Uncovering a Forgotten History: A New Park for the Westbard Sector

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 10:27pm

Plantations, Emancipation, and the Jim Crow Era 

River Road School 1925-1954Little Falls Watershed Alliance has started a history committee as part of our advocacy for the new Willett Branch Park in the Westbard Sector.  The Park would honor the local history and we were curious to learn more about the neighborhood.
What we found was that the area north of what is now Little Falls Parkway on either side of River Road was once a vibrant African American community settled by freed slaves. The plantations houses were located in the Green Acres, Brookdale and Kenwood areas and the slaves settled on land off of River Road after emancipation. There was also a Rosenwald School (one of over 5,000 schools for African American children in the south funded by the President of Sears, Julius Rosenwald) which shut down in 1954 when schools were desegregated. The students then went to Somerset Elementary School, Western Junior High or BCC High School. And there was a cemetery owned by an African American Benevolent society where the HOC parking lots are. It was sold in 1958 when the area was developed but oral history suggests that the graves are still there under the asphalt. 

Macedonia Baptist Church

The African American residents were displaced by development in the early 1960s, their homes bulldozed for apartments and commercial buildings. The Rosenwald school was torn down and a communication tower was built on its site. The cemetery was covered over by a parking lot. All that remains today to remind of us of this forgotten history is the Macedonia Baptist Church at 5119 River Road. This historic church was built in 1923 on land given to them by the Clipper Family. They still hold services and Bible study every week.  
You can find more information about the history of the area in the New Westbard Sector Plan HERE

Preserving History in a New Park for the Westbard Sector

Please write to the Planning Board and Staff and the County Executive expressing your support for a new Willett Branch Stream Valley Park which honors and highlights the rich and forgotten history of the area. Ask that no new buildings be allowed in the stream buffer and on top the cemetery - the heart of the park where early African American residents were buried.
John Marcolin, Project Manager 
Montgomery County Park and Planning
8787 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Casey Anderson, Chair
Montgomery County Planning Board
8787 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910 
Ike Leggett, County Executive
Executive Office Building
101 Monroe St., 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850

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