Friends of White Flint

Promoting a Sustainable, Walkable and Engaging Community

P.O. Box 2761

White Flint Station

Kensington, MD 20891

Phone: 301-980-3768

Email: info@whiteflint.org


Where did White Flint get its name? Not at the mall.

Posted on by dan reed!

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A 1944 map from the US Geological Society showing the White Flint Country Club and surrounding villages.

A 1944 map from the US Geological Society showing the White Flint Country Club and surrounding villages.

Some call it White Flint, while others call it North Bethesda. One hundred years ago, they called it Windham.

The White Flint Partnership, a coalition of area landowners seeking to transform Rockville Pike from a suburban strip into an urban downtown, are working on a branding scheme for the area. However, developers and residents alike disagree on whether to call it White Flint, North Bethesda, or something else. So where did these names come from, anyway?

In the early 20th century, Rockville Pike was a rural highway and the area between today’s Rockville Town Center and Bethesda was rolling countryside, dotted with small villages. After Rockville, the biggest nearby towns were Kensington and Garrett Park.

Annual maps from the United States Geological Survey show three tiny settlements in what’s now the White Flint Sector Plan area, each containing just a few houses. There was Montrose, located near the intersection of Montrose Road and Old Georgetown Road; Randolph, on Randolph Road near what today is Loehmann’s Plaza Shopping Center; and Windham, near the current intersection of Parklawn Drive and Boiling Brook Parkway.

Some of these place names persisted for decades, appearing on USGS maps as late as the 1970’s. However, others were more short-lived. Autrey Park, located near Rockville Pike and Edmonston Road, was wiped away after Rockville annexed it. Beane, a village at Old Georgetown Road and Grosvenor Lane, was renamed Mount Zion Church after its main landmark, before disappearing altogether after World War II. Windham’s last appearance on the USGS map was in 1923.

Seven years later, the White Flint Country Club opened on Rockville Pike near Nicholson Lane. That’s the first known use of the name, according to Clare Lise Kelly, research and designation coordinator for historic preservation at the Montgomery County Planning Department. The name was a reference to the white quartz rocks which can be found throughout Montgomery County.

By the 1950’s, suburban development took off along Rockville Pike, and with it came new uses for “White Flint.” Homebuilders laying out new subdivisions around the mall made references to the country club, like White Flint Drive, which was built between 1957 and 1959. The adjacent White Flint Park, which once held many of its namesake rocks, opened in 1978.

White Flint's namesake rock, on display in Garrett Park.

White Flint’s namesake rock, on display in Garrett Park.

Meanwhile, family-owned developer Tower Companies bought the country club in the 1960’s, according to Arnold Kohn, a lawyer for the company. Tower partnered with Lerner Enterprises to build White Flint Mall, which opened in 1977.

North Bethesda came a little later. It’s named for Bethesda, which was named in 1871 after a church named for a Biblical healing pool in Jerusalem, which in turn got its name from the Aramaic word for “house of mercy.” However, the Postal Service only recognized North Bethesda as an official mailing address in the 1990’s, a distinction White Flint doesn’t have.

Other than a few scattered around the White Flint Mall property, and one in front of the Garrett Park post office, you won’t see many white flint rocks in White Flint, but the name remains as it has for over 80 years. How long it’ll stick around is another story.

10 Responses to Where did White Flint get its name? Not at the mall.

frank says: May 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Right, we know you don’t like the name White Flint and would prefer to call the new development in the area “North Bethesda.’
But there is already a “North Bethesda” and it isn’t in the location of White Flint.
As for the “official mailing address” argument–the official mailing address of White Flint mall is Kensington, but you fail to mention that—because it doesn’t have “Bethesda” in it.

Face it–people do know where White Flint is. There is nothing wrong with calling it that.

Mara says: May 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

Yup, clearly the group called “Friends of White Flint” just *hates* the name White Flint. I can certainly see where you’d get that idea, what with the way every single blog post here talks about White Flint and how awesome White Flint is.

Not to mention the way absolutely nobody I’ve seen here has argued for the name North Bethesda (which is a ridiculous name that most residents I know refuse to use).

jeff says: May 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Back in the 70s some of my friends used to call Landover Mall ‘Blackflint Mall.’

Howard Feldman says: May 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Let’s bring it down a couple notches people. FOWF is merely stating some facts here. And there’s a lot of discussion going on regarding the name. Most of this is coming from the County and the Developers as a means to rebrand the area for marketing purposes. Keep in mind you have several deep pocketed developers that have a lot invested in the success of the area.

I don’t have a problem with the idea of “talk” regarding the possibility of a new name or just keeping the area called White Flint.

White Flint, North Bethesda or something new. It’s all less significant then making this all come together as a major urban sector.

frank says: May 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Very true. It just appears that we’re seeing poll after poll and post after post suggesting new names for White Flint. Which gives one the idea that the developers REALLY want to disassociate themselves from WF and market the area as North Bethesda, which it is not. I don’t blame them, there’s a lot of money wrapped up in the projects.

Mara says: May 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Oh good grief. One joking poll in order to drum up some interest for the site and you’ve made up your mind.

Did you actually think Friends of White Flint was advocating for the area to be called NoBe? Or did you get the joke like the rest of us?

Frank says: May 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Yes, i get the joke.

Perhaps my comment best belongs on another , earlier post. It was intended to express my frustration over the fact that we keep getting bombarded with “suggestions” and polls by developers and the like, all hyping North Bethesda as the new name for the area currenty known as White Flint. Yet WF usually tops their poll results. So, they try again. There are many developers among the “Friends of White Flint”— what do thy have to say?

Frank says: May 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm

(And there are polls on other sites, too. The subject comes up at the planning sessions and neighborhood association debriefings, meetings with the developers, even the walkabouts)