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Neighborhood Narratives: Takoma Park

Takoma Park, in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a suburb of Washington, D.C. and part of the Washington metropolitan area. Founded in 1883 by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, Takoma Park was one of the first planned commuter suburbs. By 1889, there were 235 homes and in 1890, the town was incorporated.

Early history of the area begins with a legend. Chief Pohatan, father of Pocahontas, is said to have stopped here to convalesce at the healthful springs after a battle north of Virginia. The area was predominantly farmland, with roads criss-crossing the landscape, until developers under the name of Williams and Carrolls invested the money to build mills, create buying stations, and process native lumber as fuel. One of these investments was a large tract of land bordering Sligo Creek, purchased to build a mill, that would become Takoma Park.

Takoma Park’s modern history is one of activism and progressive thinking. The population is diverse and vocal, with a reputation for getting civically involved on a wide variety of issues. The community is also known for its variety of cultural events, from the Takoma Park Folk Festival to the counterculture Takoma Park Street Festival. Art and entertainment are a focus of the neighborhood as well, with a theater at either end of the area, the takoma Jazz Fest, the Takoma Park Independent Film Festival, and blues label Takoma Records.

Takoma Park, like many other neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. area, has been the target of gentrification in recent years. Previously adapted single-family homes, changed to be conducive to multi-family dwelling, have been converted back into their original states. Approximately one third of the community are families with children and the neighborhood in general is changing from older to younger. With its well-defended, dignified old hardwood trees, hilly terrain and vibrant community, Takoma Park has both dignity and excitement.

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