Silver Spring church is worth preserving -- Gazette.Net


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This letter is in response to the May 2 story, “Revisionist history? Value of Silver Spring church up for debate, again.”

The real experts of historic preservation are Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission staff, who initiated, researched and wrote much of the Silver Spring Baptist Church nomination, and Preservation Maryland's prestigious and highly-credentialed jury for selecting Maryland's most jeopardized historical treasures. The historic commission staff substantiates absolutely how the church meets four criteria for historic designation.

The 1956 church is a clear departure from the traditional classical revival styles that dominate church architecture. Designed by renowned church and institutional architect Ronald S. Senseman, it is one of the first modernist churches erected in Montgomery County.

The adjacent 1925-1931 high style colonial revival church is the oldest extant church in Silver Spring’s central business district and one of the oldest remaining churches in the down county, by renowned Baptist architect George Earnest Merrill.

The incorporation of the modernist church front façade and bell tower into the new development does not preserve the alleged remote sinkhole, and does not preclude development on the site, including a new church. In our opinion it gives the developer a distinctive signature mixed-use building, modeled after Canada Dry/Silverton, NDCI/Heritage, and the recent Penney’s/Fillmore projects.

The HPC staff recommended this approach and the HPC supports this scenario. One would have thought The Gazette would have run a photo of the modernist sanctuary edifice instead of the least architecturally significant structure on the site.

Adaptive reuse and partial preservation is the solution and presents a vibrant new trend in Silver Spring to enliven and to enjoy Silver Spring’s irreplaceable treasures. Canada Dry/Silverton restored much more than the façade. Retained were the entrance vestibule, outside and inside, and the attached wings that combined give the resource its distinctive industrial architectural appearance.

The 2002 Silver Spring historic resources CBD survey report did not review the church property because it erroneously thought churches were ineligible for the National Register.

The research of the church/developer consultant actually enhances the significance of the property. However, his criteria analysis, interpretation of the data, and attacks on our nomination were flawed, suffering the sins of omission and commission.

Our rebuttal of his report sets the record straight.

Marcie Stickle and George French, Silver Spring

The authors nominated the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring for inclusion on Preservation Maryland’s 2012 list of endangered sites.