By Wendy E. Harris; Volunteer Archivist
The National Register of Historic Places came into being in 1966 with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act. By the end of the decade, 1200 properties had been found “worthy of preservation” and listed on the Register. Between then and 1982, the Register expanded further. By the latter year, the Register’s listing of 27,000 properties included 2500 officially designated Historic Districts, one of them being the entire Town of Washington Grove. In many cases, communities hired professionally trained historic preservation consultants to prepare the documents nominating districts to the Register. The residents of Washington Grove, of course, decided to do it themselves. Many details about this process are emerging from Planning Commission meeting minutes housed in the town archives.
As described in our last Town Bulletin article (2 February 2015), there was a genuine sense of urgency to complete the nomination and get the Town listed on the Register. According to Planning Commission minutes from the late 1970’s, its chairman, John Pentecost, led the effort and also coordinated with the staff of the Maryland Historic Trust. However, all the other members of the Commission, including Mary Kay Dubois, Ray Knight, Bob Smith and Bob Evans, appear to have played active roles as well.
Reading through the 1978 minutes, we were struck by how many Planning Commission meetings were devoted entirely to determining what material would be needed and how to gather it. Equally striking to us was how much historical and architectural data was readily available from existing local sources including Rosalie Shantz’s 1975 booklet Grove Gatherings, another short history of the Grove appearing in the Town directory, the Town’s Master Plan, and oral histories and interviews previously conducted by Ann Briggs and Ray Knight.
From the beginning, much of the information about individual Grove houses came from the people who lived in them. In January 1978, we find Commission member Mary Kay Dubois offering to “discuss Town houses with Zoë Wadsworth, Nancy Forquer and Edna Reber.” For the “model” of all house descriptions, the Commission’s chose the Pughe House (213 Grove Avenue, presently owned by Joseph Hodges and Tamara Williams), prepared by Jane Pughe Rogers.
Lacking any formal training in architectural history, Commission members seemed to have gradually acquired some knowledge of the subject. Reading through the minutes, we found it interesting to observe how the language used to describe historic Grove houses eventually moved beyond words like “traditional,” and “typical” to phrases such as “high-peaked roof ‘Methodist architecture’ cottages.” This probably reflects the influence of Andras Nagy, an architect then living in the Grove, who volunteered later that spring to help the Commission prepare architectural portions of the nomination.
By April 1978 serious fieldwork had begun. Mary Kay Dubois and Mayor Don McCathran compiled a list of 94 houses believed to be 50 years or older. The Maryland Historic Trust had advised them to also include McCathran Hall, the Grove’s walkways, and other public areas including the East and West Woods. Working from the list and from slides taken by Tom McCathran, the Planning Commission began the process of selecting 13 houses to photograph, research, and describe for inclusion in the nomination text. The goal was to complete everything by June. It was to be a very busy two months.
In the fall of 1978, after finally receiving and reviewing Washington Grove’s nomination for National Register listing, Maryland Historic Trust staff member, Pamela James reported back to Planning Commission Chair Pentecost that the document was “wonderful.” In upcoming Town Bulletins we will write more about the nomination’s contents and the Town’s final push to complete it.