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Montgomery County’s Newest Historic District Is Mid-Century Modern

Black and white photo of Mid Century Modern Style Furniture in a living room, including a sofa, two chairs, a fireplace, a coffee table and two side tables.

Congratulations to residents and champions of the Potomac Overlook Historic District, the first Mid-Century Modern historic district in Montgomery County and the first designated by the County Council since 2011. Not only does this designation reflect the importance of site development and land planning in creating communities respectful of the natural surroundings and topography, but the contemporary designs are outstanding, and multiple original owners were influential in local, state, and national affairs. 

The process of research and nomination, approvals, and ultimately voting by the County Council took nearly three years. The new historic district includes 19 houses that overlook the Potomac River.  Builder Edmund J. Bennett teamed with architects Keyes, Lethbridge, and Condon to develop this subdivision in the late 1950s. Congratulations to all concerned!   

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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.

Frieda's Cottage

Frieda’s Cottage named National Historic Landmark

In January 2021, the National Park Service designated Frieda’s Cottage in Rockville as a National Historic Landmark, recognizing the national significance of Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (1889-1957), a psychiatrist who pioneered the psychoanalytic treatment of schizophrenia. In a field whose theoretical constructs had been developed by men, she was a transformative influence and a major figure in the emergence of a new approach to severe mental illness.

Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann’s studies and practice in her native Germany brought her international recognition by 1935. That year, she emigrated to America, where she joined the staff of Chestnut Lodge Sanitarium in Rockville. Frieda’s background and ideology meshed well with the approaches at Chestnut Lodge, and she became director of psychotherapy in 1936. The Lodge built the cottage as her residence and office, where Frieda developed and refined her technique for treating people suffering severe mental disorder. Her seminal work, Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy (1950), became essential reading for psychiatrists in training and remained in print for 60 years.
The Colonial Revival cottage’s high degree of integrity is a credit to Peerless Rockville, which restored it in 2009.

To learn more about this one of a few NHLs in Montgomery County, visit

Image courtesy of Peerless Rockville

Haiti Cemetery

Haiti Cemetery Association Earns Maryland Historical Trust award for Project Excellence: Preservation Partnerships

Congratulations to Hannelore Quigley, James Demma, and Haiti Cemetery Association for earning a Maryland Historical Trust award for Project Excellence: Preservation Partnerships. Haiti Cemetery opened in the 1880s to serve a kinship community descended from free and enslaved families near Rockville. The efforts of Ms. Quigley and Mr. Demma, together with members of the Crutchfield family, overcame legal and financial burdens and led to formation of the association, which will maintain and protect the future of this important historic place. On March 12, a small socially-distanced group gathered at the cemetery to present the award certificate.

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