Washington Grove: Lessons from a Planned Community

Community Planning Education Historic Preservation

In Washington Grove, the many walkways and parks are popular not only with residents but also with people from neighboring communities. Residents meet for musical picnics at the gazebo, town meetings in McCathran Hall, and summer days swimming in Maple Lake, the town’s swimming hole in the West Woods.

Staff from the Community Planning Division of the Prince George’s County Planning Department participated October 21 in a presentation and walking tour of the planned community in Montgomery County.

Preservation planner and author Clare Lise Kelly presented a history on the development of Washington Grove at the historic McCathran Hall (the Town Hall) followed by a walking tour of the community, including house tours of some of the Gothic Revival-style cottages.

Originally planned as a Methodist Camp in the 19th century, the original layout of small houses fronting grassy walkways was preserved in the center of town, with vehicular access via paved streets leading to the backs of the houses.

Today, more than half of the town is publicly owned. The East Woods and West Woods, designated as wildlife sanctuaries, are the only municipality-owned forests in Maryland.

What was great to see is that a well-developed 19th century planned community still works and is emulated in our modern planned communities. Open space, recreational opportunities, community gathering spaces, street patterns, and a non-vehicular emphasis, are all components of successful modern day planning initiatives.