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Exploring the History of Takoma Park (and Takoma), a Victorian Suburb of Washington, DC

Discover the fascinating history of Takoma Park, a Victorian-era suburb of Washington, DC. Founded by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert in the late 19th century, explore the charming architecture and unique culture of this small neighborhood by the District line.
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Takoma Park (and Takoma) is a lovely and friendly neighborhood on the northeast District line with Maryland. It dates back to the late 19th century, when Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, both founder and first mayor of Takoma Park, began actively promoting the area as a clean and healthy respite from the muggy, malarial swamp of Washington.

The quaint feel of the neighborhood owes itself to Gilbert’s original vision for the town, and the Victorian and Queen Anne architecture of the surrounding homes.

real estate advertisement in The Washington Critic - December 10th, 1887
real estate advertisement in The Washington Critic – December 10th, 1887

The Washington Post wrote up a great bit about the neighborhood a few short years after the birth of Takoma Park. This was published on July 31st, 1888.

About five miles north of Washington, in a direct line, is Takoma Park. By the Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad it is ten minutes ride. The ground upon which it is situated is over 300 feet above Washington, and the air is delightfully pure and invigorating.

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Takoma Park is a pretty name applied to a pretty place. Takoma is of Indian origin and means heaven. There is a very high mountain in Washington Territory which the Indians of that country call Takoma because it seemed to ascend to heaven.

advertisement for Takoma Park water in the Sunday Herald - July 5th, 1891
advertisement for Takoma Park water in the Sunday Herald – July 5th, 1891

Takoma means heaven. I had no idea. The article continues.

There are now seventy completed residences at Takoma Park, nearly all of them handsome frame villas of the most improved architectural design, the cost ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 each. Four years ago to-day there was not a completed house in the place. And in that time new streets and roadways have been constructed at an expense of $150,000.

Passing along on the railroad one looks out to see no more than some large, fine villas half hidden in a thick growth of oak, chestnut and pine trees, but when one travels about the place he discovers long, handsome avenues and all the improvements of a fine suburban town. Mr. B. F. Gilbert, of Washington, happened to buy some land five or six years ago where Takoma Park now is, and he was so taken with the location and its picturesque and real advantages that he built a fine residence there and bought all the adjacent land he could secure. He next proceeded to lay out streets and make improvements. The result has been far beyond his expectations.One of the greatest charms of Takoma Park is the purely rural, untamed character of the forest there, in the depths of which the town has been laid out. The trees are not of large size, but they stand as close together as they do in the wilds of Northern Maine or in the unexplored wilderness of West Virginia. The pine predominates, and this, of course, remains green all winter, besides giving off always that healthful tone to the air which is so beneficial to people who are worn from the rush and anxieties of city life.

Takoma is a great natural sanitarium, and already two companies are organized to build hotels there. This summer there has been a great rush of people there who wanted to find board. The pine trees grow everywhere, and almost completely hide some of the houses from view. To nestle down in the heart of a pine woods in six miles of Washington is indeed a delightful experience.

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So much about the favors that Nature herself has conferred on Takoma Park. Washington has here a suburban resort of rare and surprising attractiveness. The place is already an established success. Its growth has been rapid from the first, but it is only yet at the threshold of its splendid proportions.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Takoma Park, check out Historic Takoma, Inc.

Takoma advertisement in the Sunday Herald - June 14th, 1891
Takoma advertisement in the Sunday Herald – June 14th, 1891
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