“The neighborhood is highly diversified, but most neighbors still know each other, and longtime residents still work together on issues that are important to us, like the Purple Line,” said Coffield, who was born in Lyttonsville in 1933 and is among five generations of family members to live in the neighborhood. “When new people come in, for the most part, they seem to stay.”
Lyttonsville is named for Samuel Lytton, a freed slave who established the community when he bought property there in 1853. It was among the first predominantly black neighborhoods in Montgomery County, Coffield said, and several descendants of the original residents still call it home.
The neighborhood changed very little in the first half of the 20th century and did not get running water and paved streets until a county redevelopment effort in the late 1960s and early 1970s, after years of residents’ lobbying.
Coffield recalls attending a two-room schoolhouse on Garfield Avenue that was heated with a potbellied stove and had no indoor plumbing, only outhouses.
Patricia A. Tyson, 70, a retired federal worker who also grew up in Lyttonsville, said she remembers taxis refusing to drive into the neighborhood on rainy days, because cars would get stuck as the dirt roads turned muddy.
On the other hand, Tyson said, “everybody knew everybody.”
“There were two churches and the two-room schoolhouse, and those kept the neighborhood alive,” said Tyson, whose late father, Lawrence S. Tyson, headed the Lyttonsville Community Civic Association for four decades. “We knew each other, mingled with each other and trusted each other.”
As part of the redevelopment effort, many of the neighborhood’s substandard houses were torn down and replaced by modular houses, leaving some longtime residents who had rented the substandard houses unable to afford the newer homes, Coffield said.
Some moved to Friendly Gardens, a low-income garden apartment complex built to accommodate them.
Lyttonsville now consists of 67 single-family houses; 16 townhouses; roughly 85 garden apartments in Friendly Gardens; and roughly 400 apartments in the Claridge House, a high-rise off Lyttonsville Road, Tyson said.
The neighborhood has grown significantly more ethnically diverse through the years, and it now houses residents from around the globe, including Africa, Southeast Asia and other far-flung locales.
Vinicio Grenidge, who came to the United States from Guatemala in 1982, moved to a Habitat for Humanity house in Lyttonsville with his wife, Miriam, and their four children in 1995.