MoCo History: Dawn of the Automobile in Montgomery County

Automobile in Montgomery County in 1926, courtesy of the Montgomery County Historical Society

Information and photos from: PLACES from the PAST: The Tradition of Gardez Bien in Montgomery County, Maryland by Clare Lise Kelly M-NCPPC , courtesy of Montgomery Planning.

At the turn of the 20th century, the automobile was an expensive novelty for the rich. Two decades later, the availability of mass-produced automobiles led to their widespread use. From 1920 to 1930, the number of registered cars in the nation more than tripled. By the end of that decade, one of every five residents in Montgomery County owned a car. The automobile age brought a new set of building types and development patterns. Builders designed roadside architecture to be recognized from behind the windshield of a moving automobile. Developers subdivided tracts of land away from previously settled railroad and streetcar lines.

SUBURBAN COMMUNITIES IN THE AUTOMOBILE ERA: During the 1930s, Montgomery County’s population rapidly increased as the Federal work force grew under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. During this decade, the population more than doubled, growing from 34,921 to 83,912.60 High demand for housing among Washington workers coupled with increased use of the automobile led to development of new areas of the county. Much of the new development in the years before World War II was located near the District line. Single- family dwellings were the predominant housing type, yet multi-family housing complexes began to emerge.

Garden apartments became a common multi-family housing type in the 1930s. In contrast to towering urban apartments with single entry and long hallways, garden apartments were a smaller-scale complex of three to four story structures. Several entrances in a cluster of buildings helped foster a sense of community, creating a mini-neighborhood. The first garden apartments in the county were the Falkland Apartments, built in 1936 at the intersection of 16th Street and East-West Highway in Silver Spring. Falkland Apartments marked the advent of large-scale community design and building as well as the beginning of unified site planning carefully fit- ted to the terrain. The Colonial-Revival Cupola Building is representa- tive of this apartment complex and typical in its traditional styling of the majority of garden apartments. Less common were modernistic Art Deco style apartments of which Montgomery Arms is a prime example. Designed by Washington architect George T. Santmyers, who specialized in apartment houses, Montgomery Arms showcases modern materials and techniques including glass block, corner windows, and geometric machine-influenced design. The apartments represent the development of Silver Spring as a major suburban center.

As the residential development of Silver Spring grew, the commer- cial district expanded. Throughout the 1920s, a number of substantial new commercial buildings were constructed, primarily along Georgia Avenue. By the 1930s, over sixty stores had opened in Silver Spring and formed an almost continuous ribbon of development. The southeast corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road became the site of one of the most comprehensive and innovative retail developments in the region – the Silver Theatre and Shopping Center.

The Silver Theatre and Shopping Center, which opened in 1938, provides a rare example of an early planned neighborhood shopping center with parking integrated into the complex. This design exemplifies the cultural, economic and social history of Montgomery County and the Washington region in the 20th century as car-oriented shopping complexes replaced smaller-scale commercial development.


Recent Stories

On April 10, 2024, at 10:55 p.m. the Rockville City Police Department responded to a shooting in the 300 block of N. Washington St. RCPD officers located an adult, male…

At the request of the Forest Heights Police Department, the Prince George’s County Police Department is investigating an incident that led to a police officer shooting 35-year-old Jhomari Delevante of…

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released the following statement on Tuesday, April 16 regarding White’s Ferry owners Chuck and Stacy Kuhn offering to donate the ferry to Montgomery County:

The Wendy’s location at 12114 Darnestown Rd. in Gaithersburg will hold a grand re-opening event on Saturday, April 27.

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.



2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES



Subscribe to our mailing list