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Silver Spring is an urbanized, unincorporated area in Montgomery County, Marylandmarker, United States. After Baltimoremarker and Columbiamarker, the Silver Spring CDP is the third most populous place in Marylandmarker.

The urbanized, oldest, and southernmost part of Silver Spring is a major business hub that lies at the north apex of Washington, D.C.marker As of 2004, the Central Business District (CBD) held of office space, 5216 dwelling units and of parkland. The population density of this CBD area of Silver Spring was 15,600 per square mile all within and approximately 2½ square miles in the CBD/downtown area.The community has recently undergone a significant renaissance, with the addition of major retail, residential, and office developments.

Silver Spring takes its name from a mica-flecked spring discovered there in 1840 by Francis Preston Blair, who subsequently bought much of the surrounding land. Acorn Parkmarker, tucked away in an area of south Silver Spring away from the main downtown area, is believed to be the site of the original spring.


Boundaries of the Silver Spring CDP as of 2003
As an unincorporated area, Silver Spring's boundaries are not officially defined. Residents of a huge swath of Montgomery County have Silver Spring mailing addresses. This area extends roughly from the Washington, D.C.marker, Prince George's County, Marylandmarker and Howard County, Marylandmarker lines to the south, east and north, and Rock Creek Park and Plyers Mill Road to the west and north-west. These boundaries make Silver Spring larger in area than any city in Marylandmarker except for Baltimoremarker. Among some notable landmarks is the world headquarters of Discovery Communications, the AFI Silver, and the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The United States Census Bureau defines Silver Spring as a Census-Designated Place whose center is located at 39°1' North latitude, 77°1' West longitude. The United States Geological Survey locates the center of Silver Spring at , notably some distance from the Census Bureau's datum. By another definition, Silver Spring is located at (39.004242, -77.019004) . The definitions used by the Silver Spring Urban Planning District, the United States Postal Service, the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, etc., are all different, each defining it for its own purposes.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the community has a total area of 9.4 square miles (24.4 km²). Twenty-four point four km² (24.4 km²) (9.4 sq mi) of it is land and none of the area is covered with water (although there are numerous creeks and small lakes).

Neighborhoods within the generally conceded "central area" of Silver Spring include:

Neighborhoods of Silver Spring which lie outside the "central area" include:

Parks and recreation

Acorn Park, site of the "silver spring".
Rock Creek Parkmarker passes along the west side of Silver Spring, and offers hiking trails, picnic grounds, and bicycling on weekends, when its main road, Beach Drive, is mostly closed to motor vehicles.

Sligo Creek Park follows Sligo Creek through Silver Spring; it offers hiking trails, tennis courts, playgrounds and bicycling. The latter is facilitated on weekends, when parts of Sligo Creek Parkway are closed to autos. The bike trails are winding and slower than most in the region. Recently, rocks have been spread along either side of the road, providing a hazardous bike ride, or skating leisure.

Acorn Parkmarker in the downtown area of Silver Spring is believed to be the site of the eponymous "silver spring".

The Jesup Blair Park was recently renovated and has a soccer field, tennis courts, basketball courts, and picnic area.

Brookside Gardensmarker is a 50 acre (20,000 m²) park within Wheaton Regional Park, in"greater" Silver Spring. It is located on the original site of Stadler Nursery (now in Laytonsvillemarker, Marylandmarker).


As of the 2000 census , the "central area" of Silver Spring and areas directly adjacent—but not including North Silver Spring, Forest Glenmarker, Aspen Hillmarker, Colesvillemarker, White Oakmarker, Kemp Millmarker, Hillandalemarker, Burtonsvillemarker, and other communities that have Silver Spring addresses—there were 76,540 people, 30,374 households, and 17,616 families residing in the area. If all Silver Spring neighborhoods are taken into account, the population swells to over 250,000. The population density was 8,123.6 people per square mile (3,137.2/km²). There were 31,208 housing units at an average density of 3,312.3/sq mi (1,279.1/km²). The racial makeup of the community was 46.61% White, 28.07% African American, 0.44% Native American, 8.22% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 11.55% from other races, and 5.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race consist of 22.22% of the population.

There were 30,374 households out of which 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.8% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.0% were non-families. Thirty-two point six percent (32.6%) of all households are made up of individuals and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the area the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 37.0% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.

The median income for a household in the area was $51,653, and the median income for a family was $60,631. Males had a median income of $38,124 versus $36,096 for females. The per capita income for the area was $26,357. 9.3% of the population and 6.4% of families were below the poverty line. 11.7% of those under the age of 18 and 9.7% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Nineteenth century

The Blair and Lee families, two politically active families of the time, are irrefutably tied to Silver Spring's history. In 1840, Francis Preston Blair, who later helped organize the modern American Republican Party, along with his daughter Elizabeth discovered a spring flowing with chips of mica (the now-dry spring is still visible at Acorn Parkmarker). Two years later, he completed a twenty-room mansion he dubbed Silver Spring on a 250 acre (one-square-kilometer) country homestead situated just outside of Washington, D.C.marker (The house stood until 1954.) By 1854, Blair's son, Montgomery Blair, who became Postmaster General under Abraham Lincoln and represented Dred Scott before the United States Supreme Courtmarker, built the Falkland house in the area. By the end of the decade, Elizabeth Blair married Samuel Phillips Lee, third cousin of future Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, and gave birth to a boy, Francis Preston Blair Lee. The child would eventually become the first popularly elected Senator in United States history.

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln visited the Silver Spring mansion multiple times. During some of the visits he relaxed by playing town ball with Francis P. Blair's grandchildren. In 1864, Confederate Army General Jubal Early occupied Silver Spring prior to the Battle of Fort Stevens. After the engagement, fleeing Confederate soldiers razed Montgomery Blair's Falkland residence. By the end of the nineteenth century, the region began to develop into a town of decent size and importance. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Metropolitan Branch was completed in 1873 and ran from Washington, D.C.marker to Point of Rocksmarker, Marylandmarker through Silver Spring. The first suburban development appeared in 1887 when Selina Wilson divided part of her farm on current-day Colesville Road (U.S. Route 29) and Brookeville Road into five- and ten-acre (20,000- and 40,000 m²) plots. In 1893, Francis Preston Blair Lee and his wife, Anne Brooke Lee, gave birth to E. Brooke Lee, who is known as the father of modern Silver Spring for his visionary attitude toward developing the region .

Twentieth century

The early twentieth century set the pace for downtown Silver Spring's growth. E. Brooke Lee and his brother, Blair Lee I, founded the Lee Development Company, whose Colesville Road office building remains a downtown fixture. Dale Drive, a winding roadway, was built to provide vehicular access to much of the family's substantial real estate holdings. Suburban development continued in 1922 when Woodside Development Corporation created Woodside Park, with 1 acre (4,000 m²) plot home sites. In 1924, Washington trolley service on Georgia Avenuemarker (present-day Maryland Route 97) across B&O's Metropolitan Branch was temporarily suspended so that an underpass could be built. The underpass was completed two years later, but trolley service never resumed. It would be rebuilt again in 1948 with additional lanes for automobile traffic, opening the areas to the north for readily accessible suburban development.

Takoma-Silver Spring High School, built in 1924, was the first high school for Silver Spring. The community's rapid growth led to the need for a larger school. In 1935, when a new high school was built at Wayne Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway, it was renamed Montgomery Blair High Schoolmarker. (The school remained at that location for over six decades, until 1998, when it was moved to a new, larger facility at the corner of Colesville Road (U.S. Route 29) and University Boulevard (Maryland Route 193). The former high school building became a combined middle school and elementary school.) The Silver Spring Shopping Center and Silver Theatre (designed by noted theatre architect John Eberson) were completed in 1938, at the request of developer William Alexander Julian. The shopping center was unique because it was one of the nation's first retail spaces that featured a street-front parking lot. Conventional wisdom held that merchandise should be in windows closest to the street so that people could see it; the shopping center broke those rules.

By the 1950s, Silver Spring was the second busiest retail market between Baltimoremarker and Richmondmarker, with the Hecht Company, J.C. Penney, Sears, Roebuck and Company, and a number of other retailers. In 1954, after standing for over a century, the Blair mansion "Silver Spring" was razed and replaced with the Blair Station Post office. In 1960, Wheaton Plaza (later known as Westfield Wheatonmarker), a shopping center several miles north of downtown Silver Spring opened, and captured much of the town's business. The downtown area soon started a long period of decline.

In December 1961, a short segment of the Capital Beltway was opened to traffic between Georgia Avenue and University Boulevard East . On Monday, August 17, 1964, the final segment of the Beltway was opened to traffic, and a ribboncutting ceremony was held near the New Hampshire Avenue interchange, with a speech by then-Gov. J. Millard Tawes.

Washington Metromarker rail service into Washington, D.C.marker, helped breathe life into the region starting in 1978 with the opening of Silver Spring stationmarker. The Metro line was built on the median of the old B&O Metropolitan Branch right of way, and went downtown, parallel to Georgia Avenue (U.S. Route 29) before descending into Union Stationmarker. By the mid-1990s, the Red Line continued north from the downtown Silver Spring core, mostly underground to three more locations in northern Silver Spring, with the opening of Forest Glenmarker, Wheatonmarker and Glenmontmarker stations.

Nevertheless, the decline continued in the 1980s, as the Hecht Company, downtown's last remaining department store, closed and opened a new store at Wheaton Plaza. Furthermore, Hecht's added a covenant forbidding another department store from renting its old spot. City Place, a multi-level mall, was established in the old Hecht Company building in 1992, but it had trouble attracting quality anchor stores and gained a reputation as a budget mall, anchored by Burlington Coat Factory, Gold's Gym, Marshalls, AMC Theaters (now closed) and a short-lived Nordstrom Rackmarker. In the mid-1990s, developers considered building a mega-mall and entertainment complex called the American Dream (similar to the Mall of Americamarker) in downtown Silver Spring, but the revitalization plan fell through before any construction began because the developers were unable to secure funding.

Another notable occurrence in Silver Spring during the 1990s was a 1996 train collision on the Silver Spring section of the Metropolitan line. On February 16 of that year, during the Friday-evening rush hour, a MARC commuter train bound for Washington Union Stationmarker collided with an outgoing Amtrak train and erupted in flames on a snow-swept stretch of track in Silver Spring, leaving eleven people dead.

The Maryland State Highway Administration started studies of improvements to the Capital Beltway in 1993, and have continued, off and on, examining a number of alternatives (including HOV lanes and Express Toll Lanes, since then.

Twenty-first century

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, downtown Silver Spring began to see the results of redevelopment. Several city blocks near City Place Mall were completely reconstructed to accommodate a new outdoor shopping plaza. New shops included national retail chains such as Whole Foods Market, Borders Books & Music, a 20-screen Regal Theatres, Men's Wearhouse, Ann Taylor Loft, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Office Depot, and Pier 1 Imports, as well as many restaurants, including Romano's Macaroni Grill, Panera Bread, Red Lobster, Coldstone Creamery, Fuddruckers, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Baja Fresh, and Chick-fil-a. In addition to these chains, Downtown Silver Spring is home to a wide variety of family-owned restaurants representing its vast ethnic diversity. As downtown Silver Spring revived, its 160-year history was celebrated in a PBS documentary entitled, "Silver Spring: Story of an American Suburb," released in 2002. In 2003, Discovery Communications completed the construction of its headquarters and relocated to downtown Silver Spring from nearby Bethesdamarker. The same year also brought the reopening of the Silver Theatre, as AFI Silver, under the auspices of the American Film Institute. Development continues with the opening of new office buildings, condos, stores, and restaurants, although City Place Mall continues to struggle to fill its vacancies despite the explosive growth around it. The restoration of the old Silver Spring Train Station was undertaken between 2000 and 2002, as recorded in the documentary film Next Stop: Silver Spring.

Beginning in 2004, the downtown redevelopment was marketed locally with the "silver sprung" advertising campaign, which declared on buses and in print ads that Silver Spring had "sprung" and was ready for business. In June 2007, the New York Times noted that downtown was "enjoying a renaissance, a result of public involvement and private investment that is turning it into an arts and entertainment center".

In 2007, the downtown Silver Spring area gained attention when an amateur photographer was prohibited from taking photographs in what appeared to be a public street. The land, leased to a developer for $1, was technically private property. The citizens argued that the development, partially built with public money, was still public property. After a protest on July 4, 2007, the developer relented and allowed photography on their property under limited conditions. The developer also claimed that they could revoke these rights at any time. They further stated that other activities permitted in public spaces, such as organizing protests or distributing campaign literature, were still prohibited. In response, Montgomery County Attorney Leon Rodriguez said that the street in question, Ellsworth Drive, "constitutes a public forum" and that the First Amendment's protection of free speech applies there. In an eight page letter, Rodriguez wrote, "Although the courts have not definitively resolved the issue of whether the taking, as opposed to the display, of photographs is a protected expressive act, we think it is likely that a court would consider the taking of the photograph to be part of the continuum of action that leads to the display of the photograph and thus also protected by the First Amendment." The incident was part of a trend in the United States regarding the blurring of public and private spaces in developments built with both public and private funds.

In 2008, construction of the long-planned Inter-county connector (ICC) got under way.


Downtown Silver Spring hosts several entertainment, musical, and ethnic festivals, the most notable of which are the Silverdocs documentary film festival held each June and hosted by Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute, as well as the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade (Saturday before Thanksgiving) for Montgomery Countymarker. The Silver Spring Jazz Festival has become the biggest event of the year drawing 20,000 people to the free festival held on the second Saturday in September. Featuring local jazz artist and a battle of high school bands, the Silver Spring Jazz Festival has featured such jazz greats as Wynton Marsalis,Arturo Sandoval and such bands as the Mingus Big Band and the Fred Wesley Group.

Dining in Silver Spring is also extremely varied, including American, African, Burmese, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Italian, Mexican, Salvadoran, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Lebanese, and fusion restaurants, as well as many national and regional chains.

Silver Spring has many churches, synagogues, temples, and other religious institutions, including the World Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Silver Spring serves as the primary urban area in Montgomery County and its revitalization has ushered in an eclectic mix of people and ideas, evident in the fact that the flagship high school (Montgomery Blair High Schoolmarker) has no majority group with each major racial and ethnic group claiming a significant percentage.

Silver Spring hosts the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Culture Center, on Colesville Road. The theatre showcases American and foreign films. Discovery Communications, a cable and satellite programming company, has its headquarters in downtown, as well. Gandhi Brigade, a youth development media project, began in Silver Spring out of the Long Branch neighborhood. Docs in Progress, a non-profit media arts center devoted to the promotion of documentary filmmaking is located at the "Documentary House" in downtown Silver Spring. Silver Spring Stage [7201], an all-volunteer community theater, performs in Woodmoor, approximately north up Colesville Road from the downtown area. Downtown Silver Spring is also home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a branch of the United States Department of Commercemarker incorporating the National Weather Service; the American Nurses Association; and numerous real estate development, biotechnology, and media and communications companies.


The major roads in Silver Spring are mostly 3-5 lane highways. The Capital Beltway can be accessed from Georgia Avenue (Md. 97), Colesville Road (U.S. 29), and New Hampshire Avenue (Md. 650).

As of 2008, the long-planned Inter-county connector (ICC) (to be designated Md. 200) toll road is under construction in the Fairlandmarker area of Silver Spring, and will have interchanges at Georgia Avenue, Layhill Road (Md. 182), New Hampshire Avenue, Columbia Pike (as U.S. 29 is known north of Lockwood Drive) and a half-interchange at Briggs Chaney Road.

Silver Spring is serviced by the Brunswick Line of the MARC Train, Metrorail Red Line, Metrobus, Ride On, and the free VanGo. The bus terminal at the Silver Spring Rail Stationmarker is the busiest in the entire Washington Metro Area, and provides connections between several transit services, including those mentioned above. This transit facility serves nearly 60,000 passengers daily. Construction commenced in October, 2008 on the new $91 million Paul S Sarbanes Transit Center which will further expand the station to facilitate the growing demand for public transportation, due to the increase in population in the Silver Spring area. The new center will be a multilevel, multimodal facility which will incorporate Metrobus, Ride On, Metrorail, MARC train, intercity Greyhound bus, and local taxi services under one roof.

The Purple Line light rail, being studied by the Maryland Transit Administration is planned to service this station, if a final environmental impact statement is completed and funds are secured for it, connecting Silver Spring with Bethesda to the west and then running east to the University of Maryland-College Park and then southeast to the New Carrollton Metro station. In 2008, Gov. Martin O'Malley assigned $100 million of the state budget for planning and engineering of the Purple Line. The MTA estimates the Purple Line could carry 68,000 person-trips per day. Construction is planned to begin in 2012. In addition to the Silver Spring station the Washington Metrorail's Forest Glen station is also located in Silver Spring and the MARC train also stops at the nearby Kensington station.


Cupola at Montgomery Blair High School.
Silver Spring is served by a county-wide public school system, Montgomery County Public Schools. Public high schools that serve the region include Montgomery Blair High Schoolmarker, Albert Einstein High Schoolmarker, Wheaton High Schoolmarker, James Hubert Blake High School, Northwood High School, Paint Branch High School, John F. Kennedy High Schoolmarker, Springbrook High School, and Bethesda Chevy Chase High Schoolmarker. Of the public high schools in the region, Montgomery Blair High Schoolmarker is the only one within the Census Designation Place of Silver Spring. It is known nationwide for its Communication Arts Program and its Math, Science, and Computer Science Magnet Program, the latter of which perennially produces a large number of finalists and semi-finalists in such academic competitions as the Intel Science Talent Search. Notable private schools in the region include The Siena School, Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Torah School of Greater Washington, and The Barrie Schoolmarker.

A portion of the Montgomery Collegemarker Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus is located within the Silver Spring boundary, with the rest of the campus located in Takoma Parkmarker. The community college is Montgomery County'smarker main institute of higher education. (The main campus is in the county seat of Rockvillemarker.) Adjacent to the White Oak neighborhood in the outer reaches of Silver Spring is the campus of the National Labor College. Howard Universitymarker also has its School of Continuing Education in Silver Spring (its main campus is located nearby in Washington, D.C.marker).


Silver Spring is served by at least five public libraries of which one – the Silver Spring branch of Montgomery County Public Libraries – is located in downtown Silver Spring. Four other libraries are Wheaton, Fairland, White Oak and Long Branch. The Silver Spring library, one of the most heavily used in the Montgomery County system, is being renovated, enlarged, and relocated to Wayne Ave. and Fenton St. as part of the Silver Spring redevelopment plan.


The Silver Spring Saints football club was formed in 1995. The club was formed when two local Catholic parishes, St. John the Baptist and St. Andrews, merged their football programs to compete in the Capital Beltway League after the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. discontinued its youth football program at the end of the 1994 season. The name "Saints" is derived from the merging of the two Catholic parishes. The club plays their home games at Mckenna field at St. Andrews's Church near Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. The Saints currently play in the Capital Beltway League.

Silver Spring is also home to several MCSL swim teams, including Robin Hood, Franklin Knolls, Daleview, Oakview, Forest Knolls, Long Branch, Glenwood, Rock Creek, and Northwest Branch,Stonegate, Hillandale, and West Hillandale

Silver Spring and Takoma Parkmarker together host Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts a college wooden-bat baseball team playing in the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League. Home games are played at Montgomery Blair Stadium.

See also


  1. Eugene L. Meyer, "A Dose of Art and Entertainment Revives a Suburb", New York Times, June 13, 2007
  2. Marc Fisher, "Public or Private Space? Line Blurs in Silver Spring", Washington Post, June 21, 2007
  3. Ruben Castaneda, "County Opinion Rejects Photo Limits", Washington Post, July 31, 2007
  4. Info on construction of the Paul S Sarbanes Transit Center: Silver Spring Transit Center. Montgomery County, Maryland.

Further reading

  • McCoy, J, et al. (2003). Silver Spring Timeline. Retrieved August 6, 2003 from "Silver Spring history".
  • McCoy, Jerry A. and Silver Spring Historical Society. Historic Silver Spring. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

External links

Government sites


Documentary Films


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