MoCo History: The Town of Garrett Park

by MCS Staff
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Garrett Park is a small, incorporated town in Montgomery County located in a sylvan setting next to Rock Creek Park. Garrett Park was incorporated in 1898 and has an active town government and resident-directed  organizations. The town is laid out as an English village with winding, tree-lined streets and a variety of housing types. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and as an Arboretum (established in 1977), has a  Arboretum Committee to manage the health and variety of trees. In 1962, by referendum Garrett Park became the first Nuclear Free Zone in the United States.  Below you’ll see a brief history of the town leading up to 1898 By Paul Edlund, former mayor of Garrett Park (1990-1996), via the official website of the Town of Garrett Park

By the time of its incorporation as a Town in 1898, Garrett Park was a busy small town with a population of over a hundred and containing more than 30 buildings. Much of life centered around the trains and the station, the railroad being the only public transportation in the early years. The trains to and from Washington were numerous, as many as nine a day into the city, with train service on Saturdays and Sundays.

Penn PlaceIt seems clear that through much of the 1890s, the sounds of construction, hammering and sawing and all that went with them, continued unabated in Garrett Park. During the 1890s, 14 houses as well as a one-room schoolhouse were constructed on Kenilworth Avenue, making this street the most heavily populated at the time, being the location of nearly half the houses in Town. Seven houses were built on Waverly, six on Montrose, five on Keswick, and one lone house, long known as the Cleveland house, on Rokeby.

In 1893, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad build a train station in Town, one quite similar to that built in Kensington in 1890, the only one that still stands today. The sights and sounds of horse-drawn wagons, bringing from the B&O siding the building materials to be converted to homes, must also have been pervasive. The unloading of freight cars on the Town siding proceeded at a regular rate. A load of coal weighing 31,984 pounds was delivered on November 3, 1891: freight charge $9.60. Two days later, 192 feet of lumber weighing 600 pounds was unloaded: freight charge 30¢! Facing the Garrett Park station was the building now called Penn Place, but which was at that time called Hardesty and Crehan’s store. The first telephone in Town was installed there in 1896, and according to the Montgomery Press, “the Park people have already begun to realize what a convenience it is and how it fills a long felt want.”

The Garrett Park Chapel (today’s Town Hall) was opened in July 1897. The Montgomery Press had reported that the building was to cost $1,100, stating “we are anticipating a very pretentious building.” We wouldn’t agree with such a statement today, of course!

By 1898 the Town had a solid architectural base with its Victorian homes. Trees were not as evident as they would become, although the planting of new ones went forward with considerable zeal. Today, people and buildings have increased tenfold, and there seems little more room for growth. The Town remains a small town, both in its size and atmosphere, much to our satisfaction and great pleasure.

Video Walking Tour of  Garrett Park:  Paths to the Present, Montgomery Connections History Project.  (By Montgomery County Cable, run time is 15.02 minutes)

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