North Woodside History

Established in 1890, North Woodside was developed over a period of more than 50 years. Subdivision began in the 1890’s, when the first residential lots were subdivided along Grace Church Road. In 1923, a larger portion of land was subdivided north. And later, in 1941, a third section was subdivided.1

In a 1926 advertisement in the Washington Evening Star (right), North Woodside was described as “A Picturesque New Community, Where hominess and happiness are combined in pleasing environment and pretty homes” and a “straightaway 20 minute leisure drive from the White House.” At that point, 50 homes had “been erected, sold and occupied, with another group in the final stage of completion.” The price for these houses? $7,950 (10% cash). Yes, seems there’s been a bit of inflation since! 

For a map of what North Woodside looked like in the late 1920s, click here.2 (Note: zoom in just above the northern tip of DC in the area labeled “Woodside.”) More historical maps available here.

While most of the neighborhood went by the name North Woodside, the name Montgomery Hills was given to the few blocks developed in the 1930s between Rookwood Road and Seminary Road. Despite the bifurcated name “North Woodside-Montgomery Hills,” the neighborhood was considered a single unit. Note: In May 2019, the North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association formally voted to drop “Montgomery Hills” from the Citizens Association’s name. Much less of a mouthful to say!

Early advertisements for the neighborhood painted an idyllic picture…“There is no spot adjacent to Washington where the features of the suburbs and all the facilities of the city meet in such perfect accord as in this splendid development at North Woodside, Maryland”…but there is a dark side to these glowing descriptions of the newly developing North Woodside. Like many other neighborhoods in the Silver Spring area at the time, North Woodside had racially restrictive deed covenants that prevented Black people from owning property or living in the neighborhood, except as domestic servants.

The advertisement pictured above ran in The Evening Star, Saturday, October 17th, 1925.4
For more info about E. Brooke Lee, a real estate speculator and unrepentant segregationist, click here.

As a 1923 North Woodside deed mandated, “For the purpose of sanitation and health neither the said party of the second part nor their heirs or assigns shall or will sell or lease the said land to any one of race whose death rate is at a higher percentage than the white race.” The result? The 1940s census of the district including North Woodside lists 762 residents, of which only 11 were African American, all live-in servants.5 Racially restrictive deed covenants were eventually outlawed, though their impact is still visible in maps that detail patterns of development and racial demographics throughout the Silver Spring area. For more information about North Woodside’s racial history, read about the historic Talbot Avenue Bridge.

In September 2018, the NWCA Board unanimously passed a resolution “formally acknowledging and denouncing racial bigotry in all its forms, past and present, and the racially-restrictive deed covenants, and history of racial bigotry that once prevented African Americans and others from owning property and living in the neighborhood.”

While 1920s houses of North Woodside remain much the same today (albeit many with additions, remodeling, and renovations!), the neighborhood has come a long way over the course of a century in terms of race relations. But as the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement illuminates, there is much work still to be done in the U.S. to address racism at all levels, from unconscious racism at the individual level to systemic racism at the national level. May future histories of the neighborhood record how its residents contributed to successful local efforts to fight racism and further build a community that is welcoming of all.

For a little more background about North Woodside, including the neighborhood’s houses and community traditions, a couple of old Washington Post articles:

North Woodside: History, convenience and song near Silver Spring 
by Barbara Ruben, Saturday, December 12, 2009

Porches Are King in Silver Spring: Neighborliness Rules, and Moving Up Doesn’t Mean Moving Out
By Eugene L. Meyer, Saturday, December 8, 2001

Sources:

1 “Porches, Pediments, & More,” the booklet for the 4th Annual Old Silver Spring House Tour which took place in North Woodside in May 2001. Note: A few new houses have been built since the primary development period of the neighborhood. The newest house in the neighborhood was built in 2019.

2 Washington and vicinity, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 1929. Zoom into “Woodside,” just above the north corner of DC to find the current location of North Woodside.

3 “Porches, Pediments, & More,” the booklet for the 4th Annual Old Silver Spring House Tour which took place in North Woodside in May 2001

4 ghostsofdc.org

5 African-Americans living in North Woodside in 1941 included: Maggie Gibson “maid” and Arthur Gibson “servant/gardener, Glen Ross Rd; Gertrude Henderson “maid,” Glen Ross Rd; and John Hill “domestic servant” and Manfilda Hill “domestic servants”, Grace Church Rd.