A little history of the Pike District

For those of you who grew up here and/or hung out in the Pike District of 40 years ago, here’s a little bit of history. Do you remember of the Rainbow Inn? Check out this document from the Maryland Historical Trust.

The Rainbow Inn was located at 11520 Rockville Pike, which is now a strip mall with Palm Beach Tan, Mirage Nails, and Stella’s Bakery and will one day be Saul Center West.

According to the document, “This is a massive, two-story frame structure, with several adjoining wings, etc. The main block is a hip-roofed, three bay section that faces east. An imposing, two-story, pedimented portico projects from the center section. There is a central door here, that is flanked on each side by large, 6/6 windows. The other bays also have large, 6/6 windows. A massive brick chimney stack exits from this slope of the roof, south-of-center. The north and south end slopes feature double dormers. To the SW rear, is a slightly-lower wing of similar design. All in all, an imposing edifice left over from the early-20th Century Rockville Pike “estate era .. ” Now used as a rather seedy-looking motel.”

I’m pretty sure my friends and I at Woodward High School in the late-70s believed The Rainbow Inn featured ladies of the evening, though we never tested the theory nor had any proof, so we we could easily have been mistaken.

Envision the Confederates Marching Through White Flint

Yesterday’s Washington Post had a fascinating reference to White Flint.  Offering a bit of local history, the Style section highlighted the Civil War’s Battle of Bethesda, a skirmish right in our backyard.  Confederate soldiers, led by General John MacCausland, marched south right through the open farmland we now know as White Flint on their way to meet Union soliders marching up through Friendship Heights.  The battle came to a head right in the heart of Bethesda, near where Old Georgetown Road now meets Wisconsin Avenue.  Almost 1500 troops fought for most of the day, until the Union soldiers fell back.

Read the full article and see a map by clicking here.

See White Flint grow over time

Today, White Flint is a regional employment and shopping destination. Tomorrow, it could be a new downtown for Montgomery County. But just a few decades ago, White Flint was just a rural crossroads. Using aerial photos from Google Earth and the county’s Geographic Information Services, or GIS software, we can track the development of White Flint over time. (You can click any of the images to make them bigger.)

1951

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

In 1951, White Flint was mostly forests and farms between the bustling towns of Bethesda and Rockville. Suburban development was just beginning to reach the area; in this photo, Garrett Park Estates was still being built, while Luxmanor had already been established for over a decade. And, of course, Dietle’s Tavern had just opened.

1970

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

By the 1970’s, White Flint had become a bedroom community, with several subdivisions under construction and new schools, including Tilden Middle School and Woodward High. Strip malls began opening along Rockville Pike, including Mid-Pike Plaza and Loehmann’s Plaza, as new roads like Executive Boulevard, Nebel Street and Parklawn Drive opened to serve them. The Forum opened, making it the first of many high-rise residential buildings to be built in White Flint.

1979

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

Image from Montgomery County GIS.

By 1979, White Flint had become a regional shopping and employment destination. White Flint Mall had opened two years earlier, while organizations like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) set up offices on Rockville Pike. Residential development in the area was now predominantly townhouses and garden-style condominiums, as you can see south of Nicholson Lane.

1988

Image from Google Earth.

Image from Google Earth.

By 1988, the White Flint Metro station was 4 years old, carrying commuters to Bethesda and into the District. Woodward High School closed the year earlier and Tilden Middle School took over its building, leaving its original site as a holding center for other schools. Most of White Flint’s main streets had been completed, and the road network looks more or less like it does today.

2002

Image from Google Earth.

Image from Google Earth.

During the 1990’s, White Flint continued to grow. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission opened their offices on Rockville Pike, and the Forum was joined by additional luxury high-rises, like the Grand and the Wisconsin.

2007

Image from Google Earth.

Image from Google Earth.

A lot changed between 2002 and 2007. After years of debate, the Montrose Parkway was finally under construction; the Bethesda North Conference Center opened, and the first phase of North Bethesda Center was under construction.

2012

Image from Google Earth.

Image from Google Earth.

In this image taken last year, we can see the White Flint envisioned in the Sector Plan taking shape. Montrose Parkway opened in 2009. Wentworth House, the first building at North Bethesda Center, was completed and a second building is under construction. The first phase of North Bethesda Market is open, replacing the humble Park Inn and giving White Flint the county’s tallest building. Mid-Pike Plaza has given way to Pike + Rose, the first phase of which should open in 2014. And further south, the ASHA headquarters has been replaced by Symphony Park, a high-end townhouse development.

Yet even as some things change, some stay the same. Georgetown Prep is there as it’s been for almost a century, and Hank Dietle’s Tavern is still serving beer up the street.

Are there any changes we’ve missed? What things are you glad have stuck around in White Flint? And what are you looking forward to in the future?