Many residents of Hyattsville’s historic district say Franklin’s exemplifies their community’s quirky, historic character. They credit the store with starting a wave of redevelopment along Route 1, which now boasts restaurants and stores such as Busboys and Poets, Tara Thai and Yes! Organic Market. Franklin’s neighbors include Arrow Bicycle and A Tangled Skein, a knitting store housed in a historic bank building.
“It always delights me to notice that our customers are black and white and old and young and just all over the place socially and economically,” said Franklin, 54, who moved to the community 23 years ago. He’s now the chairman of Hyattsville’s Community Development Corporation and has served as president of the Hyattsville Preservation Association. “You don’t come to this place, or Hyattsville in general, to see one kind of person.”
Hyattsville was developed around the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Washington and Baltimore Turnpike (now Route 1) and the Anacostia River in the mid-1800s and incorporated in 1886, according to the Hyattsville Preservation Association, a group that aims to preserve and raise awareness of the city’s history. The city continued developing along a streetcar line into the District built in the late 1800s, according to the association.
In 1982, a large swath of the city was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2004 the historic district was expanded to include a total of 1,000 buildings covering slightly less than half a square mile.
The Victorians, Colonial Revivals, bungalows and Craftsman-style houses that make up the historic district in Prince George’s County are often priced drastically lower than similar houses in Montgomery County, residents said.
“When we were looking for houses 23 years ago, we were intrigued by older, funky homes, but we found that we were going to pay significantly more for less house in Takoma Park and Silver Spring,” said Debbie Franklin, 55, a math instructor at the University of Maryland and Mike Franklin’s wife. “That’s still the case. Where else in the Washington area can you find a beautiful Victorian home for the price you can find it here?”
Many of those houses have recently been renovated by new owners after years of neglect, said Stuart Eisenberg, executive director of the Community Development Corporation, treasurer of the preservation group and a former Hyattsville City Council president.
“Older Victorians are very expensive to maintain, and at a certain point, the heating and electrical systems need complete overhauls,” said Eisenberg, 48, who said he moved to historic Hyattsville 19 years ago because he was renting a place in Takoma Park and couldn’t afford to buy there. “Rather than redo the whole system, many homeowners move out and convert the homes into boardinghouses.”