Thursday, February 24, 2011

Silver Spring Proper, 1949

Where exactly does Silver Spring begin and end? The county and the US Postal Service don't do a particularly good job of defining what is or is not Silver Spring, and broad swaths of MoCo are often generically referred to as "Silver Spring" (or "Springs", of course). I once attempted to illustrate my definition of Silver Spring by sketching boundaries on a county map, but I could never really decide whether certain neighborhoods should be in or out, and my borders ended up looking like some absurdly gerrymandered voting district.

Interestingly, way back in 1949 the Montgomery County Council did explicitly define Silver Spring's borders. The following map of Silver Spring was published in the July 24, 1949 issue of the Washington Post to accompany an article about the large volume of housing construction underway here at the time.

According to the map's caption:
This is the new Silver Spring, Md., as officially defined by the Montgomery County Council at request of the Silver Spring Board of Trade. An estimated 71,500 persons live within the new borders, making it the second city of Maryland. Notice the new community embraces the Wheaton area.
It's interesting that even back then no one really knew exactly what comprised "Silver Spring" and a clarification had to be requested from the county.

Within the article is provided a route for a self-guided tour of Silver Spring:
Here is a suggested route: Out 13th st. nw. to Piney Branch rd., out Piney Branch rd.,  left on Old Bladensburg rd. [note that this is now University Blvd.], continue all the way to Wheaton, Right on Georgia ave. extended to Glenmont; re-trace your steps to Viers Mill rd, right on Viers Mill rd. and continue as far as Connecticut Avenue Estates; back to Georgia ave. extended and south to Colesville Rd., left and continue to Four Corners.
This map isn't too far off from how I generally define Silver Spring, though I might tack on one or two neighborhoods. The other exception is the inclusion of Wheaton. I don't know what it was like sixty years ago, but it's definitely it's own entity now, even if it still technically maintains a Silver Spring ZIP code.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that US 29 actually splits over to New Hampshire Avenue rather than being "Columbia Pike" on that map...

Sligo said...

If you think about it, Colesville Rd. doesn't actually go to Colesville now.

Thayer-D said...

nice map. It's what I always thought of as Silver Spring but with-out, as you say, Wheaton.

Anonymous said...

Leisure World is considered part of Silver Spring. So, I tend to think of Georgia Avenue all the way up to Olney as Silver Spring (also skipping over Wheaton.) Granted, Silver Spring gets really narrow going that way.

pagodat said...

The part of Second Avenue between Spring Street and Colesville Road is identified as "Green Avenue" on that map. I'd never heard that name before.

Anonymous said...

Also interesting that 16th Street ends at East-West Highway.

Anonymous said...

I never knew University Blvd used to be called Old Bladensburg Road.

Anonymous said...

The map shows the radio towers for WGAY near the WTOP radio towers. WGAY was - NO, not a gay radio station, we are talking 1949 folks - but an "easy listening" station that had its offices and studios in the World Building on Georgia Ave. in dtSS. My Dad listened to the station whenever the radio was on in the car and his office, except when a Senators game was being broadcast. The music WGAY played was God-awful. No wonder I became a baseball fan!

Big Bubba said...

Here is an interesting link to the history of WGAY, complete with pictures -

I like the picture on top; which, I believe is still there near White Oak. There are, also, some pictures of DTSS.

Anonymous said...

Big Bubba - Great link! Thanks for sharing!

Sligo said...

Agreed, great site. I've been there a few times before. I love this building.

Mortis Olaf said...

Search silver spring on this site. They have a bunch of old aerials. Notice the lack of beltway.

Anonymous said...

What about me? Why does Silver Spring end at Northwest branch? I live off New Hampshire between white oak and the beltway. Where do I live? Don't tell me it's Langley Park

hockeypunk said...

@Big Bubba. Those construction pics of the tower on Sligo Creek Golf Course were really cool. That transmitter is still in use, correct? When was that built?

Thomas Hardman said...

In Aspen Hill, everything east of the Watery Branch of Rock Creek (a.k.a. "Turkey Branch") is Silver Spring. That includes Layhill, etc., and so far as I know, all of Norwood and everything outside of old-school Sandy Spring.

Aspen Hill is probably best considered as part of Silver Spring, even though most of it has a Rockville zip-code, no part of the City of Rockville lies east of Rock Creek. Yet our CBD has addresses on one side of Connecticut Avenue south of Aspen Hill Road as "Wheaton", north of Aspen Hill Road on the same side of Connecticut as "Silver Spring", and to the west of Connecticut Avenue, as "Rockville".

The lesson to be learned is that the Post Office can't be trusted as to the boundaries of civic divisions. You'd generally do better to consult the County's Council District maps, gerrymandered as they might be. Almost all of District 4 is part of "greater Silver Spring", although it included none of DTSS.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, in the map above, Wheaton mall appears to be not in Silver Spring

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