The Montgomery County Planning Board shut down an attempt Thursday to secure historic designation for the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring.
The church, at the intersection of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street, is set for demolition to make room for a mixed-use development that will include a new church.
Some community members, including members of the Silver Spring Historical Society, were pushing for the site to be named a historical landmark because of its architectural features, including a modernist needle spire and contrasting stone and brick. They asked for full or partial preservation of the site.
The request had gone through the Historic Preservation Commission of Montgomery County Park and Planning, where it was denied March 23 in a 6 to 2 vote.
Historical society members Marcie Stickle and George French nominated the church again for historic designation, asking the planning board to create a public hearing draft amendment, which could change the Master Plan for Historic Preservation. After testimony from both sides, planning board commissioners declined to take action.
“There are arguments on both sides, obviously, but I’m persuaded by the fact that the HPC had heard all of this testimony from everybody and had reached a conclusion,” said Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss. “It seems like they have more historic preservation expertise than certainly I have.”
Planning Board Chairwoman Francois Carrier agreed.
“I’m inclined to defer to the HPC,” she said. “... Their judgment was that there’s no reason to designate this as a historic property.”
Before reaching this conclusion, the board heard from history buffs, the church’s pastor and community members.
The church’s pastor, Duncan McIntosh, said church officials met with a preservation architect years ago, who told them it was a “dime-a-dozen church” that would take $5 million to bring to code.
“He understood our mission and why it would not facilitate the ongoing evolution of our church as we are having to exist,” he said. “We would like to say preservation of part of this building will impede our mission to become a new church in downtown Silver Spring.”
Historic preservation officials said the building is architecturally significant and noted that it is the oldest religious structure in the central business district and celebrates the history of Silver Spring.
Stickle pushed for partial preservation, meaning the facade and some architectural elements would be preserved, but new development would be possible. A similar approach was taken in the redevelopment of the 1946 Canada Dry Bottling Plant in Silver Spring.