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“When you think of roads in Montgomery County, your mind may jump to the wide and fast corridors like Georgia Avenue or Rockville Pike, but head upcounty and you’ll find some of the most serene, beautiful driving and biking in the region. One-lane gravel roads winding through wooded areas like Mt. Ephraim Road, or one of the still-unpaved early 1800s roads like West Old Baltimore Road where vehicles have to ford a stream.

Montgomery County, the second largest in the region at 507-square-miles, is home to 99 of these “rustic roads” which, to earn the distinction, must be historic, have scenic views, and reflect the agricultural character and rural origins of the county. They tend to be narrow, low-traffic, and highlight historic areas. A second distinction, “exceptional rustic road” requires unusual features found on few other roads like ruins or historic homes.”

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In Memoriam: Educator and Historian Nina H. Clarke

Nina Honemond Clarke accepting Award for rehabilitation of Cordelia House on behalf of Jerusalem-Mt Pleasant Church in 2009.

Nina Honemond Clarke, renown educator and historian, passed away on March 4, 2021, aged 103.  She was respected by educators, historians and preservationists in Montgomery County and greatly admired for her accomplishments, tenacity, and grace.  MPI is one of many organizations that recognized her contributions to our history, especially African American history.

Mrs. Clarke was born in 1917 and raised in a small Black community in Montgomery County, the 9th of 11 children born to Percival J. and Sara Copeland Honemond. She graduated from Rockville Colored High School in 1934 and attended Bowie State College where she received a teaching certificate.  At the age of 19, she was smitten with her first elementary school students. Later she completed a BA and MA in education, then took additional courses at local universities. This extraordinary teacher never quit learning.

She achieved these goals when it was a major challenge, and the story of that effort left listeners humbled.  Her message to every audience inspired respect and courage to act, continuing long after her retirement. She was the first Black teacher to be assigned to a White class. Her students loved her, and many remained close to her long afterward.

Nina Clarke was a force for Black education and shared her experiences and insights freely without blame or rancor. She spoke to local history groups and wrote about Montgomery County’s African American schools and churches, the heart of most communities.  She described for us the struggle to live and work here despite the barriers of discrimination.  At her talks, often given while in a rocking chair surrounded by youngsters, listeners wondered how anyone could deny this intelligent, beautiful, dedicated woman who loved and embraced education for all.  Montgomery County benefited from her lessons of a hopefully bygone day.

She was also dedicated to her church, Jerusalem-Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church in Rockville.  Starting as a bi-racial congregation in 1835, and joining the Washington Mission Conference after Emancipation, Jerusalem became the center of civil rights activity in Montgomery County in the 20th century.  Miss Nina’s history of her church expanded into a more extensive effort, History of Nineteenth Century Black Churches in Maryland and Washington, DC.  With Lillian B. Brown, she researched and wrote History of the Black Schools of Montgomery County, Maryland, 1872-1961.  Both are now out of print and priced as rare books if they can be found.

When the church parsonage was damaged by fire, she campaigned to raise funds and convince people to save and reuse the hand-constructed building. The insurance company declared it a total loss and offered a check, but today it remains in use as Cordelia House.

For all of this and more, Nina Honemond Clarke was awarded the Montgomery County Award for Lifetime Achievement in Heritage Education for her leadership, and for her oral and written histories of a time when your skin color mattered more than your dedication and contributions.  She had both qualities along with the love and respect of her colleagues and friends. MPI and all who appreciate history and education will miss Nina Honemond Clarke.  MPI sends our condolences to her family.  We, and Montgomery County, share your loss.

Welcome to Rebeccah Ballo

New Supervisor of the Historic Preservation Section, Montgomery Planning, M-NCPPC. She brings great regional experience, having been a preservation planner for several local governments since 2002. For the past decade, she managed the design, review and approval process for Arlington County’s 40 historic districts. Rebeccah previously was a preservation planner in the City of Alexandria and Prince George’s County. She received her undergraduate degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis, and earned a masters degree in urban and environmental planning with a certificate in historic preservation from the University of Virginia.

Maryland Cemetery Preservation Act of 2018

HB877 has been filed in the Maryland General Assembly, headed for
a hearing on February 28 before the House Health & Government Operations Committee. Long overdue, this bill
tackles several obstacles to cemetery protection and preservation and provides incentives for descendants, property
owners, and cemetery advocates. Link to a summary of this bill here. For further
information and to help pass this important legislation, contact Eileen McGuckian at

Historic Silver Spring Public Library proposal accepted

Neighbors and preservationists are thrilled that Montgomery County Government recently announced that the historic 1957 Silver Spring Public Library will be adaptively reused as the Martha B. Gudelsky Child Development Center Inc. with Centronia.
The winning Gudelsky proposal respects the integrity of the library, its intact rolling land, and the neighborhood.
See the project proposal here.

Historic Tax Credit

Thanks to calls and emails from concerned citizens like you, the important federal historic tax credit was retained in the recent tax bill. It had been dropped from the House tax bill but preserved in the Senate version. Although this tax credit only applies to restoration/rehabilitation of commercial properties, it has been crucial to Montgomery County projects, including the National Park Seminary, and is important to historic preservation throughout Maryland. In fact, this credit returns $1.20 to federal coffers for each $1 it gives out.

New Recognitions in Montgomery County

Recent National Register listings are New Mark Commons development in Rockville and the Mihran Mesrobian House in the Town of Chevy Chase. Recent Modernist historic district is the Americana Centre in City of Rockville.

Sad News

After 28 years as Architectural Historian at M-NCPPC, Clare Lise Kelly is retiring. Property owners, researchers, planners, Modernists, and others will use her thorough, insightful, and award-winning work products for decades to come. Thank you, Clare, for leading so many of us into the Montgomery Modern era !

MPI statement to Montgomery County Executive re Former Silver Spring Library Site, November 2017

In responding to presentations by the two finalists that submitted proposals for the site of the former Silver Spring Library, I am representing Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the countywide nonprofit preservation advocacy organization.


MPI believes the Gudelsky/CentroNia proposal is by far the better of the two.  It incorporates the existing library building, an icon of Montgomery Modern architecture designed by Rhees Burket, a noted architect with a lifetime of civic and professional leadership. It is a flagship structure, constructed early in the then-new Montgomery County Library System when other towns operated facilities out of smaller makeshift buildings. Adaptive reuse of this building will commemorate this history as well as provide ongoing community benefit for the residents of Silver Spring and Montgomery County.


The library is a long-time iconic community structure that, with its green space, is compatible with the physical and residential character of the surrounding neighborhood.  Unlike the Victory Housing proposal, the Gudelsky/CentroNia plan retains the site’s green space and topography and incorporates it with the neighboring park. As density increases in parts of the County like Silver Spring, it’s important to retain green space that has historically been an amenity in existing communities and neighborhoods (hopefully even to provide more).  Victory, MPI has noted, would preserve very little of the library site’s green space.


The Gudelsky plan to subsidize a grouping of senior affordable units in new or existing apartment buildings in the Silver Spring CBD is a creative approach and one that could be adopted for other planned apartment construction in the county, helping to address the critical need for more affordable housing.  The Gudelsky plan meets the RFP objective of increasing affordable senior units, and it would locate those units in a convenient downtown area.


In providing senior affordable housing offsite, the Gudelsky plan offers the advantage of showcasing a state-of-the art child development facility operated by a nationally recognized provider of early childhood care and education.  With a strong visible presence on Colesville Road, this child development venue would be a source of pride for the County and Silver Spring, preferable to resembling an adjunct to a housing component as does Victory’s child care center.


Moreover, it seems impractical to combine both housing and child care on this relatively small site, particularly since this would allow for very little green space. This was apparent to MPI in its review of the Victory proposal.  There is considerable potential for intergenerational programs in the child development center whether or not senior housing is present on the site. Gudelsky/CentroNia is projecting partnerships with senior groups, as well as enrichment activities for all ages, in its child development center.


To summarize, MPI supports preservation and adaptive reuse of the former Silver Spring Library as an excellent representative of Silver Spring and the County – architecture, parkland, community use, neighborhood support, and a historic example of mid-20th century vision and growth. The Gudelsky/CentroNia proposal undeniably corresponds with each of these qualities.


Mary Reardon

Vice President, Montgomery Preservation Inc.

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