Bryan, a retired senior executive with the Naval Air Systems Command, found both in Rockville’s West End neighborhood, a residential community with a wide variety of historic houses located between Interstate 270 and downtown Rockville, a few blocks from the Rockville Metro station.
Bryan and her husband, Galen Whittaker, moved into their 1953 brick Cape Cod in June 1985.
“My husband is a testament to how easy it is to walk wherever you need to go in this neighborhood,” said Bryan, now 68 and serving as president of the West End Citizens Association. “He walks everywhere. When he has to mail a letter, he walks to the post office. When he needs milk, he walks to the grocery store.”
Victorian roots: The West End neighborhood experienced its first major development in the 1890s, when Washington lawyer Henry Copp touted the community of grand Victorian homes he built along West Montgomery Avenue as “Peerless Rockville,” Bryan says.
Copp marketed the neighborhood as a haven for train commuters from the city, thanks to the nearby Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Many of those homes still stand today and are part of the West Montgomery Avenue Historic District, which was founded in 1974, along with the South Washington Street Historic District. The West Montgomery Avenue district and the nearby B&O railroad station are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to “A Walking Guide to ‘Peerless Rockville,’ ” a booklet produced by the Peerless Rockville preservation organization.
Rockville bay windows: Bryan said residents of the present-day West End neighborhood value the architectural details present in the historic districts. Many of the Victorian houses have arched doorways, intricately patterned woodwork, towers and even “Rockville bay windows,” characterized by their polygonal shape and shallow-pitched roofs, according to the city’s Historic Buildings Catalog.
The West End developed piecemeal around Copp’s original neighborhood, with vernacular houses, Cape Cods and bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s, ranch-style houses from the 1950s, split-levels from the 1960s and 1970s, and modern architecture from recent decades, Bryan said. It also includes remnants of three communities founded by free blacks before the Civil War.
Historians say the neighborhood is special not only for its preservation but also for the great diversity of architectural styles that lie within it.
The neighborhood is so representative of Montgomery County’s unfolding development, Montgomery County Historical Society has located its headquarters there, in the former home of Clerk of Court Upton Beall.
“It really is 100 years of housing history in a single neighborhood,” Bryan says. “It’s a very eclectic mix of houses.”