Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

Germantown railroad sites may get historic designation

Church, viaduct, culverts to be reviewed by county

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Three vestiges of Germantown’s past could be preserved for the future.

The Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission will consider historic designation for two railroad remnants, the Little Seneca Viaduct and the Baltimore & Ohio culverts and railroad bed, and the Germantown Presbyterian Church at its Dec. 19 meeting and public hearing.

Other county resources that will be evaluated are the Burton Log House in Burtonsville, the Susan B. Chase House in Chevy Chase, the Seymour Krieger House in Bethesda and the Watson House in Silver Spring.

After county planners present their recommendations, the commission will vote on whether the properties should be included in county’s master plan for historic resources, which provides protections for the historic integrity of the sites. If approved by the group, the sites will be reviewed by the county Planning Board and the County Council for inclusion.

The church, which houses a daycare center, was nominated for historic designation by the Germantown Historical Society, according to Clare Kelly, a county historic preservation planner.

The 107-year-old Germantown Presbyterian Church, currently home to Ducks in a Row Daycare, was a gathering place from 1900 to 1936, and its bell was used as an alarm in emergencies. It housed a veterinarian’s office from 1985 to 2004, and the property, located on Walter Johnson Road, includes three outbuildings used as residences.

‘‘It was the hub of the little railroad community,” said Susan Soderberg, president of the Germantown Historical Society. ‘‘It wasn’t just a religious place — it was very important to the town.”

Should the site be designated historic, property owners would have to apply for permission before making any changes, Kelly said.

The two railroad-related sites are part of the county’s Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites, an inventory of potentially historic resources.

‘‘They’re an important part of the railroad’s history, and the only reason they’re still there is that the railroad was moved,” Soderberg said. ‘‘We’re lucky to have these remnants of the old days.”

The Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad, which ran from Washington, D.C., to Frederick County, transformed Germantown from a small farming community to a more industrialized area when it opened in 1873, according to Soderberg’s book, ‘‘A History of Germantown, Maryland.” The stretch of rail between the Little Seneca Viaduct and the Great Seneca Viaduct, located near Waring Station Road, was abandoned when a new double-track was built in 1928, Kelly said.

The Little Seneca Viaduct, located near Wisteria Drive by the dam for Little Seneca Lake, was once a 480-foot-span, single-tracked iron bridge that crossed Little Seneca Creek, though all that remains is the supporting stone work, Kelly said.

The viaduct is located on land owned by the county Parks Department and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, according to Kelly, who said it is unusual for a historic resource to be owned by two entities.

The B&O culverts and railroad bed are located behind Harvest Glen Way near Father Hurley Boulevard between the abandoned railroad and the current tracks, Kelly said. The two culverts, made from black rock and granite, are identified with historical markers along a hiking trail, she said.