Historic American Building Survey of the midcentury Woodmoor Shopping Center in Silver Spring, MD. Project was completed for the National Parks Service and currently is part of the Library of Congress holdings (HABS No. MD-1419) .
Conceived as the gateway to the planned residential community of Woodmoor, Maryland, the Woodmoor Shopping Center opened its first group of six stores in early 1939 and continued to grow over the next three decades along with the population of Woodmoor. Designed by the local firm of Schreier & Patterson, who were also the architects of Woodmoor’s houses, the shopping center was intended to provide basic services to the local community and complement, rather than replace, the downtown retail district. The center was such a boon to the neighborhood that it tripled in size in 1948, adding eleven more stores and second-story professional offices. Another addition in 1954 included four more stores with a bowling alley in the basement. Woodmoor Shopping Center’s role as a community center was further cemented in 1958 with the addition of a library.
The regular expansion of the Woodmoor Shopping Center parallels the explosive post-World War II population growth of Washington, D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Surprisingly, despite the more than seven discrete periods of construction and addition, the Woodmoor Shopping Center presents a unified and harmonious façade rendered in a Streamline Moderne mode distinct from the traditional and colonial design used for the neighborhood’s houses. The use of blond brick, horizontal banding, limestone window surrounds, angled storefronts, fluted metal window hardware, marble and plate glass storefronts, aerodynamic curved corners, and front and rear parking lots attest to the modern, automobile-conscious nature of the center and were continued throughout each addition. The result is a complex whose phased enlargements are difficult to identify to even the most careful observer.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Woodmoor Shopping Center escaped the economic decline that most small, local shopping centers in Montgomery County experienced as a result of the emergence of larger regional shopping malls and the continued growth of the metropolitan area even further from the District line. It contained essential stores and services accessible by car or on foot, and remained unified both architecturally and economically, all of which assured its continued place as the principal cornerstone for the Woodmoor community.
Part I: Historical Information
A. Physical History:
1. Date of erection:
The shopping center as it exists today is the result of a varied series of construction campaigns occurring between 1939 and 1971 (fig. 1). The original portion—today the first floor of the northern portion of the central wing of the complex—was completed in early 1939 and consisted of a few basic shops including a supermarket and a drug store. The facility also included a separate gas station (no longer extant) situated across the front parking lot near the intersection of Colesville Road and Old Bladensburg Road (now University Boulevard). A southern addition that more than tripled the size of the center was completed in 1948 and included second-story office space, which was extended to the north sometime between 1948 and 1951. The shopping center was enlarged with a one-story addition to the north in two phases: ground level retail and a bowling lanes in the basement in 1954 and a branch of the county library in 1958. In the 1960s, a two-story florist’s shop was added to the southern portion of the shopping center facing the front parking lot and University Boulevard and the second-story offices extended to the south of the center volume. The final addition, more second-story office space over the original 1939 portion of the facility, was completed sometime between late-1969 and 1971.
Schreier & Patterson
The firm of Schreier & Patterson provided the design for the original portion of the shopping center in 1939 as well as the major enlargement and conceptualization in 1948. Edwin Philip Schreier (1904-1985) was born in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, and moved from New England to Washington, D.C. in the early 1920s to attend Catholic University. After graduating in 1927 with a Bachelor of Science in architecture, he worked as a draftsman in a number of offices—Upman & Adams; James E. Cooper, a prolific home builder in the Washington area in the 1920s; and Allied Architects of Washington, D.C.—before serving as the District’s Municipal Architect and subsequently establishing his own firm, Schreier & Patterson, in 1932.
Schreier’s partner, Michael Aloysius Patterson (1902-1994), was born in Waverly, Ohio, and also attended Catholic University where the future partners likely met. After graduating in 1926, Patterson traveled to England, Ireland, France, and Italy before working as a draftsman in the office of James E. Cooper, Alexander H. Sonnemann, the architect for the Kenwood development, and James Younger, the architect for the Kennedy Warren Hotel (now Apartments). Upon establishing their firm, Schreier & Patterson were interested in economically efficient production methods. In 1934, they applied for a patent along with E. A. Pessagno, a contractor, and Wilfrid V. Worland, a local Washington, D.C., architect and future partner in Patterson’s second firm. Their patent was a “novel form of monolithic construction” using a sheet metal pan as the formwork for casting large-scale structures such as bridges, dams, buildings, and frameworks out of concrete or other cast material. While there are no documented uses of the patented building method, Schreier & Patterson continued to be guided by the ideas of modernity and efficient construction in their subsequent designs.
Throughout the late 1930s, the firm designed hundreds of residences in the rapidly-developing the Maryland suburbs of Westhaven, Greenacres, Westmoreland Hills, Woodacres, and Woodmoor where their projects were featured several times in The Washington Post and House & Garden; the firm also won several awards for their “skillful blending of the most important modern elements” while simultaneously “faithfully carrying out the best features of the colonial type home.” Beginning in 1937, the firm began working with Moss Realty Company, who developed large portions of Woodmoor in the late 1930s and early 1940s as detached, single-family houses at economical prices in the lots directly north and east of the Woodmoor Shopping Center. In an effort to reduce costs, there were three or four basic types of house in Woodmoor, ranging in size from a one-story, two-bedroom model to a two-story, three-bedroom dwelling with the promise of no two houses being alike due to “exterior color selection [and] porch, dormer, and door locations.” The firm continued to design both detached and attached single-family houses in southern Montgomery County throughout the 1940s, completing over 600 rental units in Chevy Chase, Maryland, between 1942 and 1947 for developer/builder Albert W. Walker.
When the partnership ended in 1950, Schreier worked independently until his retirement in 1978 and Patterson opened the firm of Patterson & Worland in 1951, remaining a partner in that firm until his retirement, also in 1978.
Johannes & Murray
The firm of Johannes & Murray designed the 1954 addition at the northern end of the shopping plaza. Dana Berry Johannes, Jr. (1910-1972) was born in Washington, D.C., and attended the Columbia Technical School, a mathematics, engineering, and drafting vocational school and college, in the 1930s. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland as a designer and draftsman in 1931-32 and opened his own design firm in 1935, completing many residential and commercial projects in and around Washington, D.C. He began his partnership with Loren Leroy Murray (1909-1977) in 1945. Murray was born in Carmen, Oklahoma and moved to Washington, D.C. as a child. After attending George Washington University and then the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, he began working for his future partner in 1936 until his employment at the Washington Navy Yard as an associate architect in 1941. With the conclusion of World War II, the two opened their own firm, designing over 300 projects for educational facilities in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, and Dorchester counties, including Mace’s Lane High School in 1949-51, at the time Dorchester County’s only secondary school for African Americans. The firm also designed the undergraduate library, the main dining hall, and several dormitories at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, both men were active in local chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Johannes was the first president of the Maryland Potomac Valley Chapter of the AIA in 1954, and Murray was co-chairman of the Maryland Division of the Washington Chapter of the AIA in the mid-1950s and remained an officer in the 1960s. In 1958, Johannes and his family moved to central Florida and opened a second office in Clearwater, dividing his time between Maryland and Florida. After Johannes passed away in 1972, Murray continued to act as the firm’s principal architect until his retirement in 1980.
The Moss Realty Company was responsible for the construction and sale of houses in Woodmoor residential subdivision. This company was closely associated with other legal entities ultimately linked to the commercial development of the Woodmoor Shopping Center, including Woodmoor, Inc., and Woodmoor Development Corporation, the latter of which conveyed the property to Woodmoor Shopping Center Incorporated in 1938.
1938-1942 Woodmoor Shopping Center Incorporated
Feb-Nov 1942 Arthur G. Dezendorf and Martha T. Dezendorf
Nov 1942-Jan 1943 Gilbert N. Keller and Chester H. Keller
1943-1999 G & C Properties Corporation
1999-2001 First Washington Realty
2001-present U.S. Retail Partners
4. Original and subsequent occupants:
Since its opening in 1939, the Woodmoor Shopping Center has provided such basic services and stores as a grocery, a drug store, a barber, and a dry cleaner for local residents. Although the Woodmoor Cleaners, the Arcade Barbershop, the Woodmoor Pastry Shop, the Watch Pocket, Hoover Fisher Florists, and Keller Associates Real Estate have all, notably, been in their present locations for over forty years, if not significantly longer, most of the tenants have changed over time. Specialty stores have come and gone depending on local needs and national chains have increasingly had a presence there. During its first six decades, the center included a freestanding gas station at the front, which was removed early in the twenty-first century as part of a road widening project. Beginning in 1948, the center also provided second-story office space for a range of professionals and small business owners; there are presently twenty-two tenants on the second floor. The lists below are snapshots of the known retailers and occupants of the first floor of the shopping center at key moments in its history.
Peoples Drug Store
Woodmoor Food Mart
Woodmoor Automotive Service Center
Acme Grocery Store
Auto supply store
Esso Filling Station & Service Center
United States Post Office
Woodmoor Appliance Mart
Woodmoor Hardware Store
Woodmoor Agency (real estate)
Esso Filling Station & Service Center
Keller Associates Real Estate
Montgomery County public library
United States Post Office
Woodmoor Bowling Center (basement)
Arcade Barber Shop
Bank of America
Fantasy Nails Spa
Hoover Fisher Florists
Keller Associates Real Estate
Silver Spring Stage (basement)
Santucci’s Italian Deli
The UPS Store
The Watch Pocket
Woodmoor Pastry Shop
Woodmoor Supermarket/Choi Supermarket
5. Builder/developer, contractor, suppliers:
Moss Realty Corporation
George Joseph Moss (1900-1994), the original developer of Woodmoor, founded the Moss Realty Corporation in the mid-1930s. George Moss, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, moved to the Washington, D.C. area in the 1920s and benefitted from its steady real estate expansion in the 1930s. Branwill Park, a neighborhood of single-family houses situated between Sligo Creek Park and the Indian Spring area, was the Moss Realty Corporation’s first residential development project in 1935. A steady increase the population of the District and its outlying suburbs and the relative affluence of the area’s middle-class led to further development in Montgomery County. Roadways opened up and the Moss Realty Corporation, and a number of other local real estate developers, purchased land and began to create residential subdivisions largely composed of affordable detached, single-family dwellings having traditional or colonial forms and detailing.
The Moss Realty Corporation was highly active in many parts of Montgomery County, building houses in Bethesda’s Battery Park neighborhood and developing the Springbrook, North Springbrook, and Springbrook Forest subdivisions. Two notable exceptions to their typical projects of detached, single-family houses was the 1936 construction of seventeen two-story attached row houses in the District’s Burlieth neighborhood on designs by architect George T. Santmyers and the establishment of Parklawn Memorial Park (1951) in Rockville, Maryland, one of the first cemeteries developed specifically to serve the new population of Montgomery County.
In February 1937, the Moss Realty Corporation platted the first tract in Woodmoor, located to the northeast of the shopping center and west of Colesville Road. The two blocks formed by the new roads of Woodmoor Circle, Woodmoor Drive, Lexington Drive, Pierce Drive, and Pierce Place contained a total of thirty-three lots. A second plat completed in April 1939 delineated seven additional lots on the south side of Pierce Place and west side of Pierce Drive, all backing up to four parcels that would become part of the shopping center, and eleven additional lots on the east side of Lexington Drive. The first display model in Woodmoor opened on September 11, 1937; twenty-four additional houses constituted the initial development, which quickly mushroomed to include scores of dwellings by 1939. The shopping center, designed by Schreier & Patterson, was conceived during this first period of development. The property was platted in October 1937 and the first phase of the center opened sometime early in 1939 (fig. 2). The stores and gas station cost $250,000 and the problem of “the placement of convenient commercial facilities…that will not detract from the rural atmosphere” was solved through careful landscaping.
In Spring 1939, an amendment made to the National Housing Act extended eligibility for a 25-year mortgages for projects meeting Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements to include houses costing under $6,000. George Moss publicly praised the amendment, announcing in The Washington Post that it was a “vital factor in encouraging prospective home owners to proceed with their buying or building plans…[It is] a source of great encouragement to builders as well as buyers.” Following the amendment, the Moss Realty Corporation completed and sold forty houses in Woodmoor in May and June; by September, the number had risen to one hundred with fifty more completed by November, making 1939 a record year for the company with annual sales of more than $1,000,000. Throughout 1940 and 1941, sales at Woodmoor slowed and Moss Realty began to work with the Southern Homes Corporation to promote and develop additional housing there while simultaneously moving on to develop new subdivisions in southern Montgomery County, including Springbrook, featuring expansive lots and large houses for people wanting a “country life” experience still convenient to the city.
Although little is known about the Moss Realty Corporation’s reason for selecting Schreier & Patterson as the architects for the Woodmoor development, scholar Richard Longstreth suggests that “a good reputation in what was a rather small development community appears to have been the key factor in the selection of architects for neighborhood centers.” From the start of Montgomery County’s early suburbs, a strong relationship between developers and architects or builders existed. In Takoma Park, for example, Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, the developer of the town, worked with Frederick and Lewis Dudley, who became the builders-in-residence and constructed many of its earliest dwellings. The entrepreneurs/developers of Chevy Chase, Francis G. Newlands and William Stewart, worked with Leon E. Dessez and Lindley Johnson for the designs of the first four houses while Nathan Barrett devised the neighborhood’s landscaping.
While there is no documented connection between developer George Moss and the architects or their prior employers, Schreier & Patterson was featured in House & Garden and in the real estate section of The Washington Post several times in 1936 and 1937 for their residential designs of “outstanding merit” in the nearby development of Westhaven in Bethesda, Maryland. Such publicity would have brought attention to the firm and given the architects a positive standing in the area Moss Realty most likely hoped for similar press and attention after selecting Schreier & Patterson as such tactics would have aided in the advertising and ultimate sale of houses in Woodmoor. Moss Realty retained the architects for the designs of more houses in later residential developments in Montgomery County including a number in the Springbrook subdivision.
Longstreth further points out that few firms in the 1930s specialized in commercial and retail architecture in suburban Washington D.C., simply because the nascent population growth limited commercial construction opportunities, especially when compared to the strong residential market. It is likely that in the case of Woodmoor Shopping Center, the architects of the residential development were retained for the local commercial venture because they were already familiar with the site, the architecture of the surrounding houses, and the development company.
By 1947, ownership of the shopping center parcel had passed on to Woodmoor Services, Incorporated, who retained the E.L. Daniels Company, an Arlington, Virginia builder and general contractor, to carry out the second phase of expansion. E.L. Daniels constructed several commercial and residential projects in Arlington in the 1940s through the Federal Works Agency, an independent agency of the federal government that administered public works, construction, and building maintenance from 1939 to 1940. The company’s projects included more than five schools in Arlington, the chapel of the Arlington Memorial Baptist Church, a community and child care center in Potomac, Maryland, and the Arlington Trust Company’s main office in Arlington. E.L. Daniels, founder of the company, was a member of the Northern Virginia Builders Association and served as its second vice president in 1956.
6. Original plans and construction:
The intersection of Colesville Road and University Boulevard, an area known as Four Corners, has long been an important one. Located roughly nine miles north of central Washington, the land surrounding the intersection contained several farms, rural houses, and a local general store owned by the Walsh family in the 1860s. By 1867, there was also a post office servicing the local area, but access to the village crossroads was possible only by horse-drawn carriage. An 1879 account stated that Four Corners had a population of 125 people, including a postmaster, blacksmith, three carpenters, two millers, two shoemakers, a merchandiser, and thirty-seven farmers, growing mainly wheat, corn, and hay. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, several wealthy families—including those of the Honorable Abraham Bryan Olin, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; George Beale, superintendent of country roads; and a Mr. Bryan, a wealthy investor from New York City—built summer residences in the vicinity. Despite the village’s proximity to the rising railroad and streetcar suburbs of Takoma Park and Forest Glen, at the turn of the century the Four Corners area was still described as a “village of a few houses on a corner of the Bryan property, about three and one-half miles from the District line…There are a number of fine summer residences in the vicinity.”
The Four Corners area and its village crossroads remained rural until the 1930s like most of Montgomery County. Although downtown Silver Spring began to emerge as a local shopping destination with stores opening along Georgia Avenue in the 1920s and 1930s, Four Corners had changed little since the late-nineteenth century, containing little more than the Indian Springs Golf (Country) Club, which opened in the early 1920s, several small land tracts with single-family dwellings, and a Methodist church. By 1935, county zoning had set aside commercial areas of approximately 120′-square at each of the intersection’s four corners, but it was not until the Moss Realty Corporation began to develop residential subdivisions that the area quickly began losing its pastoral character.
Moss Realty located Woodmoor on 170 heavily wooded acres, just north of the Indian Springs Golf (Country) Club and south of “rustic Northwest Branch Parkway.” Early features and advertisements called the area “ideal in location” with “scenic beauty” that was “worth waiting for;” engineers were said to have carefully selected the site so that it was “enough removed from urban congestion, yet within reach of the advantages an in-town location offered.” Additionally, the development tract was “carefully landscaped” to preserve the “natural picturesqueness” of the historic Indian Spring.
Not wanting even the small group of stores of the first phase of the Woodmoor Shopping Center to disrupt this idea of country tranquility, The Washington Post reported that the architects and developers had found a “novel solution” to the problem of commercial buildings in the suburbs. Although these nearby shops offered convenience, they were to be camouflaged, semi-hidden behind tall poplar trees to “blend in” better with the surrounding landscape; however, historic photograph from 1941 shows little, if any, landscaping had been executed. The initial group of stores was located far back on the plot reserved for the shopping center and angled inward towards the intersection. This siting was most likely intentional, as it made the shopping center visible to cars passing through the intersection and created easily accessible parking lots in the front and rear.
Despite Moss Realty’s early desire for a semi-hidden appearance, the plot that the Woodmoor Shopping Center is located on was the centerpiece of the subdivision. It was both the point of access for those traveling by automobile and bus as well as an important selling point for buyers, who would have seen a grocery store and a drug store within walking distance of their new house as an important amenity. Moreover, it also resolved the problem of what to do with the least-desirable plot of land in a residential development—the one where two busy crossroads met was unlikely to be seen as fit for a house marketed as being removed from the city.
The asymmetrical siting of the shopping center today is the result of phased development and changing zoning laws. Although the earliest portion of the retail facility was located at the center of the plot that temporarily became a particularly large parking lot– a relatively novel idea at the time and perhaps inspired by the parking lot at the nearby Silver Spring Shopping Center (1938, John Eberson, architect)—additions to the plaza either provided for street-side parking or no parking whatsoever. The bulk of the 1948 addition angled was also angled inward like the 1939 portion, but an extra wing on the south, containing a supermarket, fronted on University Boulevard and had a handful of head-in parking spaces at the front of the store. This addition more fully separated the front and rear parking lots and arrangement created distinct entrances to them as well as stronger visual links between the street and the supermarket by means of massive plate glass store windows.
The 1954 addition on the northern portion of the plot did not provide any street-side parking and the storefronts opened directly onto a sidewalk along Colesville Road, following a more urban approach to retail planning. Still, as with the supermarket on the south, the northern addition was highly visible to both pedestrians and motorists and the option to park elsewhere in the complex maintained the possibility of an automobile-oriented shopping experience.
Although most of the parcel located at the northwest corner of the intersection of University Boulevard and Lexington Drive (see fig. 2) was eventually paved over as an expansion of the rear parking lot, as late as 1959 it contained a single building positioned at its eastern end and fronting onto Lexington Drive. The building was constructed as a electric substation for the Woodmoor neighborhood by the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO). The modest one-and-one-half story brick building was designed to appear like a house from the street in order to blend in with residences it was constructed to serve. As Washington expanded and households used increasing amounts of electricity, PEPCO began adding substations in outlying areas to assure a constant and steady flow of power. In 1939, it launched a program to make the construction of substations more palatable to the people living in nearby residential neighborhoods. While greatly expanded, the one that fronted onto Lexington Drive appears to have originally been similar to one featured in a 1954 article on the PEPCO substations. It was a four-bay brick Cape Cod with a central chimney.
Initial Development in Two Phases
While the modest initial phase of the Woodmoor Shopping Center was almost certainly not envisioned as a stopping point, the degree to which the Moss Realty Corporation and its architects envisioned the eventual extent of the facility at the outset is uncertain. The eclectic building’s three principal expansion campaigns and at least five other identifiable additions—three of which were enlargements of the second floor office space—suggest a disjointed vision whose parts were held together by a consistent design vocabulary.
The first portion of the Woodmoor Shopping Center, constructed in 1939 at a cost of $250,000, contained a grocery store, a drug store, a dry cleaner, a beauty shop, and a filling station in a separate building situated nearer the road intersection. The small group of stores was meant to serve the basic needs of the immediate community and could not replace a trip to downtown Washington, D.C. or even the smaller, more local downtown area of nearby Silver Spring. With a footprint having dimensions of approximately 60′ x 100′, the single-story building appears to have had a single curved corner at its south-facing corner, a flat roof, several large windows along the southwestern and southeastern facades, and contrasting brick banding along the parapet and tops of the windows.
Although the streamlined details of the earliest, modest portion of the shopping center broadly informed the design direction for the later additions, the overall character of the present building was attained with the second construction phase, completed in 1948. Contractor E.L. Daniels broke ground in November 1947 and it was estimated that the expansion south from the existing building would take approximately eight months to complete. The mostly one-story addition was visually anchored at its center by a distinct rectangular volume on the second floor positioned over a broad corridor linking the front and back of the plaza. A new one-story wing, positioned at a slightly higher grade on the sloping site and turned roughly 45° to the rest of the shopping center as it was oriented towards University Boulevard, became the southern terminus of the building. With this concept, the original portion of the building became the corresponding northern terminus, in line with, but given a degree of presence by curving outwards slightly forward of the addition. This expansion provided sixteen new stores including a larger supermarket, a hardware store, and specialty shops (fig. 3).
7. Alterations and additions:
The architectural decisions made with the varied additions following the initial construction of the Woodmoor Shopping Center had both functional and visual dimensions. The additions did not just offer new retail space, but significantly expanded the office space on the second floor. The multifunctional, community center character of the shopping center was further reinforced with the addition of bowling lanes and a public neighborhood library in the 1950s. Visually, the architects grappled with maintaining balance in the increasingly complex massing of the building. Demand for additional goods and services by the local population and the corresponding promise of profits through additional rent revenue were surely the strongest factors affecting when and how the owners decided to expand the facility. Still, the care taken in design—from major elements to details—suggest that aesthetic considerations had a role as well. Indeed, the small-scale of most of the additions and careful material choices have resulted in a building that, despite the result of many construction campaigns, still reads as a unified design.
Although not a large addition, the first to occur after the initial development further complicated the interplay between one- and two-story volumes in the building. Completed by 1951, the second floor was extended to the north over the newly completed retail space. It was set back from the central volume, but retained the brick banding and extruded window frames used in the earlier section (see fig. 3). This was followed in-turn by a major one-story addition to the north of the 1939 portion. Starting in 1944, Chester H. Keller, then treasurer of the G & C Properties Corporation and later the founder of his own real estate company, Keller Associates, sought to rezone an area of approximately 180 feet along Colesville Road at Four Corners from residential to commercial zoning. While successful, the use of this land did not occur until 1954 when Keller Associates began work on a $500,000 addition designed by Johannes & Murray to contain a bank, a men’s clothing shop, a county library, a drug store, five-and-dime store, and bowling lanes in the basement. The library, however, was not built immediately and was added on to the northernmost portion of the lot in 1958.
The one-story addition was approximately one half-acre in size. It closed off direct access to the rear parking lot from Colesville Road and required northbound cars to use the narrow entrance drive connecting to Timberwood Avenue (originally Pierce Place). In the following decade, the owners of the shopping center acquired the house to the east of the access drive on Timberwood Avenue at the north end of the rear parking lot. The house was demolished for additional parking and a less constricting entrance.
Sometime in the 1960s, the offices on the second story were extended to the south middle volume, mirroring the ca. 1951. Another addition later in the decade significantly altered the southern portion of the shopping center in a way that was simultaneously a standalone piece of Modern architecture while also incorporating Streamline Moderne elements guiding much of the facility’s design since 1939. Constructed against the western wall of the supermarket at the south end of the Woodmoor Shopping Center on what had been a landscaped bed, the Hoover-Fisher Florist was conspicuous in its location and architecture.
Despite being physically attached to the center along most of its east wall, in many ways it read as an independent building. Positioned on the upper end of the slope of the front parking lot, the two-story store was emphatically tall relative to the rest of the facility and its height and conspicuousness further accentuated with a large white and green painted neon sign reading “Hoover-Fisher Florists” raised up on a post on the roof at its southwest corner. This characteristic was further reinforced by a massive double height opening bordered by an extruded concrete frame and filled almost entirely with a grid of fixed, clear-glass panels set within thin brushed aluminum frames. The tall opening wrapped from the west elevation facing the parking lot around a chamfered corner with the main entrance to the store to the south elevation facing University Boulevard. While the extruded frame accentuated the height of the addition, it, along with the frames around the pairs of windows elsewhere in the addition, directly referenced the same feature articulating the windows of the earlier second-floor additions and the brick banding replicated a similar design motif used most of the additions. The building was a highly sympathetic piece of design, which allowed the store to have a strong independent identity even while it was an integral component of the shopping center as a whole.
Completed between 1969 and 1971, the final addition to the building was a second story built over the original 1939 portion of the building. Even with the passage of thirty years, the architects for the last construction campaign continued the tradition of honoring the established architectural vocabulary with double-coursed brick banding and replication of the single curved corner of the first floor on the second.
In 1996, the Four Corners Master Plan written by the Montgomery County Planning Department outlined upcoming changes having affect on the Woodmoor Shopping Center: the widening of both Colesville Road and University Boulevard at their intersection; the forthcoming acquisition of the gas/service station by the Maryland State Highway Administration because of the proximity the gas pumps to the newly widened streets; and the desire to “improve and enhance the visual and physical appearance” of the shopping center through window canopies, awnings and signage. The large neon sign above the shopping center, the window canopies on the second floors, and the consistent use of signage for the first-floor shops most likely date to soon after this master plan. In 1999, the gas/service station was still located at the northeastern corner of the crossroads, but, within five years, they were removed and replaced with landscaping and additional parking.
For the most part, the storefronts of the shopping center have remained intact, retaining original materials such as dark green marble bases, fluted brushed metal door and window casings, and storefronts that angle inward. Some stores, such as Subway, CVS, and Bank of America, however, have replaced the original plate glass of the storefronts with multi-pane glass and thicker, more contemporary window framing members. Two stores within the 1954 addition, CVS and Bank of America, have storefronts that do not angle inward, although original drawings by the architects depicted them as such. Instead, the storefronts remain flat, facing directly out onto Colesville Road. The presence of green marble bases is consistent with the other storefronts in the plaza, and it is possible that the construction simply was not carried out according to the drawings or that another set of final designs was created.
B. Historical Context
The Development of Montgomery County’s Early Suburbs
The creation and development of the suburbs is one of the dominant narratives of middle-class life in post-World War II America. Despite the central role of the detached single-family house in the mid-century vision of the “American dream,” many of the suburbs of Washington, D.C., were established prior to the turn of the twentieth century and were not intended for anyone less than well-off.
Following Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for Washington, D.C., the city developed slowly throughout the early-nineteenth century, with a significant population increase from only several thousand people to nearly 132,000 residents after the Civil War as amenities such as drinking water, paved roads, and basic sanitation slowly improved. In 1873, the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad expanded to include a Metropolitan Branch which ran between Washington, D.C., and Point of Rocks, Maryland. This line ran north past the District line and up into Montgomery County. The first railroad depot in Silver Spring was opened in 1878 and named after the nearby summer estate of Francis Preston Blair, the wealthy and prominent former editor of The Washington Globe.
Small late-Victorian commuter suburbs such as Takoma Park (1883) grew up around the railroad stations and others, such as Chevy Chase (1890), were established with streetcar links to the city. These residential suburbs were populated by middle and upper middle-class families and their servants or other workers needed to support such communities. They were marketed as a respite from the summer heat and the congestion of the city and designed with links to nature that affected everything from street names to town planning and landscaping. Health factors aside, land in Montgomery County was also cheaper than within the district and allowed for more spacious houses.
While the early suburbs of Washington thrived because of new methods of transportation, they remained isolated from commercial districts, which were often banned from the developments. Late-nineteenth century expectations for affluent neighborhoods demanded a separation between commercial development, which was seen as belonging to the working class, and residential development. Allowing even a few shops or a grocery store was believed to be a threat to maintaining property values in wealthy suburbs, and restrictive deeds and protective covenants ensured the exclusion of such commercial buildings. As a result, access to goods and groceries occurred either in the downtown districts or through their delivery from downtown stores to the suburban houses via streetcars and trains. Chevy Chase, for example, initially banned all commercial development and instead offered free delivery from downtown Washington.
The streetcar played a significant role in the continued development of the southern Montgomery County suburbs. Although service on the B&O trains could shorten trips into downtown Washington, D.C. to approximately 30 minutes, its relatively high monthly fares still precluded much of the rising middle-class from settling outside the city. The streetcar, with lines that opened as early as 1890 in Montgomery County, on the other hand, offered a less expensive and more widespread alternative. Soon communities that had begun as railroad suburbs were further subdivided along the six trolley routes that extended into the county. By 1922, Takoma Park, for example, was made up of eight subdivisions and was the tenth largest incorporated town in Maryland.
Transportation in the 1920s and 1930s shifted towards the use of the automobile. As the population of Washington D.C. increased due to available jobs in an expanding federal government, so too did that of Montgomery County, growing from 34,921 in 1920 to 49,206 in 1930 and even more sharply in the next decade, rising to 83,912 by 1940. The city and its suburbs soon faced a major housing shortage. News articles as early as the mid-1920s noted the rapid population increase both within the city limits and beyond the district line into the suburbs, urging authorities to “take note” of the growth and “plan accordingly” by extending sewer lines, planning improvements, and laying out streets. Simultaneously, automobile ownership increased significantly, and by 1929, 13,000 residents of Montgomery County owned an automobile. The combination of high automobile ownership and plentiful land in Montgomery County made the suburbs an appealing solution to the middle-class housing shortage in the Washington area.
Although sanitation and transportation improvements throughout the 1930s allowed for further construction and development, estimates to resolve the housing deficiency in 1939 concluded that approximately 850,000 houses were needed in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Developers, aware of the possibilities of making quick and easy profits, began purchasing rural land and empty parcels of earlier subdivisions, further subdividing them to create residences. Countless builders and developers, the Moss Realty Company among them, benefited from the rapid process of purchasing, platting, building, and selling residences in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 in the 1930s. These early suburban subdivisions were primarily located in the southernmost part of Montgomery County, either right along or only a few miles from the district line.
The housing shortage continued into the Depression and the post-World War II years through the New Deal programs of the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s and the return of war veterans in the 1940s and 1950s, and Washington’s suburbs continued to provide adequate land for new houses. As areas near the district line became saturated with subdivisions, growth moved northward away from Silver Spring and Chevy Chase towards the Wheaton-Glenmont and Rockville areas into the 1950s and 1960s.
Early Shopping Centers and Post-World War II Consumerism
Shopping centers prior to the 1920s were few and far between. Urban downtowns provided the upscale retail districts with fashionable boutiques and department stores frequented by the wealthy, but this experience was considered distinct from that of shopping for food and other household goods. “Marketing,” as it was called, was not seen as a leisure activity, but rather as a task completed by servants or those not wealthy enough to afford servants. Commercial operations of any kind were thus often banned in wealthy suburbs and confined to the bustling downtown of nearby cities or the local general or corner store. The few large-scale commercial shopping facilities that were organized in the 1920s and into the early 1930s were seen as risky investments not only because of their rarity but also because of the financial risks associated with investing in such a complex, drawn-out real estate venture.
Among the best-known pioneering shopping centers is J.C. Nichols’s Country Club Plaza (1922) in Kansas City, Missouri, designed by architect Edward Buehler Delk and later Edward W. Tanner. Planned some ten years after the first subdivision in the Country Club District opened, Country Club Plaza hosted 250 stores and another 250 businesses. Country Club Plaza provided a new model for commercial real estate in which the property was planned, built, owned, and managed by one single company that leased spaces to retailers. Stores were laid out on blocks of land separated by wide roadways with angled, head-in parking, and low-lying Spanish Baroque Revival buildings attempted to continue the residential appearance of the neighborhood. Similarly sized and conceived shopping centers throughout the nation, as at Shaker Square (1928-29, Small & Rowley, architects) outside Cleveland, Ohio, and Highland Park Village (begun 1930, Fooshee & Cheek, architects) outside of Dallas, Texas.
Despite their sometimes large size, these early shopping centers were not meant to compete with the downtown shopping experience, but rather to complement it; their location outside of the city center catered to nearby upscale residential communities and could even act as a point of access to transportation to the downtown area, as Shaker Square did. More common into the 1930s as the Depression dragged on were smaller, local shopping centers accessible largely by automobile. Department stores during this era also cautiously expanded into the suburbs, hoping to increase patronage during times of decreased national spending.
By the 1940s, it was clear that the early experiments of shopping centers had the potential to become very profitable, particularly after the end of World War II as the economy improved and years of rationing and cutbacks ended. Soldiers returned home and rejoined the workforce, and industry continued to grow beyond its wartime levels. Personal incomes increased from $576 per person in 1940 to $1,708 in 1955, and car ownership also increased dramatically. Population growth during the postwar years, increased mobility from automobiles, and higher wages together “reshaped the material and domestic culture that both reflected and reformed the most basic aspirations of women and men – to be at home, to feel comfort, to experience a measure of well-being.” It was a combination of media focus on the possession of material objects and the financial ability to buy these objects—something that had been unknown to most people during the Depression and war years—that led to such reliance on consumer culture to define and express growing middle-class American culture. “Well-being” and “comfort” could ostensibly be achieved through ownership of a house, a new car, appliances, or even something as small as a hair dryer. Because of this shift in values, shopping centers—the locus of postwar consumer culture—continued to thrive, profiting off of increased spending by the average middle-class household.
As shopping centers continued to generate large profit margins in the 1950s, several changes in the locations, size, landscaping, and programmatic uses of centers occurred. The small, local shopping plazas gave way to a new vision of the ideal retail facility with over fifty stores and thousands of parking spaces. These shopping centers, unlike their earlier predecessors, were typically located just beyond the suburban communities they served, where land was cheaper and where later development would increase their use. Inventive landscaping of courtyards and parking lots attempted to create a more comforting, domestic environment for the center’s predominantly female shoppers. Soon bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, miniature golf courses, childcare facilities, movie theaters, and other types of businesses were folded into many shopping malls to emphasize a focus on the shopping center as a place of entertainment and leisure for the whole family. For example, a bowling alley was included in the 1954 addition to the Woodmoor Shopping Center. There were over 900 bowling alleys in the Washington area by 1958, but the sport quickly went into decline; the one at Woodmoor closed in 1970.
Commercial Buildings in Suburban Washington, D.C.
Until the 1920s and early 1930s, shopping options in Montgomery County differed little from those of the county’s more bucolic days. The rural country store or general store gave way to the suburban corner store in areas where commercial development was not restricted, such as Four Corners. Additional stores began to appear up on main roads throughout the bourgeoning towns; Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, for example, was reported to have more than sixty individual shops along it by the end of the 1930s. Varied in form, size, and goods, these small commercial strips developed according to local needs and convenience, but did not replace the options available in downtown Washington, D.C.
Although earlier upscale communities such as Chevy Chase, Somerset, and Edgemoor banned the presence of commercial facilities within the community, the residents arriving in the 1920s and 1930s were middle-class families who typically could not afford servants to run errands, and a grocery store, drug store, and other basic amenities were needed nearby. Developers of the Battery Park (1923), Leland (1924), and Montgomery Hill (1928) communities were aware of this and made specific provisions for a small commercial zone in their plans. Unified through consistent architectural styling across the band of shops, these early neighborhood shopping centers mimicked the historicist styles of the surrounding residences in an attempt at camouflaging their commercial nature to make them less offensive.
In 1930, a novel kind of shopping center called the “Park and Shop” opened on Connecticut Avenue in Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. The Park and Shop was built neither as a stand-alone, secluded shopping center nor as part of a planned residential community. Conceived and developed by Shannon and Luchs a real estate firm in Washington, D.C., and designed by architect Arthur Heaton, its location at an intersection allowed for easy visual and transportation access, while its L-shaped form with a large forecourt devoted to parking avoided crowded street-side parking. The business model associated with the Park and Shop was also significant to its success and architectural unity as a single owner managed leasing and property management. Diagonal street-side parking, where drivers parked directly in front of the shops, was replaced by an open, paved lot devoted solely to the parking of cars. The Park and Shop allowed customers to park their cars and enjoy a one-stop shopping experience; an A&P Supermarket acted as an anchor for the center, complemented by a hardware store, bakery, drug store, cleaners, candy and ice cream shop, and a Piggly Wiggly. The automobile-oriented Park and Shop was a great success, “bringing special joy to the heart of the motor shopper,” and within ten years, more than thirty new Park and Shops were opened in the District and its outlying suburbs, including in the formerly commercial-free town of Chevy Chase.
Despite the Park and Shop’s forward-thinking layout for convenience to the passing motorist, its architecture was based in history. Gabled roofs on one portion of the center, along with a broad canopy that alluded to the town markets of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, kept the Park and Shop stylistically still within the colonial-inspired realm of earlier shopping centers as well as a majority of housing in the Washington area.
A marked contrast to the traditional architecture of shopping centers of the 1920s and 1930s was the Silver Spring Shopping Center (1938, John Eberson), a speculative, large-scale shopping development located just north of the existing shopping strip on Georgia Avenue. Designed in a mixture of late Art Deco and Streamline Moderne of the 1930s, the center sought to differentiate itself from the outlying residential areas and from the haphazard, disjointed ribbon of stores along Georgia Avenue. It boasted nineteen stores, including a grocery store and a movie theater, and was the largest complex of its kind in Montgomery County when built. Its curved corners, highlighted by bands of glazed brick, were meant to evoke the industrial advances of the twentieth century—aerodynamic airplanes, ships, trains, and cars. Applying the lessons learned from the Park and Shop of the importance and success of parking lots, the developers went one step further and located parking both in the front and the back of the shopping plaza, connected by an underground passageway to reduce traffic inside the lot. The shopping center was wholly devoted to its automobile-driving customers both stylistically and logistically.
The following year the first phase of the Woodmoor Shopping Center opened less than two miles beyond the Silver Spring Shopping Center. Likely inspired by the curved corners, blond brick, and horizontal emphasis of the one just completed to its south, the Woodmoor Shopping Center was also stylistically distinct from the colonial-inspired residences of the surrounding development. Front and rear parking lots were accessible from either side of the intersection, and gas pumps near the edge of the intersection drew in motorists.
By the end of the 1930s, Montgomery County contained fewer than eight local shopping centers, nearly all of them on the major routes of Georgia and Wisconsin avenues. Few, if any, commercial structures, especially large-scale endeavors such as shopping centers, were constructed during World War II, but more than twenty were built by 1955 and another sixteen by 1963. What had formerly been banned in residential communities in Montgomery County had become an essential part of the local landscape. As a report on Silver Spring from 1950 explained, the suburban community was where the “middle class man…centers his social life; he has his home, does much of his shopping, attends his church, and raises his family” in the suburbs.
Nearly all of the earlier shopping centers were located in the southern part of the county in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, or Bethesda, where population growth during the 1930s and 1940s was the strongest. By the 1950s and 1960s, however, population growth plateaued in the older suburbs as development of both housing and commercial facilities moved further north to Kensington, Wheaton, and Glenmont. The presence of nearby shopping centers quelled new residents’ “fear of becoming too isolated” and need to travel to Silver Spring, Bethesda, or downtown Washington to make daily purchases. Moreover, large regional shopping centers emerged in the area, beginning with the 1960 opening of Wheaton Plaza, whose sixty stores and 5000 parking spaces soon provided strong competition to smaller local shopping centers whose focus was on immediate convenience.
As a result, earlier shopping centers throughout the county began to experience a decline in sales and later in upkeep and tenancy. While many smaller shopping centers struggled to remain financially profitable, the one in Woodmoor remained a fixture in the community through its combination of tenants—particularly the local library, post office, professional offices, and bowling alley—that ensured the shopping center’s role as a local community center. Indeed, Woodmoor Shopping Center continued to enlarge its office facilities into the 1960s and 1970s, and it was most likely this combination of office and retail spaces in one nearby location that prevented its demise.
Both an homage to the “streamlined” ships, automobiles, and airplanes of the 1930s and a reflection of the deep financial struggles of the Great Depression, Streamline Moderne architecture emerged as an offshoot of the geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation of the Art Deco style. With competition becoming a driving force for the price-conscious Depression-era consumer market, industrial designers sought ways to distinguish everyday products such as hairdryers and clocks from competing brands. Designers were fascinated by the smooth, curved surfaces of the trains and airplanes whose aerodynamic design improved motion through the reduction of friction. Rounded edges, teardrop shapes, new materials such as stainless steel and structural glass, and colorful banding emphasizing horizontality and an abstracted, graphic representation of “speed” were applied to furniture, buildings, and household objects. The appeal lay in the implication of modernism and the influence of science on design and function; it distinguished new products and structures from older competitors and suggested new technology simply through appearance. The style was particularly effective in commercial architecture because it was both oriented to automobiles and was also inspired by their design, thus unifying design development and advertising through the architecture itself.
Additionally, Streamline Moderne proved to be a more economically viable option to the graceful and visually lush, but expensive Art Deco massing, materials, and craftsmanship. Art Deco was an international phenomenon associated with wealth and glamour and often resulted in products and buildings that were ultimately expensive to build or execute. Streamline Moderne maintained the clean lines of Art Deco shapes, but removed much of its complex, expensive decoration, making the style a more affordable option during straitened economic times.
The use of the Streamline Moderne at the Woodmoor Shopping Center not only took advantage of its relatively low construction costs and capitalized on an up-to-date, automobile-oriented design mode, it also marked it as distinct from its commercial and residential neighbors. The houses in the Woodmoor subdivision that surrounded the shopping center were traditional in appearance and separated from neighbors by yards and gardens. The commercial structures and buildings across the street from the shopping center on the other side of Colesville Road included another gas station, two restaurants, and several stores that arose piecemeal according to the size and style desired by their respective owners. This disjointed commercial strip may have provided similar services to the cohesive Streamline Moderne shopping center at Woodmoor, but it did so in a less aesthetically pleasing environment.
Part II: Architectural Information
A. General Statement:
1. Architectural character:
Woodmoor Shopping Center, built in numerous phases
beginning in 1939 and slowly expanding according to the needs of the growing local population over the next thirty years, is remarkable in its architectural unity. The building’s facades—the one story portions facing onto Colesville Road and University Boulevard and the two-story diagonal portion connecting them oriented toward the intersection of the roadways—are all faced with blond brick, now painted over in a uniform gray-beige color.
The consistent use of angled storefronts, fluted brushed-metal window and door frames, green marble storefront bases, and groupings of three windows in thick, extruded frames on the upper floors together form give the complicated, asymmetrical composition a convincing level of visual unity that remains strongly identifiable as Moderne. Even the latest of the additions, constructed at a time of very different aesthetic trends from when it was first constructed, continued to use the alternating recessed and protruding bricks and limestone window surrounds. Distinct in massing, materiality, and style from the traditional architecture of the surrounding houses and the ad-hoc row of shops across the street on Colesville Road, Woodmoor Shopping Center presents a cohesive, automobile-oriented commercial venture that has and continues to act as a gateway to the outlying community.
2. Condition of fabric:
B. Description of Exterior:
1. Overall dimensions:
The approximate overall footprint measures about
300′ x 50′.
Poured concrete and concrete block
The walls are primarily composed of blond brick painted beige, although
large expanses of the exterior walls at the front and along the central arcade are plate glass panels.
The Woodmoor Shopping Center is a complex assemblage of parts whose footprint undulates across an irregular corner site formed at the intersection of Colesville Road, running roughly southwest-northeast, and University Boulevard, running northwest-southeast. In a larger sense of the architecture and landscape, the building most broadly has two principal faces—one oriented outward toward the major roads and their intersection, and a modest parking lot, and the other toward the much more expansive parking lot located on the other side of the building between it and the back yards of the houses on Pierce Drive. Despite the functional duality, the level of exterior finish confirms that the former is the “front” and the latter the “rear.” This front can be further divided into four separate “facades” oriented to the west, northwest, and southwest.
The largest of these façades, located at the center of the complex and facing west, is an amalgamation of additions. Its nearly symmetrical central composition (1948) consists of four pairs of storefronts that cant inward on either side of a central pedestrian walkway known as the “arcade.” A second narrower pedestrian walkway, framed in painted limestone, is located at the southern end of this central wing. Large plate glass windows on each storefront are trimmed with slender brushed metal framing members, and the wider metal frames around the doors are beveled at the corners to create a visually continuous, seamless frame. Dark green marble extends from the bottom of the plate glass windows down to the sidewalk. Fluted brushed metal piers separate pairs of stores where their doors open next to each other. A narrow canopy of metal decking extends several feet over the shops, and the southernmost corner of this central wing is curved.
At the center of this symmetrical main façade is a pedestrian walkway connecting the front and rear parking lots. The dark green marble of the exterior storefronts continues into the corridor, extending from the ground up to the metal deck ceiling. Located on either side of the pedestrian walkway are two storefronts with large plate glass windows; the two rear shops open out into the arcade, and the two others open out to the front parking lot. Two pairs of glazed double doors having brushed metal framing members and hardware are located across from each other at the center of the arcade and provide access to stairways leading to up to the second-floor offices.
Projecting out over the central pedestrian walkway is the earliest portion of second-story office space (1948), whose cantilever acts as a canopy over the front end of the walkway/arcade. Three bays of windows are aligned with the two storefronts and central passageway below. This portion of the shopping center is sheathed in the same American bond blond brick (now painted over) as the first story, but the bricks follow a pattern of two courses of recessed bricks followed by two courses of projecting brick. This central projecting section is bordered on its edges by a thick limestone frame. The result is a projecting, textured volume emphasizing the visual and functional center of the composition.
On either side of this second-story projecting portion lie two nearly symmetrical additions containing office space, the one to the north dating from the late 1940s and the one to the south from the 1960s. Both continue the recessed and projecting brick of the wall of the central portion and align the four bays of windows with the four storefronts situated directly below.
To the north of this roughly symmetrical section of the building is a two story section containing the oldest (1939) and newest (ca. 1969-71) portions of the shopping center on the first and second stories, respectively. The construction of this section is slightly different from the rest of the complex, although its angle toward the intersection was continued with the substantial construction campaign to the south in 1948. The first-floor window openings are not as large as the ones used in 1948 and its storefronts do not have their inward cant. Another subtle difference is its curved southwestern corner, mimicked in 1948 in the southern corner of the extension. Although the marble base of the 1939 storefronts is a lighter green that later ones, the blond American bond brick (also now painted) and general scale are similar to that of later additions.
Two Facades Facing Northwest
The first of two facades facing northwest is the elevation of the one-story addition along Colesville Road at the north end of the shopping center, completed in 1954. This portion today features three storefronts, but was originally designed with four. One of these storefronts repeats the inward-canting facades used elsewhere on this side of the building; the rest exist in a single plane along the road. A third small pedestrian passageway framed with limestone and connecting the front and rear parking is located just to the north of the one in this addition with the canted front call. Two doorways opening into this walkway appear to be service entrances to the stores.
Located in between the northernmost two stores in this portion of the building is the limestone-framed entrance leading downstairs to the Silver Spring Stage, which formerly contained a bowling alley and miniature golf facility. In general, the storefronts here have lost most of their original plate glass, replaced by more contemporary windows and mullions. However, the green marble bases and patterned blond brick in American bond (again painted) repeat earlier materials and treatments in the building.
To the south of the west façade is a two-story portion added in the 1960s whose long wall faces northwest into the front parking lot and has a composition that wraps around to a narrow face on the southwest along University Boulevard.
Despite being physically attached to the center along most of its east wall, in many ways it read as an independent building. Positioned on the upper end of the slope of the front parking lot, the two-story store was emphatically tall relative to the rest of the facility and its height and conspicuousness further accentuated with a large white and green painted neon sign reading “Hoover-Fisher Florists” raised up on a post on the roof at its southwest corner.
The height of this section is further reinforced by a massive double height opening bordered by an extruded concrete frame and filled almost entirely with a grid of fixed, clear-glass panels set within thin brushed aluminum frames. The tall opening wrapped from the west elevation facing the parking lot around a chamfered corner with the main entrance to the store to the south elevation facing University Boulevard. While the extruded frame accentuated the height of the addition, it, along with the frames around the pairs of windows elsewhere in the addition, directly referenced the same feature articulating the windows of the earlier second-floor additions and the brick banding replicated a similar design motif used most of the additions.
Beyond the narrow southwest façade of the florist shop, which is a formally contiguous continuation of its northwest façade, the building steps back to a the single plane of the wall of the 1948 grocery store addition fronting onto University Boulevard (today a housewares store). The store is clad in the same blond (now painted) brick laid up in bands used elsewhere in the building. The large expanses of plate glass are neither canted inward nor underpinned by green marble. This façade also lacks the aluminum detailing around the doors. The simplicity may have stemmed from this being a secondary façade relative to the ones facing west and northwest.
The second major construction campaign in 1948 established a “front” and “back” to the shopping facility. While the side facing into the block is undeniably the “back” of the building—the side where deliveries occur and garbage is collected—it is also the side of the facility that most shoppers see first as the majority of the parking is situated on this side. Three pedestrian tunnels connect the parking area to the stores at the front of the building, the middle one being particularly broad and well-finished. None of the stores have their main entrances on this side of the building, although the CVS and Bank of America now has a second set of doors at the rear for customer use. The walls are articulated in a straightforward manner with blond brick laid-up in American bond with unadorned window and door openings at the back of retail stores. The simplicity of materials and construction has resulted in a relatively integrated composition of three rear facades despite the building’s undulating character.
The east façade is the largest and situated at the center. It features the same American bond blond brick, now painted over with the same beige-gray paint as the rest of building. Like its corresponding front, the elevation is nearly symmetrical and centered on the two-story portion at the center with the wide pedestrian passage/arcade. In contrast to the front, the second floor is not cantilevered and terminates in the same plane as the lower portion of the wall. The arrangement of windows in this two-story section is particularly ordered with three bays to either side of the central opening and three over the opening itself. The east wall continues in the same plane to the north and south, but as the single story used for the original 1948 design; the second-story additions to the north and south do not extend to the back of the building. Black fencing extends along the top of the wall between the two-story portions of the east façade.
This one-story section of wall contains eleven service entrances for the front-facing storefronts and thirty smaller windows, several of which are today boarded up and/or painted over. Each entrance is covered by a dark cloth canopy. The south end of the east façade rises to a full two-stories—the lower portion being the original 1939 portion of the building with the later second-story addition above. Four windows pierce the upper portion of the wall in a balanced arrangement where a pair of small windows are flanked by one larger one to either side. The openings for the large central pedestrian passageway and the smaller southern walkway are both framed by a painted limestone border.
Two Facades Facing Southeast
The single-story rear façade of the 1954 addition that runs parallel to Colesville Road provides four service entrances for the front-facing stores. The smaller northern pedestrian passageway is framed in painted limestone, like the southern and central entrances, and there is a small but visible break in the American bond blond brick where the library was added in 1958. There are no windows on this 1958 portion of the shopping center, yet construction seams indicate the presence of former window openings, now filled in with brick and painted over, on the southeast façade and a large one on the north wall, once opening into the library reading room.
At the southern end of the parking lot, the southeast façade of the one-story portion of the building facing University Boulevard is pierced by a pair of customer doors and a standard service door; a larger delivery door is located to one side of the latter on a portion of wall in-line with the east façade. The horizontal banding of the brick used on the façade continues around the corner to the southwest façade for approximately three feet before stopping. The rest of this wall is laid up in blond brick laid up in American bond.
4. Structural systems, framing:
Load-bearing masonry walls, steel and concrete construction in basement.
a. Doorways and doors:
There are a variety of doors in the shopping center, but the larger number are modern doors typical of retail establishments—glazed with aluminum frames—as well as a high number of extant doors original to the 1948 construction. These hinged doors have wood frames and are fully glazed with a single fixed glass panel with a glazed transom above. Door hardware, including a mail slot in the bottom rail, are all brushed metal. Surrounding the doors and transoms are fluted brushed metal framing members, beveled at forty-five degree angles and matched together to create a continuous border around the doorway.
The three pedestrian walkways connecting the front and rear parking lots are articulated by thick, rectilinear frames of light-colored limestone. The entrance to the theater is also similarly framed and is fitted with a pair of glazed doors.
The rear service doors are mostly solid steel doors without glazing. A couple of wood doors with five horizontal panels survive and are likely original to the building’s construction.
Most windows of the first-story storefronts are large plate glass windows framed by narrow, fluted brushed metal frames held in at the corners by small metal L-shaped brackets. Several stores have what appear to be replacement windows; the level of thermal efficiency of the original windows is suggested by extant defroster strips in a couple of stores. The windows in the earliest portion of the shopping center are smaller and have slightly thicker framing members. In even greater contrast, the massive double-height opening wrapping around the florist shop was fully glazed with a grid of windows surrounding the glazed shop doors.
On the second story, broad openings fitted with trios of windows align with the storefronts below. These windows are each composed of four horizontal panes framed by thin, flat metal casings, the bottom of which was an operable vent. Limestone window surrounds, painted a creamy white color today, encase the window bays on the second story of second story office spaces, the window wall in the florist shop and the group of windows on its northwest-facing wall.
The same four part-windows are used for most of the rear-facing windows on the second floor and the six first-floor windows in the stores with entrances opening onto the covered central arcade. The remainder of the first-floor windows are largely three-section window with a handful of steel casements.
The buildings various roofs are all “flat,” or lightly pitched, which would have eased the construction of the second-floor additions. In general, the roof is formed through the layering of corrugated metal decking, insulation, poured concrete, and built-up roofing. Much of the mechanical equipment for the shopping center, including the cooling towers and stack vents, are located on the roofs.
C. Description of Interior:
The plan of the Woodmoor Shopping Center is irregular. Each of the three principal portions—the two-story middle section and the one-story northern and southern sections at the ends—has its own orientation based on the phased construction of the building, and site characteristics like the south to north downward slope and relationship to the roads and their intersection. With the exception of the store facing University Boulevard and the two that open onto the central arcade, all of them have their main entrances on the front side of the building in a more or less contiguous line from Hoover-Fisher Florist at the south to the Bank of America on the north. Thus, the primary path of circulation is a more-or-less linear one running north-south. Because the bulk of the parking is located at the back of the building, there is also significant east-west circulation along the three pedestrian passages, particularly the center one with its breadth, architectural emphasis, and entrances to the upper-story offices. A more limited number of people would enter directly the shops directly from the rear parking lot—store employees, mainly, and CVS and Bank of America customers.
The original finishes of the floors in the retail shops is either no longer extant or no longer visible and current finishes vary from store to store. One possible exception might be the Arcade Barbershop (1948), located at the rear of the central arcade; its beige vinyl composite tile flooring is believed to be original or an early alteration.
The entrance areas and landings of the twin staircases up to the offices, accessed from the central arcade, are covered in black and white vinyl tiles and the stair treads fitted with textured black rubber, as is a third stair positioned at the rear (east) wall of the northern terminus of the second floor corridor. The hallways on the second story are covered in gray wall-to-wall carpeting, and flooring within each individual office varies. A set of six steps, located in the hallway of the southern part of the office additions, is also covered in black textured rubber treads.
The floors in the service areas under the two-story portion of the shopping center are poured concrete, left exposed and unfinished. The basement under the 1954 addition has varied flooring; little evidence beyond some areas of polished wood flooring suggests that the basement had originally been fitted out as a bowling alley. In the northernmost portion of the addition, which is currently used as a workshop space for a local theater company, the floor is unfinished concrete. The central portion of this wing of the basement is currently the theater space and is covered in wall-to-wall carpeting, except for small portions that are either unfinished or are covered in polished wood flooring original to the former bowling lanes. A bathroom for theater-goers is covered in tile. The large, southern portion of this wing of the basement that is today used as storage for theater props is partially unfinished concrete, with large portions of polished wood flooring, again from the former bowling alley.
3. Wall and ceiling finish:
As with the flooring, wall and ceiling finishes vary among the stores on the first floor. Dropped ceilings are visible in nearly all of the stores, although it is extremely doubtful that any of these are original. The finishes in the barbershop—wood paneling, white and gray Formica wainscoting, light green painted trim, pedestal sinks, and top-lit mirrors are believed to date from early in its history.
The walls and ceiling in the stairwells leading up to the second floor offices are painted light gray. A pitched steel and glass skylight is open in one of the stairwells, but has been painted over and closed off in the other. On the second floor, wall and ceiling finishes vary from office to office. In the hallway, the walls are painted a light gray color. A drop ceiling with visible smoke alarms, air conditioning vents, and fluorescent lights extends throughout upper level.
The walls in the basement are of concrete block and poured concrete. The ceilings are largely unfinished with exposed wooden beams in the section constructed in 1948 and steel and concrete beams in section dating from 1954. The theater restrooms have finished walls and a dropped ceiling.
4. Doorways and doors:
Doorways and doors, if they exist, vary within each store on the ground floor. The office doors opening onto the public corridor are one of two types. The predominant type is similar to the exterior shop doors dating from 1948. They have wood frames and are fully glazed with brushed metal door handles and locks on one stile and a vertical brushed metal mail slot on the opposing one. The number of the office suite is often painted on the top part of the glass. The other common type of door is a painted metal door with no glass or other openings. It is found mostly in the south part of the second floor after the set of stairs in the corridor.
5. Trim and woodwork:
Little, if any, original woodwork or trim can be found on the interior of the first-story shops. The barber shop’s wood paneled walls and light green built-in shelves and trim are believed to be original or early, as are the matching light green sinks and black rubber baseboards.
Baseboards in the stairwells leading up to the second-story offices are black rubber, and painted black metal handrails with a simple, geometric form are found in both stairwells. The baseboards in the upstairs office hallway are a medium pinkish-gray, and the doors and door trim have been painted a similar color.
Nearly all of the mechanical systems are located either in the basement of the 1948 addition or on the roof of the complex. The Woodmoor Shopping Center was constructed with modern plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling systems, and these have been upgraded or replaced at various times in its history.
Part III: Sources of Information
Much of the early information on the construction and ownership of the Woodmoor Shopping Center has been obtained from a combination of land use maps, newspaper articles, and land plats. Although building permits for Montgomery County were issued as early as the 1950s, the Department of Permitting Services in Montgomery County was not established until the 1960s and building permits and plans were not kept on file until 1986. As a result, there is little available information on the construction of the shopping center. Instead, dates of the phased expansion were established through an examination of dated historic photographs and land use maps as well as the rare mention of the shopping center in The Washington Post. Only spotty coverage of the local newspaper at the time, The Montgomery Sentinel, was available at the Montgomery County Historical Society.
A set of drawings from the architects of the 1954 addition, Johannes & Murray, was provided by Regency Centers and offered valuable information on this phase of additions, including detailed floor plans and section cuts.
“100 Homes Reported Sold in Woodmoor.” The Washington Post 10 Sep. 1939. Sec. R: 2.
“300 Homes Planned for Woodmoor, Md.” The Washington Post 2 Jul. 1939. Sec. R: 3.
“1956 Officers of Virginia Builders Association.” The Washington Post 12 Feb. 1956. Sec. G: 5.
“Before Building: Solve Your Problems Before You Have to Live with Them.” House & Garden 70 (Sep. 1936): 108-42.
Advertisement. “Woodmoor.” The Washington Post 3 Sep. 1939. Sec. R: 5.
Advertisement for “Woodmoor.” The Washington Post 5 Sep. 1937. Sec. R: 1.
AIA Member File, Dana Berry Johannes Jr. from the American Institute of Architects Archives. Available online at: < http://communities.aia.org/ >.
AIA Member File, Loren L. Murray from the American Institute of Architects Archives. Available online at: < http://communities.aia.org/ >.
American Institute of Architects. The American Architects Directory. George S. Koyl, ed. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1956. Available online at: < http://communities.aia.org/ >.
“Architect Wilfrid Worland Dies at 92.” The Washington Post 14 Dec. 1999. Sec. B: 7.
“Arlington Trust Co. Expands.” The Washington Post 5 Dec. 1954. Sec. R: 2.
“Arson is the Charge.” The Washington Post 29 Mar. 1901: 2.
“At Woodmoor: Shop Center Expansion Under Way.” The Washington Post 29 Apr. 1954: 25.
“Branwill Park Offers Small Quality Homes.” The Washington Post 22 Sep. 1935. Sec. R: 5.
“Contract Let for Arlington Health Annex.” The Washington Post 10 May 1944: 7.
“Dana B. Johannes, 61, Dies.” The Washington Post 10 Jul. 1972.
“The Death of Justice Olin.” The Washington Post 8 Jul. 1879: 4.
Display Ad, “100 Homes Sold in Four Months.” The Washington Post 10 Sep. 1939.
“Disputed Film Seen By Arlington Jurors.” The Washington Post 8 Oct. 1953: 43.
“District of Columbia: Suits Against Insurance Companies.” The Baltimore Sun 18 Feb. 1898: 7.
“Edwin Schreier Dies: Designed Schools, Churches.” The Washington Post 11 May 1985. Sec. B: 4.
“George Joseph Moss, Real Estate Developer.” The Washington Post 12 May 1994. Sec. B: 4.
“Growth of Washington.” The Washington Post 11 Oct. 1925. Sec. S: 1.
“Its Citizens Feel Woodmoor Is Sure of Continued Growth.” The Washington Post 25 May 1941. Sec. R: 5.
“Letters from Washington.” The Baltimore Sun 26 Apr. 1867. 4.
“Mason Installed.” The Washington Post 27 Jan. 1968. Sec. E: 14.
“Michael A Patterson, Architect.” The Washington Post 4 Jan. 1994. Sec. D: 9.
Montgomery County Planning Department. “Four Corners Master Plan.” 1996.
“Montgomery to Hold Zoning Hearing Dec. 4.” The Washington Post 18 Oct. 1944: 9.
“Mortgage Change Praised by Moss.” The Washington Post 7 May 1939. Sec. R: 6.
“Moss Avoids Duplication of Outward Motif.” The Washington Post 5 Nov. 1939. Sec. R: 1.
“Moss Builds $6,000 Small Estates in Md.” The Washington Post 21 May 1939. Sec. R: 1.
“Moss Company Reports 1939 A Record Year.” The Washington Post 7 Jan. 1940. Sec. R: 1.
“Moss Reports 150 Homes in Woodmoor, Md.” The Washington Post 19 Nov. 1939. Sec. R: 8.
“New Chapel Planned.” The Washington Post 23 Jan. 1949. Sec. R: 5.
“New Real Estate Firm Opened in Silver Spring.” The Washington Post 19 Sep. 1948. Sec. R: 3.
“Obituaries.” The Washington Post 14 Oct. 1991. Sec. B: 4.
“Park and Shop.” American City 57 (Oct. 1937): 71-2.
“Permit Given to Stanley Firm for Structure.” The Washington Post 19 Apr. 1936. Sec. R: 3.
“Plans of Post Model Home in Westhaven.” The Washington Post 6 Oct. 1935. Sec. R: 2.
“Post Office At Woodmoor Opens Monday.” The Washington Post 12 Sep. 1948. Sec. M: 22.
“Rental Housing in the Nation’s Capital.” American Builder 69 (Mar. 1947): 78.
“Retired Architect Loren. L. Murray Dies at 78.” The Washington Post 1 Jan. 1988. Sec. B: 10.
Senior ‘Problems’ Class at Montgomery Blair High School. “A Survey of the Silver Spring, Maryland Area.” Mar. 1950.
“Shopping Center Ground Broken.” The Washington Post 16 Nov. 1947. Sec. R: 7.
“Shopping Center Growth Adds to County’s Taxes.” The Maryland Monitor 6 Aug. 1964.
“Springbrook To Be Opened Next Week.” The Washington Post 28 Apr. 1940. Sec. R: 4.
Stoever, F. Wallace, Shannon & Luchs Company. “Park and Shop Developments, Washington, D.C.” In Suburban Shopping Centers, National Real Estate Journal (Dec. 1938): 32-33.
“To Erect Community Building.” The Baltimore Sun 24 Oct. 1943: 14.
“Trees Conceal Development’s Store Section.” The Washington Post 12 Sep. 1937. Sec. R: 4.
“Two Westhaven Homes Chosen in U.S. Contest: Schreier and Patterson.” The Washington Post 29 Aug. 1937. Sec. R: 3.
“U.S. Golf Association Admits Indian Springs.” The Washington Post 8 Sep. 1922: 12.
United States Patent Office. “US Patent 2,099,077.” Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office 16 Nov. 1937. 576.
“We Judge a Contest.” House & Garden 72 (Sep. 1937): 14-48, 50.
Williams, Lawrence. “Business Leaders Hail the Growth of Washington.” The Washington Post 2 Jan. 1940. Sec. E: 5.
“Woodmoor (Md.) Project as Seen From the Air.” The Washington Post 29 Jun. 1941. Sec. R: 7.
Andrews, Ronald L. National Register of Historic Places form for the “Silver Theater and Shopping Center, Montgomery County, Maryland.” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1988.
Benedetto, Robert, Jane Donovan, and Kathleen Du Vall. Historical Dictionary of Washington, Part 3. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Publishing, 2003.
Clausen, Meredith L. “Northgate Regional Shopping Center – Paradigm From the Provinces.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 43 (May 1984): 144-161.
Friedel, Robert. “Scarcity and Promise: Materials and American Domestic Culture during World War II.” In World War II and the American Dream: How Wartime Building Changed a Nation. Ed. Donald Albrecht. Washington, DC: National Building Museum, 1995.
Hess, Alan. Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2004.
Historic Takoma. Takoma Park. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2011.
Hurley, Andrew. Diners, Bowling Alleys and Trailer Parks. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Liebs, Chester H. Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
Longstreth, Richard. “The Diffusion of the Community Shopping Center Concept during the Interwar Decades.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 56 (Sep. 1997): 268-293.
Longstreth, Richard. “The Neighborhood Shopping Center in Washington, D.C., 1930-1941.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 51 (Mar. 1992): 5-34.
Kelly, Clare. Places from the Past: The Tradition of Gardez Bien in Montgomery County, Maryland. Silver Spring, Maryland: The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, 2011.
Rebeck, Andrea. “Automobile-related Structures of the Early Twentieth Century.” In Montgomery County in the Early Twentieth Century: A Study of Historical and Architectural Themes. Unpublished report. Silver Spring, MD: Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission and Maryland Historical Trust, 1987.
Rebeck, Andrea. “Neighborhood Shopping Centers.” In Montgomery County in the Early Twentieth Century: A Study of Historical and Architectural Themes. Unpublished report. Silver Spring, MD: Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission and Maryland Historical Trust, 1987.
Walston, Mark. “The Commercial Rise and Fall of Silver Spring: A Study of the 20th Century development of the Suburban Shopping Center in Montgomery County.” Maryland Historical Magazine 81 (Winter 1986): 330-39.
Walston, Mark. National Register of Historic Places form for the “Silver Spring B & O Railway Station, Montgomery County, Maryland.” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2000.
Maps and Land Plats
Klinge, F.H.M. Property Atlas of Volume one, Montgomery County, MD. Lansdale, PA: 1931, revised 1935.
Klinge, F.H.M. Property Atlas of Volume one, Montgomery County, MD. Lansdale, PA: 1941.
Klinge, F.H.M. Property Atlas of Volume one, Montgomery County, MD. Lansdale, PA: 1948, revised 1953.
Martenet, Simon J. Martenet and Bond’s map of Montgomery County, Maryland. Baltimore: 1865. Available online: < http://www.loc.gov >.
Plat No. 783. “Woodmoor, Blocks Two and Three.” Feb. 1937. Montgomery County, Maryland.
Plat No. 820. “Woodmoor, Parts of Blocks One and Six.” Apr. 1937. Montgomery County, Maryland.
Plat No. 883. “Woodmoor, Parcels 1 to 4 incl., Block 1.” Oct. 1937. Montgomery County, Maryland.
Sanborn Map Company. Washington Suburban, Maryland, Volume One E. New York, 1927-
Apr. 1959. Plate 81.
Images and Drawings
Horydczak, Theodor. Houses by Schreier & Patterson, architects. Houses in Woodmoor, on Colesville Pike at Four Corners I. ca. 1920 – ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress. Call Number LC-H814-T-2387-009-A.
Horydczak, Theodor. Houses by Schreier & Patterson, architects. Houses in Woodmoor, on Colesville Pike at Four Corners VII. ca. 1920 – ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress. Call Number LC-H814-T-2387-014.
Horydczak, Theodor. Schreier & Patterson, architects. Four Corners Shopping Center. ca. 1920 – ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress. Call Number LC-H814- 2491-016.
Horydczak, Theodor. Schreier & Patterson, architects. Four Corners Shopping Center II. ca. 1920 – ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress. Call Number LC-H814- 2491-017.
Horydczak, Theodor. Schreier & Patterson, architects. Four Corners Shopping Center III. ca. 1920 – ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress. Call Number LC-H814- 2491-018.
Johannes & Murray Architects. “Alterations and Additions to Woodmoor Shopping Center.” 21 December 1953, revised 11 June 1954.
W.H. Shoemaker, renderer, and Schreier, Patterson & Worland, architects. “Woodmoor Shopping Center.” ca. 1947-48. Keller Associates, Inc. Silver Spring, Maryland.
Part IV: Project Information
The project was co-sponsored by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) of the National Park Service and the Society of Architectural Historians as the Sally Kress Tompkins
Fellowship. The documentation was undertaken by HABS, Richard O’Connor, Chief of Heritage Documentation Programs, under the direction of Catherine C. Lavoie, Chief of HABS. The project leader was HABS historian James A. Jacobs. The documentation of the Woodmoor
Shopping Center was completed during the summer of 2013 in Washington, D.C., and Silver
Spring, Maryland, by Sally Kress Tompkins Fellow Kate S. Reggev (Columbia University). The large-format photography was produced by HABS photographer Renee Bieretz. Special assistance provided by Virginia Brown with Regency Centers, the leasing agent for the shopping center.
Appendix A: Illustrations
fig. 1. Axonometric diagram showing the stages of development of the Woodmoor Shopping Center. Kate S. Reggev, 2013.
fig. 2. This plat depicts the division of the Woodmoor property at the corner of Colesville Road and Old Bladensburg Road (now University Boulevard) into four parcels that became the Woodmoor Shopping Center: the building’s two-story central section, one-story section to the south and the two-story florist, and the front parking area (Parcel 1); its one-story extension to the north (Parcel 2), its rear parking lot (Parcel 3), and the southernmost portion of the rear parking lot along University Boulevard and a building constructed as a Potomac Electric Power Company substation at the corner of Lexington Drive (Parcel 4). The plat also depicts residential lots along Pierce Drive and Pierce Place (now Timberwood Avenue). The house located on the lot fronting onto Pierce Place, adjacent to Parcel 2, was later razed, providing more generous access to the parking lot. Plat No. 883, “Woodmoor, Parcels 1 to 4 incl., Block 1,” Oct. 1937, Montgomery County, Maryland.
fig. 3. Woodmoor Shopping Center, 1951. This image depicts the original one-story portion of the shopping center at left constructed in 1939; the major expansion in 1948, two-stories at center flanked by one-story extensions as well as the one-story extension at the far right; and the extension of the two-story office space to the north completed by 1951. Courtesy of Keller Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, Maryland.