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Neighborhood Narratives: Silver Spring

Neighborhood Narratives: Silver Spring

Silver Spring, an unincorporated area in Montgomery County, MD, is the fourth most populous place in the state. Silver Spring’s namesake was a mica-flecked spring, reputedly located in what is now Acorn Park, discovered in 1840 by Frances Preston Blair, the organizer of what is now the modern American Republican Party.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the town of Silver Spring had become large, well established, and important. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Metropolitan Branch ran through the area, and the first suburban development began in 1887 as a divided farm on today’s Colesville and Brookeville Roads. Due to targeted developing of the area, by the 1950s, Silver Spring had become the second busiest retail market between Baltimore and Richmond. In 1960, a shopping center several miles north of downtown opened, diverting retail traffic away from downtown Silver Spring. Thus began a period of decline, lasting several decades.

Redevelopment starting at the beginning of the 21st century finally began to produce positive results for the area. Several city blocks were completely reconstructed to allow for an outdoor shopping plaza, Downtown Silver Spring, with national retail chains, a massive movie theater, and many restaurants reflecting the area’s ethnic diversity. Silver Spring’s renaissance has continued into the present, thanks to private investment and active public involvement, and is transforming the area into an arts and entertainment center.

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