Rockville began when Owen’s Ordinary, an inn and tavern, was established in this area around 1750. It functioned as the seat of lower Frederick County and in 1776 became the seat of Montgomery County when it was created. In 1784, William P. Williams subdivided 45 acres of his land into building lots and called it “Williamsburgh.” Fifteen years later, structures had been built on 38 lots. The Williamsburgh plat had legal problems and in November 1801, the Maryland General Assembly directed that the lots be resurveyed and a town erected “to be called Rockville.”
The town plan was recorded in 1803. Rockville grew from a convenient crossroads meeting place in the 1750s to become the legal and market center of the county. The tiny village was selected as the seat of local government in 1776 for its central location and the presence of taverns and inns to accommodate those with court business. Rockville was incorporated in 1860.
Rockville’s businesses were not separated from the residential areas as today. Craftspeople and merchants often lived on the second story or next to their businesses. However, proximity to the Court House influenced many hotels, inns, and businesses to locate along Montgomery Avenue, Commerce Lane (now West Montgomery Avenue), and Washington Street. The area consisted of a variety of uses, including brick institutional buildings, small frame residences, 19th century hotels, and small businesses. The area of North Washington Street just north of Middle Lane was the location of the earliest black settlement in the town.
In the 1950s, increased traffic, lack of parking, and economic problems led City officials to redevelop the 46-acre area by demolishing most of the old buildings and replacing them with an enclosed mall. The Rockville Mall was razed in 1995 in an effort to revitalize the Town Center.
Our walking tour will start at a house museum that 200 years ago must have fit it with the log homes and humble abodes of the village as one of today’s sleek modern structures would have...
Beall-Dawson House and Park
103 West Montgomery Avenue
Upton Beall built this house in 1815 when Rockville was a rural crossroads town and his property stretched all the way north to Martins Lane. Beall, Clerk of the Court for the county, wanted a home that would reflect his wealth and status so his brick home and outbuildings overlooking Commerce Lane (now West Montgomery Avenue) was designed to impress both inside and out. It is a 2 1/2 story Federal-style home distinguished by elegant, high-style architecture that was more common in Georgetown where the family first lived. It presented quite a contrast from the more typical and smaller Rockville log and clapboard houses at the time. Beall’s daughters lived in the house their entire lives, and were later joined by a cousin, Amelia Somervell Dawson, and her family. The house remained in private hands until the 1960s, when it was purchased by the City of Rockville and became the Montgomery County Historical Society’s headquarters and a house museum. Today, although all but one of the outbuildings are gone, the house itself still contains most of its original architectural features, including the indoor slave quarters located above the kitchen.
Stonestreet Museum of 19th Century Medicine
grounds of Beall-Dawson House and Park
This one-room doctor’s office was built in 1852 for Dr. Edward Elisha Stonestreet, originally situated in the front yard of the Stonestreet home on East Montgomery Avenue. A recent graduate of the University of Maryland medical school at the time, he served as one of the town’s doctors until his death in 1903. Later, the small office was moved to the Rockville fairgrounds (now Richard Montgomery High School), sparing it from the demolition during the city’s urban renewal project in the mid 20th century. In 1972, Dr. Stonestreet’s Gothic cottage was donated to the Montgomery County Historical Society and moved to the grounds of the Beall-Dawson House. The Stonestreet Museum displays medical and pharmaceutical tools, furniture, and books from the 19th and early 20th centuries, showing the rapid advances made in medical practice at that time.
EXIT THE PARK ONTO NORTH ADAMS STREET, TO THE EAST.
5 North Adams Street
The 1793 portion of the house at 5 North Adams is probably the oldest structure in Rockville. The original portion is the two-story, two-room attic and lean-to on its northwest corner. It was built by Philip Jenkins and rented out. The property was enlarged and had a stable by 1866. The Victorian addition on the south was added in 1887 by the Miller family. It is currently used as a law office.
101 North Adams Street
101 North Adams Street is built around a log dwelling that dates to the late 18th century. Two lots with a small house were sold by W. P. Williams, the subdivider of “Williamsburgh,” to Thomas Perry Willson in 1799 for 40 pounds. The log dwelling faced Middle Lane until remodeled in the 1920s to front upon Adams.
106 North Adams
The front portion of 106 North Adams is a log-framed clapboard-covered dwelling built around 1825 by Rev. Joseph Jones of the recently-formed Bethel Baptist Church. It is a two-story, four-room Federal house with Greek Revival detailing. George Peters Jr. and his wife Lavinia added several 19th century additions to accommodate their seven children. It was again enlarged and restored in the 20th century.
109 North Adams Street
Darby House, was built as a private dwelling in 1890. The Victorian house later served as the Rockville Institute and private primary classes were held there from 1889 to 1895. It was subsequently used as a residence for the Ricketts and Darby families and then owned by the Methodist Church.
TURN RIGHT ON WOOD LANE.
Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church
21 Wood Lane
Rockville was an early center of Methodism in Montgomery County. Methodists first met in private homes with occasional visits from a “circuit rider” minister. In 1835, the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased lot 82 of the Original Town of Rockville for $40, where “they may erect and build…thereon a house or place of worship.” The Rockville Circuit was established in 1845 to serve 715 white and 527 Negro Methodists. The Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church incorporated in 1852 and erected a brick house of worship about 1858. In 1845, a doctrinal dispute over slavery caused the Methodist Episcopal Church to separate into two factions, North and South. The southern faction in Rockville left the congregation and built a new church in 1868 on West Montgomery Avenue. The old church was left to the North, or non-slavery Methodists, and became a predominantly black congregation. In 1892, the church, now named Jerusalem Methodist Episcopal Church, was dismantled and enlarged. It housed black students in 1912 when the Rockville Negro Elementary School burned and was the site of graduation ceremonies through the 1950s. It merged with Mount Pleasant Methodist Church in 1989. The belfry was removed, the stairs expanded, and the building was stuccoed in 1954.
Hebron House and Print Shop
11 Wood Lane
Jesse and Celestine Hebron operated a printing business for over 50 years at this location. It was one of the most successful black business ventures in the County. Jesse Hebron started the printing business in a shop on Falls Road in 1932. He and Celestine married in 1938, just a few years before Jesse left to serve in the Army in World War II. In 1945 he received an honorable discharge and returned to Rockville. The Hebrons then moved their home and business to this location on Wood Lane. Hebron built the house himself from concrete blocks he cast in a mold on site. He hand tinted the blocks a warm yellow terra-cotta color but the color varied from batch to batch. The Hebrons set up printing operations in the basement, providing services to corporations, individuals, churches, and other entities throughout Montgomery County and beyond. The Hebrons were long-time members of the Jerusalem-Mt. Pleasant Church next door. Jesse served as treasurer for almost 52 years and Celestine participated in many charitable efforts and fundraising events. Jesse was also well known in the community for his love of music. After the Hebrons died in 1997, Jerusalem Church purchased the house. It is currently used by the church for administrative offices.
TURN RIGHT ON NORTH WASHINGTON STREET AND WALK SOUTH TO MONTGOMERY AVENUE.
United States Post Office
southwest corner of Washington Street and Montgomery Avenue
Rockville’s first permanent post office was dedicated at the corner of Washington Street and Montgomery Avenue in 1939.
TURN LEFT ON MONTGOMERY AVENUE.
Farmers Bank Building
4 Courthouse Square
This bank on Courthouse Square, formerly the First National Bank and Farmers Bank, is Rockville’s only remaining example of the Art Deco style.
27 Courthouse Square
This grey Neoclassical style court house was constructed and connected to the 1891 court house next door in 1931.
Red Brick Courthouse
29 Courthouse Square
There have been four court houses in Rockville since it was established as the County seat in 1776. Court was originally held at Hungerford Tavern. A frame court house existed in the late 18th century but was sufficiently outgrown by 1810 to necessitate a new building for the Clerk and his records. In 1835, the County petitioned the General Assembly for authorization of a new brick court house, which was completed in 1840. By that time, Rockville was an established residential, governmental, and market hub with a population of nearly 400. The original single-story wings of the court house were razed in 1872 to provide more space but by 1890 it was outgrown and demolished. The General Assembly authorized another bond issue for the replacement brick and sandstone Romanesque Revival court house which was constructed in 1890-91 and which stands here today.
TURN RIGHT ON MARYLAND AVENUE.
Confederate Soldier Memorial
east side of Red Brick Courthouse on Courthouse Square
Facing south, this statue is said to be the northernmost monument honoring the Confederate soldier. The pedestal reads “To our heroes of Montgomery Co Maryland. That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”
CROSS JEFFERSON STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON VINSON STREET.
Boundary Stone of Rockviile
Vinson Street at Maryland Avenue
This boundary stone, with the letters “B.R.” incised, marks the “Beginning of Rockville” shown in the lower right of the plan at the southeast corner of Block I, lot 1. The plan has a grid pattern of six streets, 19 blocks, and a total of 85 lots. The Court House lot fits into the notch on the right border in Block VIII. For many years, the boundary stone was neglected, half-buried in the weeds of an undeveloped lot. It resurfaced when the Rockville Library was built in the 1950s. It was placed near its original location in 1961 where it serves as an everyday reminder of the modest beginnings of Rockville.
TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH WASHINGTON STREET.
Christ Episcopal Church
109 South Washington Street
The first Episcopal church in or near Rockville was built in 1739 on a two-acre parcel of land, part of which is now the Rockville Cemetery. It was constructed of clapboards and logs and was called both the “Chapel of Ease” and Rock Creek Chapel. The latter name was the same as that of the Mother Church of Prince George’s Parish, located 12 miles to the south. The Parish was divided twice in the 1740s, following which the Chapel of Ease (and Rockville) became part of Frederick County. Additions were made to the Chapel of Ease in the 1750s, and a transept was added in 1770, which completed its cruciform plan. The result was said to be “considerably handsomer and more church-like” than the brick church which replaced it in 1808. By 1796, the Chapel of Ease was found to be badly decayed and the vestry contracted in 1802 for a large two-story brick building to replace it. This building was completed in 1808 and was consecrated as Christ Church by Bishop Thomas John Claggett. A new church was built on South Washington Street in 1822. In 1830, Christ Church became the Parish Church with the establishment of Rock Creek Parish. Soon afterward, a rectory was built on Montgomery Avenue. In 1863, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and 8,000 soldiers briefly captured Rockville. Union sympathizers sought sanctuary in Christ Episcopal Church and were seized with several members of the vestry. The captives were taken to Brookeville before release. The Gothic Revival-style church that stands here today was completed in 1887. It was almost destroyed by a hurricane in 1896 but is now well into its second century of service.
South Washington Street Historic District
The next block to Jefferson Street is known as the South Washington Street Historic District It is comprised of eight structures from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries that now house commercial and institutional uses.
107 South Washington
Abert House/The Rectory, 1905
105 South Washington
Greene House, 1887
104 South Washington
Anderson House, 1884
101 South Washington
Lamar House, 1884
100 South Washington
Porter Ward House, 1893
TURN LEFT ON JEFFERSON STREET.
southeast corner of West Jefferson Street and Adams Street
In 1805, the Maryland General Assembly appointed a commission to raise money for a school lot and a fire engine for Rockville. The Rockville Academy was chartered and authorized to hire teachers in 1809. In 1812 and 1813, a number of lots were purchased on Jefferson Street, and construction of the original rectangular brick Federal style building was completed in 1813. Tuition was $10 a year, and students obtained room and board elsewhere. The academy faced Jefferson Street and was five bays long with interior chimneys at either end. The building contained only classrooms. Thirty to 60 young men were enrolled annually, some of whom attended seasonally when farm work was light. They received a secondary school education. The academy was one of two secondary schools in the county. Rockville Academy continued in the original building until 1890 when it was replaced by the present Queen Anne style school designed and built by Rockville builder Edwin West. Female students were first admitted in 1912. From 1917 to 1935, it housed the Rockville public elementary school for grades 1-3 and later, the Library Association. The building was vacant, deteriorated, and threatened with demolition when it was purchased and renovated for office use in 1980. The City of Rockville purchased the surrounding land with Project Open Space funds for a public park.
104 West Jefferson Street
From his home, E. Barrett Prettyman, a prominent Rockville citizen and educator, watched approximately 5,000 Confederate cavalrymen ride into Rockville in three columns on Sunday, June 28, 1863. Like many other Montgomery County residents, Prettyman may have thought the troopers were black because of their deeply tanned faces. General Wade Hampton’s brigade, with prisoners captured between Rowser’s Ford and Darnestown, entered early that morning ahead of the main body on Darnestown Road, quickly routing a small Union force. After noon, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, with the remaining two brigades under Gens. Fitzhugh Lee and W.H.F. Lee (led by Col. John R. Chambliss), rode in on Great Falls Road. Lee’s advance guard encountered members of the 2nd New York Cavalry, who quickly retreated. The Confederates took control of Rockville, tearing down telegraph lines, foraging the countryside, and arresting prominent citizens loyal to the Union. While his cavalrymen spread out, Stuart stopped at Prettyman’s house, admiring the family’s youngest child, two-year-old Forrest. While here Stuart learned of a large supply-wagon train from Washington heading north on the Rockville Pike to the Union army then concentrating around Frederick. He sent Chambliss to capture and secure the wagons, while Stuart continued to Rockville’s Court House Square to assess progress.
Rockville Baptist Church and Cemetery
intersection of West Jefferson Street (Maryland Route 28) and West Montgomery Avenue
In 1823, the deacons of the Bethel Baptist Church church and provide a burial ground. The original church was replaced in 1864, but a half century later, the Baptists demolished it and built a larger church and a parsonage at the corner of South Washington and West Jefferson Streets. The cemetery remained and was enclosed with an iron fence. The church conveyed the cemetery to the Montgomery County Historical Society in 1973, and title was transferred to Peerless Rockville for care-taking in 1983. Peerless Rockville has added benches and a picket fence. Gravestones in the cemetery date between 1839 and 1896. Late 19th century development of the West End and the opening of South Van Buren Street necessitated relocation of 16 graves to the Rockville Cemetery. Twenty-eight marble and sandstone grave markers remain. Several persons notable in Rockville’s history are buried here. Samuel Clark Veirs was postmaster of Rockville and Chief Judge of the Orphan’s Court. He also operated Veirs Mill. Veirs’ son-in-law, William Veirs Bouic, Jr. was a judge, farmer, State’s Attorney, president of Rockville’s Board of Commissioners, organizer of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, trustee of the Rockville Academy, and a director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company.
TURN RIGHT ON MONTGOMERY AVENUE.
Rockville United Methodist Church
112 West Montgomery Avenue
The southern members of Rockville’s Methodist congregation split away from the church on Wood Lane and acquired this property in 1867 with this stone house of worship rising the next year.
YOU HAVE NOW RETURNED TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.