Sunday, June 19, 2016

Indian Spring Village

I live on Williamsburg Drive in Woodmoor.  At the entrance to this side of the neighborhood where Williamsburg meets University Boulevard, there's a nice sign that reads "Woodmoor", so that everyone knows the name of the community they are entering.  There are similar signs at Crestmoor & Colesville and Lexington & Pierce (and the stone sign at Woodmoor Circle & Colesville).  

Woodmoor sign at the entrance to Williamsburg Drive.  Photo by the author.

The only problem is that this side of Woodmoor isn't actually in Woodmoor.  At least it wasn't intended to be by those who built the subdivision.  

I live in the subdivision of Indian Spring Village, as does anyone else who lives in the area bordered by University Blvd, Saint Lawrence Drive, Northwest Branch, and Whitestone Road (this includes most, but not all, of the homes lining Saint Lawrence).  See the map below for reference.  

Map of Indian Spring Village from the Maryland Historical Trust, with properties of interest noted.  Click photo to enlarge.

The current neighborhood of Woodmoor is actually made up of several different subdivisions built by various developers over the course of ~20 years.  Indian Spring Village is the second largest of the subdivisions that now comprise Woodmoor, with the largest being Woodmoor itself (which includes everything north and west of Hillmoor Drive).  

Indian Spring Village was one of many "Indian Spring" named subdivisions built around Indian Spring Country Club, with other examples being Indian Spring Terrace, Indian Spring Club Estates, and Indian Spring Manor.  Most of these Indian Spring-named subdivisions are now inside the Beltway in the neighborhood just called "Indian Spring".  The name of the adjacent country club was used in many subdivisions because proximity to a golf club added a sense of financial security and prestige to buyers.    

Indian Spring Village was platted between 1937 and 1949 according to the Maryland Historical Trust.  The first 40 plats were on the north side of Williamsburg Drive and platted by J.D. Sheffield of Indian Spring Village Inc., the company overseeing the project.  The developers were A. H. Ryan and Edson W. Briggs.  It appears that Briggs also built the Bethesda subdivision of Locust Hill (bounded by Rockville Pike, Cedar Lane, and the Beltway), and perhaps some other subdivisions in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties during this era.    

The "Wishmaker's House" is an example of the attention to detail applied to prewar homes.  Image from The Washington Post.

The subdivision of Indian Spring Village was built in two phases, roughly pre-war and post-war.  The first phase included everything from University Blvd (Old Bladensburg Road back then) to Cherry Tree Lane, bordered by Saint Lawrence to the north and Whitestone to the south.  This section consists of brick and wood frame homes in the Colonial Revival and Cape Cod styles.  These homes reflect a pre-war attention to detail and a contentedness with smaller rooms, as the post-war housing boom had not yet begun and builders focused more on craftsmanship than sheer quantity.  
The first homes were completed in 1939 and were insured by the then-new Federal Housing Administration.  These houses had six rooms and two bathrooms, and they sold for $8,450 (about $146,000 today).       

Cape Cod style homes on the 200 block of Williamsburg Drive.  Photo by the author.

The main thoroughfare into the community, Williamsburg Drive, was designed as a bucolic tree-lined boulevard with a grassy median.  The name "Williamsburg" was chosen to allude to the colonial-era Virginia capital and its' historic homes, given that the homes lining the first few blocks of Williamsburg Drive were built in a Colonial Revival style.  Even the use of the word "village" in the name of the subdivision conjures up images of a rural existence in a tight-knit community.  This part of the neighborhood was also built without curbs or sidewalks to further the sense that these homes were in the countryside (curbs were not installed on the older streets in the subdivision until 2004).    

These obvious references to Colonial times found in Indian Spring Village followed a national trend in America from the late 1930s through the 1950s of invoking the patriotic spirit of the Colonial era.  There was a sense that Americans should recapture the perceived wholesome nature and simplicity of colonial times, and this ideal was a large driver behind the original promise of suburbia, to move away from the modern phenomenon of crowded cities with their accompanying pollution and return to a healthier, more rural life.  The 1939 film The City about the development of Greenbelt, MD provides an insight into the sentiments of this era, with the first five minutes of the film depicting a quaint rural life in colonial times before transitioning to the horrors of modern American cities of the day.   

The tree-lined median of Williambsurg Drive.  Photo by the author.  

Construction of Indian Spring Village paused during World War II, but promptly resumed at the war's end.  The second section of the subdivision, from Cherry Tree Lane to Northwest Branch, was built in a more post-war style.  This section includes streets like Woodburn Road, Brookmoor Drive, and Big Rock Road, curvilinear roads designed to contour the steep rolling hills found closer to the creek.  The predominant type of home in this section of the community is the Colonial, with a few ramblers on Williamsburg and Penwood along with occasional Cape Cods.  The homes in this part of the subdivision tend to be simpler and more uniform than those in the pre-war section.  

Colonials on Woodburn Road.  Photo by the author.

The adaptation on the subdivision's streets and lots to the hilly terrain of the neighborhood was a necessity.  Earth moving was an expensive process, so the developers designed the community around the geography to minimize costs and production time.  For example, the two branches of the 400 block of Williamsburg Drive exist to accommodate a small creek that forms near the intersection of Williamsburg and Brookmoor.  The result is that each branch of the street is built into the valley of the creek, creating lots with large elevation changes (especially on the odd-numbered side of the street).            

A rambler in the 400 block of Williamsburg Drive on a very steep hill.  Photo by the author.  

The last homes in Indian Spring Village were completed by 1952, about 14 years after construction began.  The final houses built were on the north side of the 400 block of Saint Lawrence, and on the north side of the 400 block of Williamsburg.  This part of the neighborhood has some of the steepest hills in the area, with the Brookmoor Drive hill between Penwood Road and Williamsburg Drive being the steepest in Four Corners.  Also, some homes in this area lack basements due to the presence of rock in the soil (the name "Big Rock" was likely inspired by the large rocks in the Northwest Branch valley).   

The second part of Indian Spring Village nearing completion in 1951.  Image from Montgomery County.
The Indian Spring Village name has been largely forgotten as time has passed.  Woodmoor and its adjacent subdivisions had no obvious boundaries, and since Woodmoor was the biggest, the name Woodmoor quickly enveloped the area between Colesville Road, University Boulevard, the Beltway, and Northwest Branch.  One of the few places the Indian Spring Village name remains in use is on the sale and assessment records of properties within the subdivision, which can be found on the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation website.  Other than that, the name can only be found on some historical documents and old newspaper articles.  

I don't think Indian Spring Village should "secede" from Woodmoor, given the confusion that would cause and the length of time that "Woodmoor" has been applied to this community.  However, it would be nice to have some kind of sign in the area stating the original subdivision name.       

Aside from Indian Spring Village, there are a few other small subdivisions comprising today's Woodmoor which will be profiled in a blog post next week.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this fascinating post. We are looking at a house in Indian Spring Village. It was advertised on realtor sites as Woodmoor. My realtor couldn't find it in her Woodmoor listings because, as you say, it's not Woodmoor, it's Indian Spring Village.