Why Is It Named Silver Spring?

Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring, MD

There actually was a spring and it was silver … sort of. In 1840, Francis Preston Blair came across a mica-flecked spring near, what is today, Georgia Ave. near the District line. The location today is Acorn Park at Blair Mill Rd., Newell St. and East-West Highway.

Francis Preston Blair, Sr.

Francis Preston Blair, Sr.

Blair decided he liked the location so much that he would acquire the property surrounding the spring and build a summer home for his family, away from the sweltering, malaria-infested confines of Washington. He build a 20-room mansion on the property and called it “Silver Spring.”

Francis was originally from Virginia, born in 1791, and in 1830 was made editor of the Washington Globe. An ardent Jacksonian Democrat, he backed the President as a member of his “Kitchen Cabinet” (his son Montgomery Blair was part of Lincoln’s cabinet as Postmaster General).

Francis Blair also holds a significant place in history as the man assigned by Abraham Lincoln to offer command of the Union forces to Robert E. Lee, an offer the general refused with the following statement “Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves at the South, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native State?”

Thanks to the 1850 U.S. Census, we can see the Blair household with seven members listed in the 5th District of Montgomery County, enumerated on Julye 30th, 1850. Francis P. Blair was dwelling number 173, family number 176 and his real estate was valued at $30,000. By the way, President Zachary Taylor died in office only three weeks prior to this census recording.

Blair family in the 1850 U.S. Census

Blair family in the 1850 U.S. Census

Oh, I almost forgot … you know the Blair House on Pennsylvania Ave.? Yep, the one where foreign dignitaries now stay and where Truman was almost killed. Francis acquired that in 1836 and it remained in the family for about a century.


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  • Patrick

    But what happened to the actual spring?

    • http://www.facebook.com/tom.szollos Tom Szollos

      It eventually dried up. But you can actually go to Acorn Park and see it. The remnants of the spring, that is. The park itself is a tiny triangle sliver of a park off of East-West Hwy near the intersection with Georgia Ave.

      • Patrick

        Thank you! I street-viewed the park too looking for a mention of the spring or the estate via a sign or something, seems like a nice little spot.

  • http://twitter.com/meagenry Meagen Ryan

    Thanks for the Silver Spring post! The ‘burbs are happy to be remembered on GoDC. Did you know the Blair family is still making news around DC? Here’s the latest from Montgomery Blair Sibley, the now-disbarred DC lawyer that represented the DC Madam who is apparently running a write-in campaign for president: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/montgomery-blair-sibley-birther-lawsuit-presidential-candidate_n_1590582.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/tmctigue Teresa McTigue

    I live in downtown Silver Spring. Anytime there is construction (arguably, that’s all the time) and some rain, you can see the flecks of mica in the exposed soil glittering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/micah.wengren Micah Wengren

    Nice post! Glad you could visit us this week. Next time you’re in Silver Spring…. a post about another local landmark, the Quarry House!

  • http://gravatar.com/digaleeb Mike Sullivan

    They used to have (tap) water trickling in the “spring.” Do they still?

    • http://gravatar.com/jamesljr jamesljr

      The water in the Acorn Park is WSSC Potomac water. I was once told by an old surveyor whom I worked for one summer that the “real” Silver Spring had been paved over by Blai Mill Towers construction. I guess you could classify that as “urban legend” . The Acorn Park is reputed to be the “actual” site, dried up tho it be.

      • http://gravatar.com/jamesljr jamesljr

        Then , too, one is moved to remark that you can still visit the actual “Sandy Spring” up north. It still has some water in it, altho I would not trust it to drink.

  • reemberto rodriguez

    gracias for the #silverspring post. GREAT area to live, play & work! more at http://M.SilverSpringDowntown.com

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