… at the National Park Seminary in our new town of Silver Spring, Maryland. I was driving home from work one day a couple months ago and Waze took me a different route due to an accident. I was thrown for a loop when I saw a Japanese style pagoda from my car and to say it piqued my interest would be an understatement. I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering where that was (I hadn’t driven by it again), what that was and what on earth was currently happening inside, if anything.
While doing research about Silver Spring I stumbled upon my answer… the National Park Seminary! Just five miles from our house sits a residential area that once was a forest glen and tobacco plantation, a summer resort hotel, the National Park Seminary for girls, and then was sold to the US Army.
From looking at the website I realized that I truly did not understand how unique this property is and decided to do a self guided tour with Chris one day after work. The Save our Seminary organization holds guided tours on select Saturdays, but we were anxious to check out the buildings and thanks to markers placed throughout the property you can easily take the tour yourself!
Before diving into the photos- I have to say that we were amazed while wandering the property. I kept comparing the buildings to a movie set or a land where all of the Disney Princesses live together in their own homes that fit their unique story. While there is a very real history here, I have to share with you the silliness that came to mind along the way.
We did them out of order starting with the closest marker to where we parked (street parking is easy on Linden Ave.)
Stop 2: The Gymnasium
The gymnasium sports all columns and was built in the early 1900’s with the columns added twenty years later. It offered a recreational space to the otherwise academic mood of the Seminary. The gym was later turned into a space for therapy and entertainment for recuperating soldiers.
(I took a fabulous photo of the gym, but then realized it was gone when I uploaded the photos from our visit! Boo!)
Stop 3: The Aloha Cottage
The Aloha Cottage was built in 1898 and was the residence of the Seminary’s founders, John and Vesta Cassedy. Later it was used as a domitory and now is residential units. The Porch of Maidens was added in the 1920’s.
Stop 4: Sorority Houses
Throughout the property were small unique buildings that once housed each of the sororities on campus. There were eight built from 1896 and 1905.
Stop 5: Forest Glen Railroad Station
The Forest Glen Railroad Station was where hotel guests and seminary students arrived to get to the campus. There were several bridges that stretched from the station to the campus once upon a time. The bridges were removed and part of the glen was lost when the Capital Beltway was built in the early 60’s. Across the way you can see one of the sorority houses in ruins and boarded up.
Stop 5.5: The Stone Pathways
On our way to Stop 6 we noticed a walkway into the woods and obviously followed it until the sidewalk cracked and twisted into oblivion. It’s clearly been a long time since the stone wall and path through the woods has been actively used and it was haunting to see what used to be.
Stop 6: The President’s House
At this stop we were able to see the President’s House and the Music Hall which was built in 1926.
Stop 7: The Forest Inn
The Forest Inn was built in 1887 as a summer resort hotel. Once the Cassedy’s purchased the property to turn it into the Seminary it became a space for classrooms, a dormitory, and school offices. Eventually when the Walter Reed Army Hospital acquired the space in 1942, it held their administrative offices and convalescent wards.
Stop 8: More Sorority Houses
The Japanese Pagoda held the Chi Psi Upsilon sorority and the Swiss Chalet was for the Zeta Eta Theta’s.
*We missed taking photos of Stop 1 but it was a beautiful Alamo style home across Linden Ave.
After we finished the self guided tour we wandered the property in search of this…
We were so intrigued as parts of the property were kept up, remodeled and actively being used, but here in the center of it all was three buildings crumbling before our eyes. If you’ve frequented this blog or my previous blog, you know that I am drawn towards the dilapidated buildings that seem to have been forgotten and are being taken over by the nature around them. This was no different and I was drawn to the beauty of it all.
As we exited the National Park Seminary we noticed one last building, waiting for it’s turn to be renovated and the HUGE cameras giving away a bit of information on when it was last touched. Anyone else get a strong Stranger Things vibe while looking at this photo?
I’m shocked that I’ve lived in Silver Spring for four months and through my digging on Instagram and online looking for things to do and learning about the history of our new city, it took this long to find the seminary! It’s worth a walk through the grounds if you are local to the area and I do recommend the guided tours! They provide much more information than we were able to read on the markers and the tours cost a small fee which goes back to the Seminary to maintain the grounds. Let me know if you visit!
**If you want to live on this magical property there is a gorgeous house for sale.