown Rockville since 1803, when the first map of Rockville was drawn.  Let’s see, which has the better track record?  Middle Lane has been around for more than 200 years while Choice Hotels has been around since 1981.

I’ll add a couple of my concerns: Continue reading →

Exploring Rockville’s Downtowns on May 7

I’ll be leading a 1.5-hour walking tour of Rockville’s downtowns for Peerless Rockville on Saturday, May 7 at 10 am.  Wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for the weather, and consider enjoying lunch afterwards (unfortunately, some of the tour is not accessible to persons with limited mobility).  Space is limited so please register in advance with Peerless Rockville.

Historic Designation Process Confounds Council Once Again

The City of Rockville’s process for designating historic landmarks has confused the city leaders and staff once again.  For many years, the process has vexed property owners, preservationists, neighbors, staff, and city officials, despite continual calls for reform from the Historic District Commission.  It’s frustrating and costs time and money, and yet, here was another discussion about it at the March 14, 2011 meeting.  It borders on the surreal, so I’m providing a transcript so you can see it for yourself:

Councilmember Pierzchala:  On next week’s tentative agenda, Item Number 11…this is Glenview Mansion, it’s listed as 45 minutes and I’m not sure why.  I am planning to vote to Authorize to File and get a Public Hearing going, and I’d rather have staff presentations and whoever is for, whoever is against, all at one point, and where we can ask questions, and so I’m just wondering why we need 45 minutes for next week.

City Manager Ullery:  I would agree with you.  I don’t think that item requires 45 minutes.

Mayor Marcuccio:  Well, is there someone who requested 45 minutes?

City Manager Ullery: It probably came in through the agenda from Rec and Parks department.  I think we can probably do it in 20 minutes. Continue reading →

Historic Preservation in Rockville: Myths and Misconceptions

"Is Your Home Historic?", TCA Newsletter, June 2010.

In yesterday’s mail I received the Twinbrook Citizens Association newsletter and noted that President Christina Ginsberg devoted a portion to historic preservation in Rockville in her article, “Is Your Home ‘Historic’?”  As a member of the Historic District Commission (HDC) living in Twinbrook, I appreciate the attention to this long-standing effort in the City of Rockville, but I also want to correct some factual errors and misunderstandings, particularly because they can result in unnecessary conflicts and spread misinformation.   Here are the common myths regarding preservation in Rockville:

1.  If my house is designated, it’ll prevent improvements.  False. In Rockville, owners of historic properties can complete routine repairs and maintenance without review or approval, as long as they replace in kind.  So fix your roof with the same material, it’s okay.  Change from asphalt to slate, it’ll need to be approved by the HDC.  Paint colors are never subject to approval, so if you like yellow and purple stripes, go ahead.  Work on the inside of your house isn’t reviewed by the HDC, so remodel your kitchen and bathroom.  It’s permanent changes to the outside of your house that matter, and even then, if they are thoughtfully designed Continue reading →

New Year Opens in Rockville with a Peerless Brunch

Peerless Rockville Brunch 2010

The Peerless Rockville New Year’s Day Brunch at Glenview Mansion was the first official event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the City of Rockville and everyone enjoyed a beautiful day, a nice mix of members and friends, and of course, lots of good food.  Although it’s a holiday, the event always draws a good crowd of community leaders, including State Senator Forehand; State Delegates Barve, Simmons, and Gilchrist; Rockville Mayor Marcuccio; Rockville Councilmembers Gajewski, Newton, and Pierzchala; and City Clerk Funkhouser.  This year’s event invited people to wear something vintage and among the standouts were Bill Forehand (with a Civil War sailor’s uniform) and Cindy Cotte Griffiths (with an amazing vintage dress–satin and velvet?).   Peerless also encouraged everyone to submit their nominations for Places That Matter in Rockville (standing or not) and Peerless will be using it as a guide for events and activities for the upcoming year (Phyllis Marcuccio was actively supporting the Pump House).  Glenview Mansion is an ideal place to hold the brunch–it’s almost perfectly suited to this type of event–and it was wonderfully decorated for the holidays.  Rockville is very fortunate to have such a marvelous historic venue for community events (so much better than a high school gym!).  If you want to see a photoalbum from the day, click on the picture or caption.

Walking Tour of African American Places in Rockville

In October, the City of Rockville unveiled the new markers for the historic places around downtown associated with African American history.  It was a beautiful day and a long trail of people followed along to visit the many sites, so if you missed it, Channel 11 now has it available online (it won’t be the same as doing it yourself, but you can get a sense of the fun we had that day).

Achieving Affordable Housing in Rockville

The deadline for the questionnaire for Community Ministries of Rockville passed on October 15, so I thought you’d be interested in my response (and their intriguing questions):

Question:  Affordable housing is a top priority because it is good for business, it attracts younger people to an aging community, and it improves the quality of life for everyone. What do you propose be done during the next term to increase affordable housing in Rockville?

Answer:  Diversity, including a range of incomes, is essential to a healthy community. However, I support the dispersion of affordable housing in every neighborhood rather than concentration in high density apartment dwellings. The City Code currently requires affordable housing units in large developments, but this does not go far enough. Because of the high cost of land and construction, I support in-fill housing in alternative formats, including granny apartments and duplex houses, as well as leveraging financial incentives available through historic preservation in older neighborhoods. Furthermore, I support property tax credits for persons with low and moderate income of any age, not just seniors.

Follow-up:  “Affordable housing” is controversial because some people believe that it attracts crime and reduces property values.  What do you think?

African American historic places highlighted in Rockville

Tour of the Jerusalem Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Tour of the Jerusalem Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

The City of Rockville has been working for nearly a decade to recognize the history of African American in the city and yesterday marked a major accomplishment with the installation of several interpretive markers in downtown.  Many people who shop, work, and live in the Town Square don’t realize it was once a thriving African American community which was demolished during the 1960s and 1970s due to urban renewal.  Today, very little remains and the plaques remind us of how much was lost–and also that African Americans have a long and distinguished history in Rockville.

Yesterday afternoon the City of Rockville hosted a tour on an incredibly beautiful fall day to visit some of these places and to see the new plaques, including Continue reading →