You're walking along Rock Creek, enjoying the near-peak fall foliage. You cross the pedestrian bridge near Jones Mill Road in Bethesda, then start uphill until you encounter a silted-over cement road. As you follow it to the right, the old pavement has partially collapsed into the creek bfore it leads back uphill, across a series of neglected, but still elegant, bridges. At the top of the hill, the trees break, and you find yourself crossing the border of an almost-forgotten world, an enchanted village of Swiss chalets, Japanese pagodas, Mediterranean villas and Greek temples populated with old statues of Greek and Roman goddesses and cracked columns.
This hidden sanctuary lies just outside--and within earshot--of the Beltway in Forest Glen, MD: the Forest Glen Seminary, formerly the National Park Seminary, before that the Forest Inn, and now the property of the U.S. Army and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
A resort hotel from 1887 to 1894, then a girls' college (sororities built the the Epcot-like village) until 1942, then a hospital for wounded soldiers during WWII, and ultimately "surplus" buildings for Walter Reed, the Seminary is still gorgeous, but in danger. Most of its buildings are crumbling. One of them burned to the ground, a victim of arson.
A volunteer organization called Save Our Seminary not only is working to stabilize and restore this unique place, but offers periodic tours of the grounds. The last one this year will be the fourth Saturday in November.
You can walk the grounds yourself any time--and today might be as good as any in the next 365--but if you want to join the tour, gather by the Indian staute in the parking lot off Linden Lane on Nov. 27 at 1 p.m. (Take Georgia Avenue north from downtown, turn left on Seminary Road. When Seminary Road veers to the right, keep straight onto Linden Lane. The lot is a mile down on the left.) Suggested donation, $5.
--Lori M. Sampson, Garrett Park
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