Blog

145 years of bridging the Metropolitan Branch

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad entered Montgomery County in late 1867 buying and condemning a contiguous strip of land 66 feet wide from the District of Columbia line to Frederick County. It needed the right of way for a new rail line — The Metropolitan Branch — connecting Washington and the railroad’s main line to the north. In the vicinity of the area now known today as Silver Spring, the railroad acquired two acres from Margaret, Samuel and Edwin Cissel. The Cissels declined the company’s original offer and the railroad exercised its authority under Maryland law to set a price and seize it for $1,370.

Montgomery County land records, volume EBP 31, pages 181-183. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad condemnation proceedings against the Cissels.

The Metropolitan Branch opened in 1873 and by 1890 land records filed in Montgomery County included descriptions of a bridge across the tracks where the current Talbot Avenue Bridge is located. The earliest published illustration of a roadway adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch appears in a map produced by the railroad in 1890. The road appears as an unnamed route connecting Brookville Road with a road passing through James Fenwick’s 35-acre property into the District of Columbia. A subdivision called “The Pilgrim Tract” created by Kansas Senator Bishop W. Perkins and Michigan Representative Julius C. Burrows in 1890. Neither Lyttonsville nor other Perkins and Burrows subdivisions are labeled in the Metropolitan Branch map. Continue reading “145 years of bridging the Metropolitan Branch”

Meet the Talbot Avenue Bridge

Lyttonsville resident Patricia Tyson tells people that the Talbot Avenue Bridge had its own voice. In the lead-up to the centennial celebration, we will be posting media clips that will tell the bridge’s story in stories and sounds that convey the bridge’s rich history and soundscape.

Interviews and environmental audio by David Rotenstein. Music by Jay Elvove with additional field recording by Chris Lynn.

distinctive-soundscape

Meet the women behind the celebration

Charlotte Coffield (left) and Patricia Tyson (right).

In April 2018, Lyttonsville residents Charlotte Coffield and Patricia Tyson convened a meeting in the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Recreation Center to begin planning the Talbot Avenue Bridge Centennial celebration. Residents from neighborhoods adjacent to the bridge — Lyttonsville, North Woodside, and Rosemary Hills — were invited to participate. Also invited were Silver Spring residents with an interest in the bridge’s history.

Ms. Tyson and Ms. Coffield are lifelong Lyttonsville residents. They are part of the community’s collective memory and they are among the surviving keepers of its traditions. They were featured in the 2017 documentary film, The Bridge, and they frequently speak at public events uplifting Lyttonsville’s history and the story of the Black experience in Montgomery County.

The first meeting was held April 25, 2018. Ms. Tyson explained the project’s goals and her vision for the celebration. She then explained how she wanted the planning to proceed by breaking the group up into subcommittees responsible for general program planning, publicity, fundraising, volunteer coordination, etc. All decisions about the celebration, from the entertainment to the invited speakers to the type of refreshments and food would be made by the entire committee.

Patricia Tyson (left), former River Road resident Harvey Matthews (center), and Charlotte Coffield (right) share their life stories at the Talbot Avenue Bridge Park pop-up, April 21, 2018.

The Talbot Avenue Bridge is an important part of both women’s lives. “We could sit on our porch down on Kansas Avenue and it seemed like you could hear the boards rattling as people came across,” Ms. Tyson recalls. “But it’s now a symbol of history.”

“The Talbot Avenue Bridge has always been there throughout my entire lifetime,” says Ms. Coffield. “We could tell who was coming and who was going because there weren’t that many cars in the community.”

Since 2016, the bridge has received a lot of attention by historians and the media. That has raised awareness of the bridge’s important civil rights history as a lifeline for the Lyttonsville community and as a powerful and contested symbol with different meanings in Silver Spring’s white and African American communities. Ms. Tyson and Ms. Coffield conceived of the centennial celebration to mark the bridge’s important milestone before it is demolished in 2019 and to continue building new relationships among Lyttonsville and adjacent neighborhoods that the centennial’s planners hope will build new bridges and begin to heal old wounds.

Mark your calendars!

Plans are underway to celebrate the Talbot Avenue Bridge’s 100th birthday later this year. The Lyttonsville History Committee held a planning meeting April 25 to begin work on marking this historic civil rights landmark’s centennial before it is demolished in 2019. The big date is Saturday September 22, 2018 starting at 2:00 p.m. (Rain date Saturday, Sept. 29).

The following planning committees were established:

  • Program Committee (general event planning)
  • Publicity Committee
  • Graphics Committee
  • Community Contacts and Outreach
  • Budget and Contribution Resources
  • Refreshments
  • Set-Up (logistics manager, event day coordination)

Watch this space for details on event dates and for information on how to volunteer and donate to make this a Silver Spring celebration to remember.

Coming soon: a link to contribute donations for event supplies, refreshments, etc.

For additional information on the event or to volunteer for one of our committees and for the event day, contact us at TalbotAvenueBridge100@gmail.com.

Talbot Avenue Bridge Park pop-up, April 21, 2018. Photo by Alan Bowser.