Takoma Park was founded by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert in 1883. It was one of the first planned Victorian commuter suburbs, centered on the B&O railroad station in Takoma, D.C., and bore aspects of a spa and trolley park.
Gilbert’s first purchase of land was in the spring of 1884 when he bought the 100-acre (0.40 km2) Grammar farm, which was known as Robert’s Choice. This plot of land was located on both sides of the railroad station, roughly bounded by today’s Sixth Street on the west, Aspen Street on the south, Willow Avenue on the east, and Takoma Avenue on the north. At its founding, lots were sold for $327 to $653 per acre.
Gilbert purchased another plot of land in 1886. The land was roughly bounded by Caroll Avenue to the Big Spring (now Takoma Junction) and what is now Woodland Avenue. Gilbert named this land New Takoma. Gilbert later purchased the Jones farm and the Naughton farm, which together he named North Takoma.
Gilbert hired contractor Fred E. Dudley to build many of the home in Takoma Park. One of the homes built by Dudley was the home of Cady Lee, which still stands today at Piney Branch Road and Eastern Avenue. Dudley’s son Wentworth was the first child born in Takoma Park.
By 1888, there were 75 houses built in the community, and the number increased to 235 homes by 1889. The deed of each of the original houses prohibited alcohol from being made or sold on the property, a prohibition that continued in the city until 1983. Takoma Park incorporated as a town on April 3, 1990.
Many of the streets were originally known as avenues. When the Commissioners of the District of Columbia mandates a District-wide street-naming system, those on the District side were renamed streets but retained their names otherwise. Other streets in Takoma D.C. were renamed entirely. Susquehanna Avenue became Whittier Street. Tahoe Street was renamed Aspen Street. Umatilla Street became Aspen Street. Vermilion Street became Cedar Street. Wabash Street was renamed Dahlia Street. Aspin became Elder Street. Magnolia Street became Eastern Avenue.
In 1904, the Seventh-day Adventist Church purchased five acres of land in Takoma Park along Carroll Avenue, Laurel Avenue, and Willow Avenue. The land was located on both sides of the Maryland-District of Columbia border. The land was intended for a church, office building, printer, and residences for prominent members of the church. In 1903, the Seventh-day Adventist Church decided to move their headquarters to the Washington area after its headquarters’ publishing house in Battle Creek, Michigan, had burned to the ground. The church decided that moving to a more urban setting would be a more appropriate place from which to increase the church’s presence in the southern states. The church purchased fifty acres of land along Sligo Creek in Takoma Park to build the new headquarters. The land was away from downtown Washington and had clean water available from a natural spring located at present-day Spring Park. For many decades Takoma Park served as the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, until it moved to northern Silver Spring in 1989.
In 1964, an inside-the-Capital-Beltway extension of Interstate 70S, also known as the North Central Freeway, was proposed via a route known as “Option #11 Railroad Sligo East,” up to 1/4 mile parallel to the B&O railroad upon a swath of land displacing 471 houses, that would have cut the city in two. In the mid-to-late 1960s, the future Mayor and civil rights activist Sam Abbott led a campaign to halt freeway construction and replace it with a Metrorail line to the site of the former train station, and worked with other neighborhood groups to halt plans for a wider system of freeways going into and out of DC.
This controversy also raised the profile of Takoma Park at a time in the late 1960s and 1970s when it was becoming noted regionally and nationally for political activism outside the Nation’s capital, with newspaper commentators describing it as “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” or “The Berkeley of the East”.
Also dividing the community is the boundary line of the District of Columbia, which contains part of the original Gilbert tract. This area is now known as Takoma, D.C. While politically separate from Takoma Park, Maryland, it shares its history and much of its culture.
Before 1995, the eastern boundary of the city of Takoma Park was in Prince George’s County, Maryland, causing the community to be divided across two counties and the Maryland/D.C. line (where the original downtown area is located). For several years, Takoma Park lobbied the State of Maryland for legislation allowing county boundaries to be adjusted. The State finally agreed to this change, with the stipulation that cross-county municipalities would no longer be allowed; the new municipal boundary would forever remain within the county of its choosing. In August 1995, after passage of the law, the city held a public referendum asking registered voters living in three Prince George’s County neighborhoods north of New Hampshire Avenue whether they wanted to be annexed to the city of Takoma Park. There was a majority of votes, 211 out of 304, in favor of annexation to the city.
In November 1995, the State-sponsored referendum was held asking whether the portions of the city in Prince George’s County should be annexed to Montgomery County, or vice versa. The majority of votes in the referendum were in favor of unification of the entire city in Montgomery County. Following subsequent approval by both counties’ councils and the Maryland General Assembly, the county line was moved to include the entire city into Montgomery County (including territory in Prince George’s County newly annexed by the city) on July 1, 1997. This process became known as Unification (see the Takoma Voice’s 10-year retrospective on Unification).
The city has experienced substantial gentrification in the 1990s and early 2000s (decade), with many group houses containing accessory apartments being converted back into single-family homes. This process was encouraged by an M-NCPPC “phase back”, effectively eliminating scattered-site multifamily housing and implementing single-use zoning citywide, which prompted calls by some residents for the city to have its own planning authority. The majority of the city’s population remain tenants, many of whom live in a cluster of high-rise and mid-rise apartment buildings surrounding Sligo Creek, which cuts a deep valley through the community.
Takoma Park sits on the edge of the Mid-Atlantic fall line and is thus quite hilly, with many narrow, gridded streets. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.09 square miles (5.41 km2), of which, 2.08 square miles (5.39 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water. Sligo Creek and Long Branch (both tributaries of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River) flow through the area. Sligo Creek Park and the 9-mile (14 km) Sligo Creek Trail bisect the area. The main street, Carroll Avenue, and the main state highway, Route 410/East West Highway, narrow to two lanes within city limits. Takoma Park has an extensive hardwood tree canopy which is protected by local ordinance.
Takoma Park is bounded by downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, a major urban center to the northwest, by Montgomery College campus; East Silver Spring, a community of houses, apartments and small shops, along Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road, to the north; Langley Park, Maryland, a community of apartments and shopping centers, along University Boulevard to the northeast; Chillum, Maryland, in Prince George’s County to the southeast, bounded by New Hampshire Avenue, a state highway; and Takoma, Washington, D.C. to the southwest, separated by Eastern Avenue, which follows the District of Columbia line.
The corner of Eastern and Carroll Avenues roughly marks the center of the old commercial district. Other town centers include: “Takoma Junction”, the corner of Carroll Avenue and Route 410 in the geographic center of town, home to the city’s large food co-op; Takoma-Langley Crossroads in downtown Langley Park, and the Flower shopping district, both of which are home to many immigrant-owned establishments. Takoma Park’s municipal center is located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Route 410. Washington Adventist University marks the corner of Carroll and Flower Avenues.
As of the census of 2010, there were 16,715 people, 6,569 households, and 3,904 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,036.1 inhabitants per square mile (3,102.8 /km2). There were 7,162 housing units at an average density of 3,443.3 per square mile (1,329.5 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 49.0% White, 35.0% African American, 0.3% Native American, 4.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.5% from other races, and 4.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.5% of the population.
There were 6,569 households out of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.6% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.12.
The median age in the city was 38 years. 22.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.8% were from 25 to 44; 28.7% were from 45 to 64; and 10% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.6% male and 53.4% female.
More information on Takoma Park can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takoma_Park
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Takoma Park Schools
- Piney Branch Elementary School
- 3-5, public
- Rolling Terrace Elementary School
- PK-5, public
- Takoma Park Elementary School
- PK-2, public
- Carole Highlands Elementary School
- PK-6, public
- Takoma Academy
- 9-12, private
- John Nevins Andrews School
- K-8, private
- Sligo Adventist School
- PK-8, private
- Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School
- 9-12, private
- The Washington-Mclaughlin Christian School
- PK-6, private