While Takoma Park residents are awaiting the April opening of Old Takoma Ace Hardware, it seems an appropriate time to look back at how Old Takoma came to be. Thanks to Lloyd Gosorn who published the Takoma Record weekly from 1920-1922 and Frank Skinner who printed the Takoma Enterprise twice a year from 1928-1942, we can fill in many details.
Laurel & Carroll:- 1888
In the beginning
The intersection of Carroll and Laurel did not become a business district until 1920.
Ad in the July 22, 1920 Takoma Record announcing Thorton’s plan for the development along Laurel Avenue.
Early merchants focused on the areas closest to the train station – Cedar at Carroll and Cedar at Fourth. Only B. F. Gilbert took an interest in the wilderness four blocks east where Carroll took a sharp turn left. The log cabin he erected in 1888 at the intersection with Laurel became the local political gathering spot.
Even when it became the turnaround for the trolley line into the District, there was little development. The nearby corner at Eastern and Laurel, however, appealed to the newly-arrived Seventh-day Adventists. In 1903 they chose it as the site for their world headquarters and publishing house.
When fire destroyed Gilbert’s cabin in 1915, the way was open for change. As Gosorn reported in April 1920:
Citizens residing in the Maryland half of Takoma Park have expressed great satisfaction over the erection of the four stores at the end of the 14th street car line by H.L. Thornton. Two will be occupied, when completed by Goodman and the Sanitary Grocery Co. It is hoped that more stores will be erected in the near future….not only will it place at the convenience of the residents of that part of the Park a service that has been greatly needed in the past and one that will be greatly appreciated in the future, but they also open up a new section of the Park to business interests, an opening that will prove to be extremely beneficial to the residents and just as profitable to the merchants who have foresight enough to locate. It may be noted here that Carroll Ave, has been set aside as a business street by the Town Council.
The man being praised was Henry Thornton, a prominent developer from Washington and one of Gilbert’s business partners. Thornton had sold the land to the Adventists. Now he was turning his attention to the adjacent land.
Birth of Old Takoma
By July the Record was reporting: On the site where stood the log cabin is being erected ten store buildings which wil be quite an addition to the town of Takoma Park.
The man who staked out his claim to the area just north of the intersection was H. B. Hendrick, who saw the promise in new-fangled automobiles. He was already a proven success as a dealer.
21-23 Carroll – Hendrick Motor, 1921
The Record pointed out he had a service station and sales office on 17th and You [sic] in the District and was looking for a site in Takoma Park. By July 1st Gosorn elaborated: Another improvement is being made to our newly created business square at Carroll and Laurel Ave.
The Hendrick Motor Co’s garage is well underway and when completed will be quite an imposing structure. The side wall and rear of the building will be of stucco finish and the front of pebble-dash.
By 1921 Hendrick was open for business at 21-23 Carroll Avenue. Although only a one-story structure, it would be expanded over the years and will soon be home to Ace Hardware.
Hendrick Motor – 1928Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
On June 1, 1921, the Record announced that Ford Motor Co had authorized Hendrick to act as their official agency. Besides being one of the leading businessmen in town, Hendrick served on the city council and as a bank director for several years. Then the Depression hit and undermined his success.
The Takoma Examiner picks up the story from there: Hendrick’s salesman, J. Milton Derrick, reopened the business as Ford Motor Company.
Takoma Motor Company – 1940
It prospered until the mid-60s when the need for larger quarters was forcing car dealers to the outer edges of the county. Murphy Auto Parts took over and survived for another two decades.
At that point, local developer John Carleton stepped in to upgrade the building. The salesroom, with its oversized display window was leased to Talianos while the service section next door first held Chuck and Dave’s Books and more recently, Rerun.
The Talianos departure led to a condominium scheme which failed to materialize in 2006 and the building stood vacant until word came of Ace Hardware’s planned opening.
In many ways it brings Old Takoma full circle.The original Thornton streetscape all those decades ago had included a hardware store which lasted until the mid-80s. Even the convenience of the post office taking over the space did not diminish the longing of all those Takoma Park do-it-yourselfers for a hardware store close to home.
And may it bring new life to Old Takoma, as the original Hendrick Motor did in the 1920s.
Talianos – 2000