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Silver Spring’s Woodside Park: An older suburb holds on to its pastoral vision


Roads were designed to emphasize the parklike setting. Instead of forming a grid-like pattern, they curve along contours of the land, with streams flowing between crests of hills, according to Robert Oshel, the neighborhood’s official historian, who has lived in Woodside Park with his wife and son since 1975. With no curbs or sidewalks, the idea was to make “Washington’s Most Beautiful Suburb,” with “Acre Plots for Homes of Distinction,” according to ads for the area dating to the early 1920s.

“It’s a lovely, tree-filled neighborhood with rolling hills,” said resident Brian Ditzler. “It’s just bucolic.”

Despite its bucolic setting, Woodside Park had, like many Washington suburbs begun in the 1920s, a darker side: racial covenants for buyers. Owners were prohibited from selling or leasing their land “to any one of a race whose death rate is at a higher percentage than the white race.”

Ditzler said he and his family were living in London and enjoyed being able to walk to the subway and stores and restaurants. When he and his wife retired in 2005, they decided to return to Maryland, and finding a walkable neighborhood like theirs in London was a top priority. Woodside Park met the match with just a 15-minute walk to the downtown Silver Spring Metro stop, with dozens of stores and restaurants nearby.

“We take the subway everywhere,” Ditzler said. “To museums, restaurants and National Airport for travel.”

Kathleen Briese was also attracted to Woodside Park’s location.

“It was such a great spot to get to work since it’s close to the Metro, the Beltway and even East-West Highway to get to Bethesda,” she said.

Briese lived in Woodside Park for almost 13 years before she and her husband moved to Cape Cod in Massachusetts this past fall. A real estate broker while in Maryland, she says her clients were drawn to the community’s easy commute as well as its varied architecture.

Platted in 1922, the suburban tract was built on a farm formerly owned by Crosby Noyes, the owner of the Washington Evening Star newspaper. He died in 1908, and his widow in 1914. Several years later, their children sold the farm to a developer who decided to sell individual plots and have owners find their own architects to build their homes. Plots were sold from the 1920s until the 1950s and house styles range from Cape Cods to stone Tudors and brick Colonials.

The area, which has a little over 500 homes, runs from Georgia Avenue on the west, to Spring Street on the south, Colesville Road on the east and Dale Drive on the north. Houses are situated to take advantage of views on hills, and the neighborhood has maintained many of Noyes’s original plants and trees, including dogwoods and elms.

“People weren’t just moving into a desert where all the trees had been cut down,” Oshel said.

Ditzler says that most of the homes have been renovated and modernized over the years.

“When you walk through the neighborhood, you’ll see a Cape Cod from the front, but a modern addition in the back,” he said.

That’s what he did with his own 1940 Cape Cod, expanding it to almost twice its original size. He redid the bathrooms, put a family room in the back and added a bedroom and rec room on the lowest level.

“We took a modest house and now all the interior spaces are fully utilized,” he said.

With a mix of young families, empty-nesters and retirees, people tend to stay in Woodside Park for a long time, Ditzler notes.

Real estate sales data backs that up. No homes are for sale right now, according to Creig Northrop, head of Long & Foster’s Northrop Realty. He says in the past year, the average sale price was $861,520, with houses lasting an average of 14 days on the market. The lowest-priced home was a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house for $560,000. The highest-priced was a five-bedroom, six-bathroom single-family house for $1.2 million.

“Usually houses only go up for sale if someone dies or decides to move to some kind of retirement home,” said Oshel.

Briese agreed that people like to stay in Woodside Park for a long time, partly because of community closeness. She and her husband left only because they’d bought a second house on the Cape, and during the pandemic it made sense to consolidate and move there.

She says she misses her civic-minded friends in Silver Spring.

“The neighbors were fabulous. There’s such a strong community spirit,” she said.

She and Ditzler have both served as presidents of the Woodside Park Civic Association.

Ditzler now runs the neighborhood email group, and the area also has a printed newsletter. The association runs activities including an annual picnic, Octoberfest with hay rides for kids, an annual wine tasting event and book clubs, Ditzler said. The activities have all been canceled during the pandemic, but one event that’s grown since last March is attendance at monthly association meetings. Now held on Zoom, they’re attracting about 100 people each time, instead of the usual 20 or 30, Ditzler said.

With more people attending meetings, there have been more suggestions on how the neighborhood can give back to the surrounding area. At a recent session, someone offered an idea. “The majority voted to give $10,000 to two local food banks to help during the pandemic,” Ditzler said.

One activity the association has been discussing is Woodside Park’s upcoming 100th anniversary in 2022. For its 75th anniversary, Robert Oshel said, the neighborhood published a book about its history and held a banquet at a downtown Silver Spring hotel.

He said residents aren’t sure yet what they’ll do to commemorate the 100th. But he expects a substantial jubilee celebrating the neighborhood’s rustic charm, diverse architecture and welcoming neighbors.

Schools: Woodlin Elementary, Sligo Middle and Albert Einstein High.

Transit: Metrobus and RideOn buses run through the neighborhood. The Silver Spring Metro station is a 15-minute walk from the neighborhood.

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