In the early light of a gray December morning, Anita Summerour sat in a parked car and looked toward the CSX railroad and Metro tracks that separate her predominantly black neighborhood from central Rockville.
"There it is," she said.
She shook her head and pointed to the neighborhood's only direct route to the other side of the tracks -- a caged-in, steel-and-concrete footbridge completed by the city in 1981, after Metro laid its rails along the freight tracks that border Lincoln Park.
For decades, there had been a railroad crossing at the site. Metro's arrival put an end to it.
Lincoln Park waged a bitter fight for a traffic overpass to replace the crossing, but got the pedestrian bridge instead.
"It's very ugly," said Summerour, vice president of the civic association in this 82-acre, largely blue-collar enclave of about 1,000 people, a half mile northeast of Montgomery County's Judicial Center and Executive Office Building.
"People resent that bridge. It's very, very ugly, and it's something that never should have happened."
State transportation planners are weighing the possible benefits of building a traffic bridge.
In the meantime, Summerour and others said, the pedestrian bridge stands as a stark symbol of the isolation felt in Lincoln Park, which was developed for black families nearly a century ago and remains home to nearly one-third of Rockville's black residents.
The Metro and CSX tracks run beside North Stonestreet Avenue, a light-industrial strip, forming Lincoln Park's western edge. It is a border with no opening for vehicles to cross, a stretch of five blocks from the neighborhood's northern boundary at Ashley Avenue to its southern boundary at Howard Avenue.
To cross it, motorists continue south on Stonestreet for several more blocks, pass under the tracks at Park Road, then double back.
The neighborhood consists of about a dozen streets, with primarily modest, single-family homes of wood or brick -- most of them built between the 1920s and 1950s -- standing shoulder-to-shoulder on narrow, deep lots.
Residents have to leave the neighborhood to shop. Some cross Horners Lane, the western boundary of Lincoln Park, to the Maryvale neighborhood.
Summerour, who has lived in Lincoln Park for 39 of her 40 years, recalled growing up in "a neighborhood where everybody used to know everybody. There was a real sense of community here. Everybody was practically related to each other. They felt secure. A lot of people here inherited these houses from their mothers or their fathers."
Life has changed in the neighborhood, if only a little, said Charlie Wilson, who was born in Lincoln Park 41 years ago.
"Anything that any of your neighbors saw you doing wrong as a kid, they'd correct you and make sure it got back to your parents. That doesn't happen anymore," said Wilson, a city employe who supervises the Lincoln Park Community Center, which offers after-school recreation and academic programs.
Summerour said she also has noticed a slight erosion of Lincoln Park's sense of community.
"People have gotten to a point where they feel secure about selling their homes and moving on. The neighborhood has always been predominantly black, and it wasn't easy for black people to move around. But blacks are getting better jobs now, and they're able to move."
Even still, real estate brokers said, the housing market in Lincoln Park is far from active. "People still tend to stay a long time," said broker Helen Hillstrom, who estimated the range of property values in the neighborhood at $50,000 to $100,000, with some exceptions.
"It's overlooked a lot, too," said broker Jeffrey Vinson. "There are some good values down there for first-time buyers. There are pockets of nice, middle-class homes, and there are pockets that are really bad. Some people keep their house up, and some don't. It depends where you look."
Development of the neighborhood now called Lincoln Park started in the early 1890s, according to a written account on file at the Montgomery County Historical Society.
A former Union soldier, interested in the welfare of blacks, began building and selling houses to them. Slow to take root at first, the neighborhood grew steadily in the years after World War I.
From the beginning, residents coped with prejudice.
Not until 1927, with the construction of Rockville Colored High School, did a local secondary school become available to the children of Lincoln Park, according to historical society records.
And in the early 1950s, residents were still fighting for their first streetlights, water hookups and paved roads.
By the late 1970s, there were about 400 households in the neighborhood, including two apartment complexes -- the city Housing Authority's 71-unit Lincoln Terrace for low-income families, and a privately owned, 59-unit complex that was recently renovated and renamed Rocklin Apartments. Many of Rocklin's residents receive federal rent subsidies.
Before Metro's arrival, Frederick Avenue, which cuts through the center of Lincoln Park, stretched west across the railroad tracks and out of the neighborhood to Rte. 355.
To replace the railroad crossing, the city intended to build a traffic bridge. But before it could be constructed, officials decided the money would be better spent on improvements to the Park Road underpass, close to the Rockville Metro station.
Today, Frederick Avenue leads to the footbridge.
Hillstrom, the broker, said she does not believe the absence of a direct traffic route to central Rockville has hurt property values in Lincoln Park.
"You go anywhere else in the county," she said, "and people want to be cut off from busy streets. But there's something sociological in Lincoln Park, in my opinion.
"There's a feeling that they've been set aside."
Ardell Shirley, the civic association's president, agreed.
She said the neighborhood has been growing increasingly apathetic.
Only about 20 people attend most association meetings these days. "But my roots come from here," Shirley said, "and that's enough to keep me going."
Summerour, like Shirley, said she will continue the effort to bring Lincoln Park together with the rest of Rockville across the tracks.
"We have to," she said.
"Somebody has to look out for the neighborhood's interests.
"A lot of the older people who did it for years are incapacitated or they've died.
"I think we owe it to them."