Compared to such high-visibility stops as White Flint and Rockville, the Twinbrook Metro station needs a good publicity campaign.
Only 1 1/2 miles north of White Flint, without either the trendiness of that stop or the forcible prominence of the Montgomery County government center at Rockville, the Twinbrook station, which opens Saturday, seems almost bland -- a convenience stop, not even visible from Rockville Pike.
The station itself, built in the same pseudo-gaslight era-style as all the above-ground stations beginning with Grosvenor, is hidden behind the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel and Office Center.
But there was a time, back in the booming 1950s, when the area between Rockville Pike, Viers Mill Road and Twinbrook Parkway was not only the corridor's fertile triangle, accounting for more than half the population of Rockville, but also the heart of Rockville's municipal revolution.
After rapid development caused a critical water shortage in 1953, and subsequent investigation revealed an impending sewage crisis as well, reform-minded residents created the Citizens for Good Government.
The nonpartisan bloc swept Twinbrook's Dickran Y. Hovsepian into the mayor's office in 1954 and dominated Rockville's politics for the next 20 years. His wife, Viola Hovsepian, is the current mayor.
"Twinbrook was the seat of the 'new Rockville,' " recalls Alexander J. Greene, who succeeded Hovsepian as mayor and is now staff assistant to Montgomery County Executive Charles Gilchrist.
"I always lived on the West End, but because I came up with that group, people always assumed I was one of those Twinbrookers," Greene said.
In the decade after World War II, when the population of the Rockville district more than tripled, the Twinbrook neighborhood went from being sweepingly rural (one city official likens the wheat farms of those days to the tundra) to a boom town.
Its development also epitomized the transformation of the Montgomery County suburbs from solely upper-class to a mix of middle- and lower-income neighborhoods as well, thanks to postwar housing demands.
Young veterans and entrance-level government workers used VA and FHA loans to buy two-bedroom bungalows in Twinbrook -- a new trend in low-income, single-family developments as well as acres of garden-apartment complexes that was controversial for its introduction into a county that even then had neighborhoods where most of the houses traded for $20,000 and more.
The building boom throughout the '50s, and Twinbrook's gradual evolution from working class to middle class, reflected the increasing prosperity of the civil servants and professionals who settled there. "They were the Yuppies of the '50s," said Greene.
They began to have to compete for space in the former farmland. After years of bickering, Parklawn Cemetery took over 110 acres of what is now the eastern edge of the bustling subway sector.
The area also began to attract office and retail developers. Twenty-five and 30-year-old shopping malls like the Twinbrook Mart, now undergoing a quarter-million-dollar facelift, are already into their second childhoods.
The Parklawn building of the Department of Health and Human Services, which contains more than 1 million square feet of public health office space, was opened in 1970 and now accommodates about 7,000 federal employes.
The gradual establishment of commercial/retail and light industrial development west of the B&O tracks and east of Twinbrook Parkway pushed residential expansion north across Norbeck Road, and the area to be served by the Metro station now resembles a wedge rather than the old arrowhead.
Like the subway stations at Bethesda and White Flint, the Twinbrook stop has become the basis of a changing skyline.
The Twinbrook Metro Plaza, which is under construction next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the corner of Twinbrook Parkway and Rockville Pike, will more than double the size of the current Crowne Plaza development when it opens next summer.
Across Rockville Pike, construction has already begun on the six-story Barlow Corp. complex (complete with six-story waterfall). Nearby, a 30,000-square-foot retail addition to Congressional South Shopping Plaza has already been approved, and planners are considering a proposal for a larger motel-retail complex to be built alongside it.
The explosive expansion of the Red Line this year along Rockville Pike has sparked such massive simultaneous development that the city has declared a moratorium on new construction until early next year.
Rozansky and Kay's $48 million Tri-Rock complex near the corner of Montrose and Rockville Pike, and its proposed Woodmont Place II, have both been delayed by the seven-month halt.
But if the boom is dizzying urban planners, it's delighting local businesses. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the tourist trade has been limited, staff members hope Metro will be just the ticket.
The Crowne Plaza, which houses Papa's cafe and Hemingway's restaurant (as well as a video disco called, more straightforwardly, Chasers) takes itself a little too in Ernest for some designers; its Little Cuba interior includes a gazebo bar (with papier-mache parrot), a two-story waterfall, a ramp disguised as a Lilliputian golf course (with flags only a yard apart) and a lifeboat hanging over the mezzanine. It left at least one old man at sea -- a graying corporate lawyer who tossed back two martinis, keeping one eye on the dinghy, and rolled like a sailor into Chasers.
Despite its resort decor and the pricey Theodore Nye jewelers in the lobby, Crowne Plaza is primarily a "corporate hotel," according to sales and marketing director Mel Bronstein; a businessman's special that tries to draw state and regional conventions on weekends when the pinstriped overnighters are few.
"I think Metro will really enhance our business," Bronstein said, "the theory being that a lot of conventioneers will be bringing their spouses, who might want to go downtown, do a little sightseeing, or go shopping at White Flint."
With the station literally at the hotel's back door, Bronstein said, "The only thing better would be if the subway stopped in the lobby." NEXT: Rockville Remaking Its Past