Where We Live

Its Name Lacks a 'Park,' but Not Its Vibe

By Mara Lee
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, June 7, 2008

Takoma has had an activist spirit from the start.

An early example: Georgia Avenue was a toll road in the neighborhood's early days, and residents built out Piney Branch Road to avoid the payments.

In the 1880s, when Takoma Park was founded as a railway suburb of the District, distinctions between the Northwest Washington side, now known just as Takoma, and Maryland side, Takoma Park, were little noticed. Even until the 1950s, children from both Maryland and the District attended the same Takoma elementary school in the District.

Carolivia Herron, vice president of the neighborhood association, moved to the south end of Takoma in 1961 as a teenager. She lives today in that same house on Underwood Street, although she has moved away a number of times over the years.

She's proud of the activist history of Takoma, that neighbors were part of a coalition that blocked Interstate 95 from cutting through the District and that they blocked high-rise commercial development around the Metro station.

She remembers Marvin Caplan, a neighborhood equal-housing activist, visiting her family not long after they arrived, telling them the neighborhood was fighting fear-mongering among real estate agents who were warning white residents that as black neighbors arrived, they should sell. Herron's was one of the first black families on the street. The racial balance in the neighborhood eventually flipped so that few whites were left. Now, she said, "The southern end of Takoma is slowly integrating."

Mary Kadzielski, 25, moved to a group house on Eighth Street NW in February. Her roommate Elizabeth Ide, 26, arrived in August.

Kadzielski said she likes the farmer's market, which is across the line in Maryland. Ide praised the Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op, also on the Maryland side, with its emphasis on organic and vegetarian products. Kadzielski's job is also in Takoma Park, where she works for a group that lobbies for climate-change policies.

Their house gives them easy access to those and other Takoma Park amenities -- it's closer to the downtown area than most group houses on the Maryland side -- at a price they can afford. The roommates pay $550 to $725 a room.

Takoma has some grand Victorian houses, many 1920s bungalows and two-story wood-frame houses, some duplexes, brick Colonials, brick rowhouses and apartments, and a few ramblers scattered among the older homes. The streets are lined with sidewalks, many shaded by massive trees.

"I love the green life of it," Herron said. "I just love the refreshing quiet."

Sterling Ward and his wife, Cynthia, live on Eighth Street NW. He says his block is "very tranquil, very peaceful" because of the mature oak trees. He said he likes the character of their 86-year-old house, with its built-in bookshelves in the living room. The value of the house has doubled since 2002, he said. "We couldn't afford to buy today."

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