Students celebrate May Day at National Park Seminary, 1907. Photo from the Library of Congress.

May Day

05/01/2016
By Preservation Maryland

May is Preservation Month and we’ll be keeping you in the loop with posts everyday on interesting history and facts, fun historic sites and restaurants to visit, and lots and lots of events from our statewide calendar. First up, May Day!

Originally, this site was a tobacco plantation that was developed as a summer resort hotel named Ye Forest Inn by architect T.F. Schneider in 1887. Only seven years later, when the hotel proved to be unsuccessful, the property was turned into a school for young women – the National Park Seminary. Over the almost five decades that followed, the Seminary underwent several expansions and improvements, including the construction of a network of walkways and the creation of a grand ballroom.

During World War II, the U.S. Army took ownership of the property under the authorization of the War Powers Act. This marked the end of the finishing school for young women and transformed the Seminary into a rehabilitation and convalescent center for soldiers wounded in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, as a part of the Walter Reed Army Hospital called the Forest Glen Annex. The Seminary experienced a severe decline in maintenance during this period in its history, as the Army demolished and altered several buildings and painted and covered much of the interior decorative woodwork. There was concern over lost buildings at the site, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The last veterans were moved from the Seminary in 1978 and 10 years later a group of historic preservationists, seminary alumnae, neighbors, and civic leaders formed the nonprofit organization Save Our Seminary (SOS) in order to advocate for the preservation of the National Park Seminary Historic District.

And since 1988, the Seminary has been rehabilitated into a unique residential community of apartments, condos and single-family homes.  The historic integrity of the buildings has been preserved and the property is protected by a conservation easement.  The preservation of National Park Seminary has benefited over the years from preservation incentives. The tax credit project was highlighted in a 2014 study, “Catalyst for Change” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and PlaceEconomics.

The preservation of the National Park Seminary at Forest Glen is a glowing example of the success of advocacy campaigns and adaptive reuse initiatives. Through collaboration and commitment, SOS, the Maryland Historical Trust, and affiliates were able to protect a piece of the best of Maryland.

Our Preservation Month posts were written and prepared by Rachel Rettaliata, one of Preservation Maryland’s Waxter Interns. Rachel’s work with us focuses on communications and advocacy. She is a Fulbright Scholar, and will be attending the historic preservation program at the University of Maryland this fall. Learn more about Rachel and our intern program here: presmd.org/waxter.

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