Where We Live: Linden, a sanctuary in Silver Spring
By Jim Brocker,
Back in the 1800s, people moved to Linden to get away from the city. Now, the Silver Spring neighborhood is filled with residents who enjoy urban amenities in the suburbs.
Inside the Beltway just off Georgia Avenue, Linden is about a mile from the D.C. line. Residents can walk to the Forest Glen Metro station or neighborhood restaurants and shops. And Silver Spring’s revitalized downtown is a short drive or a 20-minute walk away.
When they return, Linden residents come home to a mature, tree-lined neighborhood with an eclectic mix of housing. The structures range from turn-of-the-century farmhouses to more recently constructed brick ramblers. Ribbons of vehicles line the Beltway and Georgia Avenue, and traffic can be fierce during rush hour, but Linden itself remains quiet, even as the rest of the Washington area seemingly motors past.
“My street slopes downhill from Georgia Avenue,” said Melissa Robinson, and the neighborhood “almost becomes silent. . . . It’s like a sea of privacy, friendliness and green space.”
Robinson, an actor and freelance writer with three children, calls herself “a real city person” who was looking for “the best of both worlds” when she moved to Linden in 1994. “I wanted to live somewhere where you don’t have to be constantly getting in and out of the car,” she said. With the Montgomery Hills shopping corridor nearby, including Snider’s Super Market, she was able to do her errands without driving, especially when her children, now 13, 11, and 8, were younger.
Snider’s “is like the ‘Cheers’ of the neighborhood,” said Lisa Tenley, 40. “I walk into Snider’s and all the employees know me and they say, ‘Lisa!’ ”
Tenley, who works at the University of Maryland, says Linden has become a magnet for families with children, many of whom attend Woodlin Elementary School.
The center of the Linden neighborhood is Montgomery Hills Park, which was refurbished in 2010 after lobbying efforts by the Linden Civic Association. The park features new playground equipment and refurbished tennis and basketball courts. “If you come to this park at 4 o’clock on a nice day, there will be gazillions of people,” Tenley said as she played with her youngest son, Zach, 4, on a recent Saturday. Her oldest, Nathaniel, 10, was at practice for one of his team sports.
Abigail Allen, 33, says she frequently visits the park with her children, ages 4 and 2. Allen sometimes walks to her job as a budget analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in downtown Silver Spring.
Jeff Thornton, 33, lives with his wife and two sons in the neighborhood and commutes by Metro to his job with the Coast Guard in the District. Thornton, who comes from Louisiana, enjoys the neighborhood’s “First Friday” potluck dinners. “I’ve never been to a community that was this close-knit,” he said as he chased his roaming 1-year-old, Luke, during a visit to the park.
Montgomery Hills Park is adjacent to the confusing intersection of Seminary Road, Linden Lane and Brookville Road, called “our little mixing bowl” by Linden Civic Association President Phil Olivetti. The confluence of busy roadways near the park brings the neighborhood together, but makes it difficult for pedestrians and drivers to navigate, Olivetti said. Montgomery County plans to reconfigure the intersection, and Olivetti hopes funds for the work will emerge in an upcoming budget.
The odd street layout is characteristic of Linden, which developed in haphazard fashion. Some streets are narrow, winding and hilly, and many end in cul-de-sacs or are blocked by the Beltway or the CSX railroad tracks.
The railroad, however, provided easy access to the District in the late 1800s, and early residents built large Victorian-style houses, some of which have been refurbished and are still in use today. Many have been designated historic and are part of the Linden Historic District, in the area of Linden Lane, Brookville Road and Salisbury Road.
Some of those first Linden residents were wealthy Washingtonians “who wanted to escape the swamps of D.C. in the summertime,” said Tom Kristie, 51, who took several years to complete the renovations to his Victorian on Brookville Road. The house, built in 1894, features a prominent turret and fishscale shingles. Kristie, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, says his location is ideal for his commute, and he and other residents noted the neighborhood’s access to Rock Creek Park, popular with walkers and bicyclists.
Jane Brown grew up in the family’s Queen Anne-style home on Linden Lane. She got married and went on to a 40-year career in Montgomery County government but never forgot the good times she had in Linden. After her husband died, Brown, now 66, decided to move back into the family home, which is more than 100 years old, and fix it up. “We’ve got a lot of history here,” Brown said.
Residents like Brown and Kristie, whose houses have been designated historic, must get approval from the county’s Historic Preservation Commission when making repairs or changes to the exteriors.
Olivetti, 59, moved to Linden 27 years ago, when housing was a relative bargain. “Someone could come into the neighborhood without a substantial amount of money and could afford it,” he said. “That didn’t last long.”
Mary Miller Jones, an agent for Weichert Realtors, lives in one of the turn-of-the-century farmhouses. Jones called Linden “a great area for split commutes” because of its proximity to major highways and public transportation.
Olivetti and his wife, Sylvia, 62, are one of the split-commuting families. “We have one car,” he said, and Olivetti often uses it for his job in Gaithersburg while Sylvia takes Metro to downtown Washington.
Jim Brocker is a freelance writer.