Some Rockville history
Thunderstorms overnight had brought down tree branches and left the streets littered with debris. But, I was on my way from Springfield at the usual time for the third trip to Rockville and Maryland in as many days.
Rockville has its history and the community is proud of it. The local historic preservation organization goes by the name of "Peerless Rockville", invoking a real estate promotional phrase from the turn of the last century. Traffic around the Capital Beltway was the best of the three days and I had ample time to walk around before 9:30 a.m. I headed east from the Courthouse Square. I learned Rockville had been founded in 1750 and has been the county seat since 1776.
Rockville in the Civil War
It was originally called "Williamsburgh". (I didn't know they had one of those in Maryland!) The name "Rockville," after nearby Rock Creek, was adopted in 1803. Two blocks to the east along Jefferson Street (at one time Rockville Pike) is the 1842 Prettyman House
. During the Civil War era, this site was out in the country. One could learn that Confederate troops camped nearby and marched in front of the house in 1863 on their way to Gettysburg and again in 1864 during an attempt to attack Washington, DC. (I described the ensuing battle at Fort Stevens in my Washington, DC, blog.) Although Maryland had remained in the Union, there were many town residents who held Confederate sympathies.
At noontime, the weather was beautiful! The thunderstorms the night before had brought in slightly cooler temperatures.
Prettyman House (1842)
It was 88F (31C) with low humidity and a light breeze. Perfect! This time, we made our way to Regal Row,
another downtown development not far from Town Square. The street had been blocked off and a farmer's market was in progress while a Country & Western group played. Sidewalk dining was in order! (A great deal for lunch was two slices of pizza and a soda from Giuseppi's
for $4.50.) After lunch, the group split up, some to enjoy the weather and others to shop the farmer's market. I took photos. While doing so, someone asked me directions to Washington Street. I could actually tell the fellow how to get there! (Little did he know I was really a tourist!)
The day finally wrapped up at 5:45 p.m. I decided I would spend a bit more time and explore to the west of Courthouse Square.
Wednesday Farmer's Market
The Rockville Metro Station
was only three blocks away from it. Here, the Washington Metro connects Rockville with the District and all of the region. Down Church Street from the Metro station is the preserved Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station
. The railway came to Rockville from Washington in 1873. Until that time, Rockville was a rural county seat and market town. The connection with Washington, DC, by train transformed the town into a suburban bedroom community. The first of many development booms led to the picturesque 1890s Victorian houses one still sees in the vicinity. Other historic structures have been moved to the area around the railway station in order to preserve them. Among these is the Wire Hardware
building, a typical 1890s commercial structure.
Wednesday Farmer's Market at Regal Row
There was one more sight I was curious about. Looking into Rockville history, I remebered that F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the The Great Gatsby, is buried in Rockville. Although he did not live in Maryland, his father's family was from Rockville and the chronicler of the Jazz Age is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery. I had enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby and my daugther had just read it this year in English 11. I was curious to see if I could find the gravesite. Not far along Church Street was the parking lot for St. Mary's Church. The present church is a 1960s round design. I walked in through the parking lot to the grounds. St. Mary's Chapel, dating from 1817, is set off from the new church and next to it is the cemetery.
Preserved railway station
No one was around, so I lifted the latch on the cemetery gate and let myself in. Gravestones could be seen dating back to the early 19th century. I walked the path until I came to a number of Fitzgerald headstones. (I wasn't aware the author's family had been Rockville residents.) The headstone of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald was clearly visible among them. It's said that many floral and other tributes are left at the gravesite, but none was visible this afternoon. After a few moments, I continued on my way.
I retraced my steps back to the parking garage and headed back to Springfield. A three-day business trip to Rockville had introduced me to the history and contemporary life of a nearby community that I had not known before.