Robinson & Associates, Inc.’s research for Washington Grove’s 2020 Updated and Expanded Historic District Nomination to the National Register included the preparation of Viewshed Documentation (PDF) that identified and recorded historic properties and landscapes that comprise the broader setting of the Washington Grove Historic District and contribute to its visual character and historic context.
The National Register of Historic Places defines “setting” as the physical environment of a historic property that illustrates the character of the place. Setting often reflects the basic physical conditions under which a resource was built or developed and the functions it was intended to serve. The physical features that constitute the setting of a historic resource can be either natural or manmade, including such elements as topographic features, vegetation, buildings, structures, or open space.
The integrity of a historic district’s setting can be retained if there are visual buffers that block or screen intrusions into viewsheds, such as modern or incompatible development.
Six viewsheds were included in Robinson’s analysis:
- the Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park [see below],
- the Piedmont Crossing Local Park [see below],
- the Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad,
- the Humpback Bridge,
- the Railroad Street Corridor, and
- Oakmont Avenue.
Baseline conditions for each viewshed were documented to help protect the historic district and preserve its broader setting. Robinson’s Viewshed Documentation includes photographs of each property/landscape that comprise the historic setting of the historic district; a map detail showing each of the viewshed areas and the sightlines between the photographer and the subject of the photographs, and a short narrative describing the property/landscape and the significance of its relationship to the historic district. (Note: Robinson’s Viewshed Documentation analysis focuses on Washington Grove’s “borders” and does not address the internal setting of the historic district, which is also crucial to its historic integrity.)
Included below are Robinson’s narratives for the historic district’s two parkland viewsheds. (You can view the entirety of the Viewshed Documentation, including photos and graphics, here (PDF)).
Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park
Description of Property/Landscape: The 12-acre Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park is located east of Ridge Road. While the town owns the land, the park is wholly maintained and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The park features a native meadow habitat with forested edges and natural surface trails. Built structures are limited to park signage and an informational kiosk. Along the western edge of the park are remnants of agricultural fencing consisting of wood posts and barbed wire. Documentation of a steatite quarry in the adjacent Piedmont Crossing Local Park suggests the potential for archaeological resources within the park. The park’s open spaces, small-scale features, and views reinforce interpretation of the historic district within the context of Montgomery County’s agricultural heritage. For these reasons, in 2002, the M-NCPPC designated the meadow a Heritage Resource (rather than a Natural Resource) within its Legacy Open Space Functional Master Plan.
Significance of Relationship to Historic District: The original boundaries of Washington Grove once included a 48-acre farm on the east side of Ridge Road. This farm, which encompassed the land now part of the Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park, was sold in 1890 to Andrew Ragan to help pay off association debt. For decades, this parcel and other agricultural resources on the fringes of Washington Grove defined its rural character and reinforced the idea of the Grove as a “place apart.” The farm contributed to Montgomery County’s strong agricultural heritage, which influenced the region’s settlement and land use patterns well into the twentieth century. Today, the park provides a critical buffer between the town and surrounding high-density residential and highway development and preserves the rural, open vistas and spatial organization of the agricultural fields that historically formed the setting of Washington Grove.
Piedmont Crossing Local Park
Description of Property/Landscape: The Piedmont Crossing Local Park is a Montgomery County property that extends from the eastern edge of the Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park to Interstate 370. Formerly farmland, the stream valley parkland features a meadow habitat with forested edges. A trail through the park provides a local connection between the Shady Grove Metrorail Station and Amity Drive, a residential street in the neighborhood north of the park. (A second trail connecting to Brown Street in Washington Grove is currently cut off by stormwater detention construction.) A break in the tree line along the west edge of the park provides an entry point to the Washington Grove Meadow Conservation Park.
Significance of Relationship to Historic District: The park’s meadow habitat and forested edges reinforce the historic rural setting of the historic district, and the tree-lined edge along the western perimeter of the park blocks noise and screens views of nearby highway and residential development. The Piedmont Crossing Local Park contains an archaeological site listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (Site # 18MO6221, Washington Grove Steatite Quarry). The site, located within the forest buffer along the western edge of the park, is comprised of five distinct areas of archaeological interest that represent evidence of Euro-American and possibly Native American use of the area as a quarrying site. The quarry may have been used as a source of building materials for local farmers and early residents of Washington Grove.