Delmas Wood has lived all of his 82 years in Sandy Spring, a community of nearly 6,000 residents in northeast Montgomery County, adjacent to Olney.
While embracing his status as a local celebrity with an encyclopedic mind, Wood confessed that he’s never gotten a handle on the town’s official boundaries. “I’ve never known when I’m leaving or entering” the outer suburb, whose main route is Route 108, Olney-Sandy Spring Road, he said. “The Quakers,” he added, referring to the town’s founders, “said Sandy Spring is a state of mind. They came here in 1728.”
These days, the “state of mind” characterization has been replaced by bricks and mortar. There’s a modest assortment of ranchers, Colonials, bungalows and townhouses. There’s also an inventory of million-dollar mansions, many with rear sunrooms and gourmet kitchens.
Wood, who also was an auctioneer, recalled the days when President Franklin D. Roosevelt would trek from the White House to Sandy Spring “to play cards with Winston Churchill” at the home of Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who lived in Olney. FDR’s predecessor, Herbert Hoover, who was a Quaker, also came to Sandy Spring, Wood recalled. “I feel like I’m walking on hallowed ground,” he said.
Honoring history: Wood’s fascination with everything related to Roosevelt inspired him in 1995 to create the FDR Living Museum on his one-acre property. The facility, inside a small barn painted bright red, is nestled behind iron gates labeled with the classic silhouette of the 32nd president with cigarette holder clenched between his teeth. Inside is a treasure trove of artifacts, including photographs, books, videos and a 1936 Ford Phaeton, the kind of car FDR drove. Wood’s favorite piece is a life-size figure of America’s lone four-term president.
Wood’s fingerprints can also be seen not far away at the Sandy Spring Museum, which he helped assemble. The back story of Sandy Spring is framed through photos, documents and objects culled from the descendants of its earliest settlers.
Allison Weiss, the museum’s director, said that in the early days of the village, faithful Quakers from 13 neighboring towns, including Olney, Ashton and Cloverly, would journey to Sandy Spring on horseback for Sunday worship at the Meeting House. “They’d get home before dark. “The nobility was granted huge tracts of land here,” Weiss said. “The community is very proud of the fact that the Quakers decided to free the slaves almost 100 years before the Civil War. It was a great contradiction. They were willing to free the slaves, but it was still a very segregated southern community.”
The town also supports the Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery. Located across the street from the Ross Boddy Community Center, currently undergoing renovation, they catalogue the black experience from Africa through the transoceanic crossing, the Underground Railroad and the struggle for civil rights.
The Meeting House is a quarter-mile walk down a leafy, rustic path from the quiet spring from which the town gets its name. The structure went up in 1817 and is the third on that site since the Quakers began meeting there in 1753.
Marble mousse cake: Route 108 in Sandy Spring offers a modest number of mostly small, independent retailers. The list includes a driving school, a barber and beauty and shop, and a hardware store. Urban Bar-B-Que Company is the lone chain outlet.
There’s also Passion Bakery Cafe, which in its short history has become a go-to place to rendezvous. The menu is packed with confections including butter-cream cake, Italian rum cake and fresh fruit tarts, but it’s the marble mousse cake that’s the biggest crowd pleaser, said Kimberly Chavez, 19, who works the early-morning shift.
Sandy Spring Bank, an institution founded by Quakers, opened its first office in the community in 1868. Although the original location is long gone, the bank’s second office, also in town, has been in continuous use for more than 100 years.
Living there: As Delmas Wood points out, Sandy Spring is geographically difficult to define. The Census Bureau, for instance, combines it with Ashton, its neighbor to the east, to form Ashton-Sandy Spring. Roughly speaking, Sandy Spring’s boundaries are Brooke and Dr. Bird roads to the north and west, Ednor Road to the south — and Ashton to the east. (Ashton starts somewhere around New Hampshire Avenue and extends to the Patuxent River.)
In the past year, 20 homes sold in Sandy Spring, at prices ranging from $237,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom split-foyer bank foreclosure to $1.25 million for a five-bedroom, six-bath, 5,240-square-foot Colonial, said Stefan Holtz, an agent with Long & Foster in Clarksville. Fourteen properties, including townhouses, are listed for sale, at prices ranging from $319,900 to $2.9 million. Three homes are under contract, he said, with listing prices from $390,000 to $1.295 million, he added.
Schools: Sherwood Elementary, William H. Farquhar Middle, Sherwood High, Sandy Spring Friends School and Our Lady of Good Counsel High.
Transit: Montgomery County Ride-On and Metro buses serve Sandy Spring. The Glenmont Metro station is on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton.
Tony Glaros is a freelance writer.