National Park Seminary

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National Park Seminary Historic District
May Day festivities at National Park Seminary in 1907
National Park Seminary is located in Maryland
National Park Seminary
National Park Seminary is located in the US
National Park Seminary
Location Linden Lane near I-495, Forest Glen, Maryland
Coordinates 39°00′43″N 77°03′21″W / 39.01194°N 77.05583°W / 39.01194; -77.05583Coordinates: 39°00′43″N 77°03′21″W / 39.01194°N 77.05583°W / 39.01194; -77.05583
Area 23 acres (9.3 ha)
Built 1890
Architect Emily Elizabeth Holman
Architectural style Late 19th and early 20th century American movements, late 19th and 20th century revivals, Greek revival
NRHP reference # 72000586[1]
Added to NRHP September 14, 1972

National Park Seminary — later called National Park College — was a private girls' school open from 1894 to 1942. Located in Forest Glen, Maryland, its name alludes to nearby Rock Creek Park. The historic campus is to be preserved as the center of a new housing development.



The campus began in 1887 as "Ye Forest Inne," a summer vacation retreat for Washington, D.C., residents. The retreat did not succeed financially, and the property was sold and redeveloped as a finishing school, opening in 1894 with a class of 48 female students.[2] The architecture of the campus remained eclectic and whimsical. In addition to various Victorian styles, exotic designs included a Dutch windmill, a Swiss chalet, a Japanese pagoda, an Italian villa, and an English castle.[3] Many of these small homes with international designs were built from blueprints obtained by competing sororities, but all were designed by architect Emily Elizabeth Holman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[4] The campus also featured covered walkways, outdoor sculptures, and elaborately planned formal gardens. Among the administration was Assistant Dean of the College, Miss Edna Roeckel.[5] In 1936 it was renamed "National Park College" and its focus was realigned with more modern education trends; it remained one of the most prestigious women's schools in the country.[6]

Walter Reed Forest Glen Annex[edit]

With the onset of World War II, the United States Army began planning for the medical needs of returning soldiers. In 1942, the property was acquired by Walter Reed Army Hospital as a medical facility for disabled soldiers, thus closing the college. The Army paid $890,000 for the land and buildings that became the Walter Reed Forest Glen Annex.[7] The goal was to provide to seriously injured service members a quiet, green space for rehabilitation and recovery that was within a short drive from the heavily urbanized neighborhood surrounding the hospital. Following World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. Army attempted to maintain the space with progressively limited funds; the U.S. Army employed some of the unique sorority houses as base housing for military officers who organized themselves and enlisted soldiers to maintain the seminary space. Eventually, however, the Army lost sufficient funding from the U.S. Congress during the 1960-1970s to maintain the space and was compelled to declare the property excess, pending transfer to the General Services Administration to find a new owner.

Although the U.S. Army was frequently criticized by local residents during the 1980-1990s for allowing the undeveloped portion of the property to remain economically stagnant, it was largely government ownership that protected the space from overdevelopment. Once relinquished due to base maintenance funding cuts from Congress, the U.S. Army Walter Reed Medical Center lost what once had been a quiet, rehabilitative area for service members recovering from post-war trauma during the 1940s just as the Iraq War began during 2003. The loss of the Forest Glenn annex as a military medical center for post-war rehab contributed to the necessity of leasing sub-standard space and the subsequent Walter Reed neglect scandal in 2007 that led to firing of the hospital commander and the U.S. Army Surgeon General.

Preservation and development[edit]

On September 14, 1972, a 27-acre (0.11-km²) National Park Seminary Historic District was listed as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In the following years, the historical integrity of the property was threatened by neglect and vandalism. The Greek Revival Odeon Theater was lost to arson in 1993.[8] Local preservation groups took action and "Save Our Seminary" (SOS) was formed in 1988. In the late 1990s, Senator Paul Sarbanes was instrumental in encouraging the Army to make repairs to some of the buildings and, ultimately, in releasing the property for development.[9] With private donations, SOS began an exterior restoration project of the pagoda in 1999, completed in 2003.[10]

In 2003, a development team led by the Alexander Company began implementing a plan to preserve the campus as the core of a new residential neighborhood. The residential neighborhood consists of townhomes, condominiums, and apartments. The townhomes are in a variety of architectural styles from Spanish mission to colonial. The apartments, some of which are affordable housing, are in the main structure. Condominiums are located in several buildings that branch off of the main structure including the Senior House, Senior Annex, and Music Hall. There are condominiums in the Chapel and Aloha House. The Alexander Company's plans for redevelopment of the site were featured in a 2006 New York Times story.[11]

Portions of the abandoned seminary grounds were made available for townhouse development which began in 2006. Portions of the old growth forest in the glen were cut down for the commercial housing development and portions were retained; likewise, parts of the historically sensitive yards and courts were spared from redevelopment.



  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of National Park Seminary". Retrieved October 23, 2006. 
  3. ^ Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Forest Glen Annex". Archived from the original on September 27, 2006. Retrieved October 24, 2006. 
  4. ^ Walston, Mark (January–February 2010). "The Reincarnation of National Park Seminary". Bethesda Magazine. Bethesda, Maryland. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Nancy Miller (July 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: National Park Seminary H.D.(Walter Reed A.M.C. Annex)" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  6. ^ "What is the National Park Seminary". Archived from the original on July 8, 2006. Retrieved October 24, 2006. 
  7. ^ "The National Park College Years". Retrieved October 24, 2006. 
  8. ^ Kelly, John (2018-02-24). "Answer Man visits the National Park Seminary in Forest Glen, Md". Washington Post. 
  9. ^ "Annex of Walter Reed". Retrieved October 24, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Pagoda Preservation in Action". Silver Spring, MD: Save Our Seminary. Archived from the original on October 5, 2006. Retrieved October 24, 2006. 
  11. ^ Chamberlain, Lisa (2006-08-06). "Preserving History and a 'Fantasy Feeling'". New York Times. 

External links[edit]