By Peter Kurtze, Evaluation and Registration Administrator
The National Register of Historic Places is a program of the National Park Service, administered in Maryland by MHT. Listing in the National Register confers recognition for a property’s historic character, and provides access to financial incentives for preservation, as well as a measure of protection from harm by federal- or state-funded projects. Among the properties that received National Register recognition in 2020 were two communities whose architecture and landscape are uncommonly intertwined. The Moyaone Association nominated the Moyaone Reserve Historic District and the Town of Washington Grove requested an expansion of the boundaries of the Washington Grove Historic District on historic and architectural merit. In both communities, the natural landscape plays an especially important role in defining their character. The National Park Service approved these additions to the National Register in Fall 2020.
Moyaone Reserve Historic District
Located in Accokeek, approximately 10 miles south of the Capital Beltway, the Moyaone Reserve Historic District encompasses a residential landscape of roughly 1,320 acres that spans parts of Prince George’s and Charles counties. The historic district, comprised primarily of single-family houses situated on large, wooded lots, is located entirely within Piscataway Park, a unit of the National Park System established in 1961 to preserve the historic viewshed across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. The district holds 189 single-family houses, most built after 1945; around fifty undeveloped parcels, including a 29-acre tract of protected marshland owned by the Alice Ferguson Foundation; and the Wagner Community Center, which was built in two phases in 1957 and 1960.
The houses within the Moyaone Reserve Historic District reflect a range of late twentieth-century residential forms and styles. Many demonstrate key tenets of Modernist design and embrace the architectural theory that buildings should be visually and environmentally compatible with their natural surroundings. The residential character of the Moyaone Reserve was highly influenced by architect Charles F. Wagner, Jr., who designed over a dozen houses in the community – starting with his own home, which was begun in 1946 and expanded in 1947-51. While some Moyaone Reserve residents commissioned architect-designed houses, others purchased plans through trade magazines or catalogs, and worked with contractors or built kit houses using prefabricated elements. Five-acre house lots, with covenants and scenic easements restricting development, help preserve the nationally significant viewshed of Mount Vernon, protect the local ecosystem, and safeguard the rustic character, historic identity, and environmental values of the Moyaone Reserve. A dense tree canopy, natural terrain, meandering roads, and scenic views characterize the internal setting of the historic district and reinforce the unspoiled, rural quality of the community.
Its role in the protection of the Mount Vernon viewshed, its distinctive land planning qualities, and the character of its innovative, site-sensitive buildings all confer significance in the areas of Conservation, Community Planning and Development, and Architecture spanning the period 1945-1976. The nomination effort was supported in part by a grant from the Certified Local Government Program.
Washington Grove Historic District
The 225-acre Washington Grove Historic District encompasses nearly all the land within the municipal boundary of the Town of Washington Grove in central Montgomery County. The district includes 216 single-family houses, three commercial buildings, two municipal buildings, a community clubhouse, and a church – all set within a secluded, wooded landscape that vividly reflects the town’s origin as a nineteenth-century Methodist camp meeting.
The Washington Grove Historic District was listed in the National Register in 1980. Documentation standards at that time were less exacting than they are now. This amended nomination provides additional information that present a fuller picture of the community’s history and also offers a firm basis for planning decisions. It identifies and describes the architectural resources, landscape features, and viewsheds that reflect the district’s physical evolution during the period 1873-1969. Lastly, it expands the boundaries to more completely encompass the area historically associated with Washington Grove’s development.
The buildings within the Washington Grove Historic District represent a range of late 19th- and 20th-century architectural styles and forms. For example, a grouping of architecturally distinctive Carpenter Gothic cottages complement the forest – the “sacred grove” – that was the setting of the outdoor religious revival upon which the community was founded. The informal, rustic style remained prevalent as the town grew through the 20th century. The revised nomination thoroughly documents the role of the landscape in defining the character of Washington Grove. Its towering oaks, broad pedestrian avenues, public parks, recreational pond, and woodlands create a sylvan suburban experience.