After seven years of planning and several delays, the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center in Gaithersburg, a detention facility for juveniles awaiting trial or placement in a prison, is ready to open. It is the first such facility in Montgomery County.

The $1.2 million facility, named after the man who was a Montgomery County juvenile judge for 25 years and who originally proposed building the center, was officially dedicated recently and will begin housing juveniles in July.

The movement to build a detention facility in Montgomery County began in 1970, said Marion Mattingly of the county Juvenile Justice Committee, after Women on Watch, a women's lobby, issued a report that stressed the need of an additional detention center in suburban Maryland.

At that time, there was only the Thomas J. Waxter Children's Center in Anne Arundel County, near Laurel, and many Montgomery and Prince George's County youths were being sent to detention centers far from their homes.

"Waxter's was terribly overcrowded," Mattingly recalled. "Kids were literally sleeping on mattresses on floor."

After intense lobbying in Annapolis, Women's Watch succeeded in getting the governor to place $585,000 in the budget in 1970 for planning and construction of the center. Governor Marvin Mandel decreed that the center should be built within 16 months. But disagreements over how the facility should be designed and where to place it led to delays, Mattingly said.

"We (Women's Watch) wanted a place that would properly serve children - not a jail," said Mattingly. Today, the facility is a two-story fenced-in brick structure on a six-acre plot at Shady Grove Road and Route 28. It has four wings and can house up to 30 boys and girls.

The land, donated by Montgomery County, is on the same site as the planned Regional Institute for Children, which will house emotionally and mentally disturbed youths.

The facility will be financed and run by the state Department of Juvenile Services and will also house youths from Alleghany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington Counties, according to Henry Nathan of the State Health Department.

Alfred D. Noyes, whose name the facility bears, is now retired and living in Barnesville.