"Me too! Which part are you from?"
|Silver Spring sign on Georgia Avenue... in actual Silver Spring.|
That excerpt above is from a conversation I had with someone last year at college. It highlights an issue that has always annoyed me: The vagueness of "Silver Spring".
Silver Spring is not an incorporated city. It raises no taxes. It has no police department. It has no municipal services. It is just a Census Designated Place (CDP). While Silver Spring may be one of the most urbanized areas in the DC region, it shares it's name with numerous suburban and rural communities in eastern Montgomery County. In most people's minds, a farm in Colesville and a 17 story high rise on Ripley Street are both in "Silver Spring". In my opinion, this level of misidentification is a travesty.
The postal service is primarily to blame for this mistaken identity. They are the ones who asign the zip codes that people all too commonly use to determine location. In Prince Georges County, Hyattsville suffers from the same postal service inflicted damage that Silver Spring does. Areas miles away from the real Hyattsville (like Landover) are frequently identified as Hyattsville, and it has hurt the city's image greatly over the years. Silver Spring has not been as negatively affected over the by the mistaken identity, but news networks will frequently identify crime in places like Aspen Hill, Wheaton, and Burtonsville as occurring in Silver Spring. But misplaced crime locations are not the reason I dislike the Silver Spring misnomer.
The blame for the ambiguous "Silver Spring" can not all be laid at the feet of the postal service. I place the blame on everyone who doesn't actually live in Silver Spring, because it is they who intentionally perpetuate the misnomer. My gripe with the consistent misidentification of Silver Spring is this: The lack of pride people have in their individual communities. I find that a lot of individuality and community spirit gets wasted when people from a diverse geographic area solely identify with the larger area.
|Many of the Zip Codes on this map are called "Silver Spring" but the original Silver Spring is on the bottom left. I had to tilt the image because the area is so broad. North is the top right corner.|
I'm not saying it's bad thing for a diverse group of people to identify with one large geographic area, since we all do so on July 4th (Patriotism). I'm saying its bad for people to only identify with that larger area when they could identify more accurately with a local area most of the time. Imagine if you were introducing yourself to someone from another American city and you said "Hi I'm from the United States". This would definitely earn some odd looks and maybe a chuckle from the person you were introducing yourself to, since it is vague to the point of being comical. A much more appropriate response would be stating your hometown or city. People from east county do this all the time when introducing themselves to each other. They may live 10 miles away from each other and several communities apart, but they both claim to be from Silver Spring
For an example of a place that was previously lumped in with Silver Spring, which has now found some community pride, take a look at Long Branch. The community roughly centered on the intersection of Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road is considered Silver Spring or Takoma Park by most, but the people that live there have developed pride in it's unique identity, and it has started to be recognized for the place it is: Long Branch. The community has several events and programs devoted to celebrating it's local flavor and vibe, such as the Long Branch Block Party and Flower Theater Project. I think all communities in "Silver Spring" should have events like this to celebrate what makes each one different.
Places all over east county have events that bring together their own specific community, but they only occur a few times a year, and they are not enough to "break from the mold" and foster a consistent community identity. In Prince George's County, there are dozens of small municipalities (especially on the Route 1 corridor) that have their own community feel and pride. Someone from Riverdale Park doesn't say "I'm from Bladensburg" just as someone from Mount Rainier wouldn't say "I'm from Hyattsville" (I have high school friends from all these places, and they always identify with their own communities, not the most well known ones nearby). This is because all of these communities; although small and very close together, have successfully fostered a sense of community pride to the point where their residents almost always identify as being from there, and not from some well known regional destination miles away like Silver Spring.
Original Silver Spring; which is the area most people refer to as "Downtown Silver Spring", is a great place (Downtown Silver Spring is actually the brand name of the development along Ellsworth Drive, the name has since been adapted to cover all of original Silver Spring to avoid confusion with the rest of the communities who claim to be "Silver Spring"). Because it is such a great place, many people latch on to it and inaccurately identify with it because they feel that there own communities are not as good. This only serves to make their actual communities even less known and to make Silver Spring more homogeneous.
Below is a map of what I view as real Silver Spring, and anything outside of it is a completely different place as far as I'm concerned. I guess you could call this an "originalist" interpretation of Silver Spring, but I think it is the most accurate. Most of the land inside the boundaries I drew was owned by the Blair family as part of their Silver Spring Estate, which affirms it's legitimacy as real Silver Spring (shoutout to Jerry McCoy for teaching me this stuff through his book).
|Silver Spring, Maryland|
If you live in Four Corners, Long Branch, Forest Glen, Montgomery Hills, Wheaton, White Oak, Olney, Hillandale, Kemp Mill, Glenmont, Aspen Hill, Colesville, Cloverly, Fairland, Briggs Cheney, or Burtonsville... say so. There's no need to call someplace 10 miles away your home when it's not. If your worried about people "not knowing where that is" maybe your saying the name will cause them to look it up, thus increasing the recognition of your community. If your concerned about the negative image of your community from crime, tell people your from there. Meeting a nice non-criminal from a place like White Oak, Wheaton, or Briggs Cheney will cause the person your speaking with to reconsider their preconceived notions of that area.
Just for fun, if we are going to call everything within a 10 mile radius of Acorn Park "Silver Spring" (Acorn Park is where the mica flecked spring was), then the following communities and places are also in "Silver Spring": Muirkirk, Glenn Dale, Mitchellville, Landover, Suitland, Anacostia, Barry Farms, Del Rey, National Airport, Bailey's Crossroads, Seven Corners, Falls Church, Tysons, Corner, McLean, Potomac, and Rockville... just to name a few. Also; going by the same standard, the White House, Capitol, and all of Northeast and Northwest D.C. are in "Silver Spring".
|If you live more than a mile from this spot, you probably don't live in Silver Spring.|