House and Garden Tour: Once-Rural Hodges Heights

On Sunday May 2, Takoma Park’s annual house and garden tour celebrates the return of spring. For three decades the annual pilgrimage has explored neighborhoods in both Maryland and the District, but has never visited the site of this year’s tour, Hodges Heights.

Sitting on the last parcel of land in the heart of the city to be developed, Hodges Heights takes its name from the dairy farm that occupied these acres until the mid-1930s. In addition to family homes, the farm provided the land for what is now the community center, the library, Takoma Park Elementary, Takoma Park Middle School and both Ed Wilhelm and Lee Jordan parks – a compact civic space.

The residential neighborhood is compact, too. The ten homes and gardens on the tour are clustered along Hodges Lane, Holly Avenue and Philadelphia Avenue, putting them in easy walking distance of each other. They will be open for exploration from 1 to 5 p.m.


This 1922 map from the Takoma Record shows the open space at the north edge of town that was Hodges Farm. The squiggly line forming an upside-down-T represents Brashears’ Run.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Because the Hodges Heights houses were built so late there aren’t any
turn-of-the-century Victorians to display, but the group of ten does
include a few rarities — a house that was constructed in one day out
of five modular units, a house that is a rare example of poured
concrete architecture, a house that very likely came from a Sears
catalog and one of the original Hodges family homes.

The Hodges dairy farm was part of a long tradition of agriculture in
the area that became the inner suburbs of the District. As early as
1804, more than 75 years before Takoma Park was founded, the Brashears
family was farming this particular parcel. The Brashears name is
memorialized in the now-buried Brashears’ Run that once meandered from
Piney Branch Road and ran parallel to then-unpaved Maple Avenue for
three blocks before emptying into Sligo Creek (1922 map). It still runs
under Lee Jordan field at the middle school.

The widow Sarah Brashears died in 1900, and her heirs split up the
land. One of them, John W. Hodges, inherited the lion’s share. He may
have been married to Sarah’s daughter, although the land deeds don’t
make the family relations clear. His 75 acres stretched from
Philadelphia to Ritchie (then called Ridge Ave) and from Maple to Piney
Branch, although these roads barely existed then.

When John W. died in 1917, his son John Roger, a wounded World War I
veteran, opened a dairy on the 75 acres. A 1929 ad in the Takoma
Enterprise declared his herd “certified for six years” for fresh raw
milk. Hodges was not the only local dairy. The Enterprise carried
competing ads for Haights Dairy and Golden Rule, but Hodges proudly
called his establishment The Home Dairy.

By 1922 John Roger was selling off the edges of Hodges farm to the
ever-expanding Takoma Park. He parted with three acres for the
Philadelphia Avenue elementary school to replace the four-room
elementary school on Tulip Avenue built in 1889. The old school was in
sad shape, and the students were glad to take up new quarters on a

Alfred Clark, now 96, who grew up next to Hodges farm in a frame house
on the corner of Ritchie and Maple, remembers being one of the
youngsters who were ceremoniously marched up the hill from the old
school. By 1979, however, most of the new school had been torn down,
and students moved around the corner to a newer version of Takoma
Elementary on another piece of Hodges farm, a field facing Holly Avenue.

201 Hodges Lane_rgb.jpg

Once the Hodges famly home, this bungalow is part of the May 2nd tour.


In 1937 more Hodges land went for the Takoma Park Junior High and Lee Jordan field.

Meanwhile, the city police were operating out of a cement-block
building adjacent to Hodges land on Maple Avenue across from the
Sherman intersection, That station was the precursor of the municipal
quarters and library compound since grown up at Hodges property at
Philadelphia and Maple. With most of his land gone J. Roger Hodges
retired as a dairy farmer and became a police officer at the Maple
Avenue station

In 1970, Piney Branch Elementary was built just west of the old police headquarters

The rest of the dairy farm was split up for houses. Bungalows, four
squares and the like soon filled the old hay fields. The Hodges family
house built in 1917 has survived all the changes and will be on the

Many of the other original houses, however, have undergone
transformations, albeit loving ones. The families who currently live in
these houses have made renovations to create settings for their
favorite art and souvenirs of far-flung travels or taken advantage of
oversized attics and hidden rooms a la Nancy Drew to open up unexpected
spaces. Others have expanded beyond the original four walls with
elaborate additions.

Their gardens show off a profusion of new rock walls, made to look old,
and azaleas planted long ago, some dating back to the days of B. J.
Morrison, the azalea hybrid pioneer who cultivated a number of

The house and garden tour traditionally has been a celebration of both
the old and new. The tour began as a way to show off the Takoma Park
homes threatened by a freeway and now is established as an annual
fundraiser for Historic Takoma.

The year’s tour profits will fund the last round of renovations –
including installation of a bathroom – for Historic Takoma’s new-old
building that once housed Barcelona Nuts at the Takoma Junction.
Historic Takoma has also lovingly revamped that space with hardwood
flooring and a tin-panel ceiling to serve as a state-of-the-art
archives and headquarters.

Tour is Sunday, May 2, from 1 to 5 pm, with no early admissions.
Advance tickets are $15, available at four local merchants (Now &
Then, Mark’s Kitchen, TPSS Co-op and Culture Shop) as well as online at
Day-of tickets are $20, and will be sold on the library lawn (corner of
Philadelphia and Maple Avenues), where parking and restrooms are
available. This is also the distribution point for the maps and
brochures for the self-guided tour. You can set your own pace.

Fine Print: Tour goes on rain or shine. All tickets non-refundable. Please leave pets at home.
Historic Takoma is looking for volunteers to serve as docents at the
houses. Free tour tickets are offered in exchange for a two-hour shift.
Anyone interested can call 240-393-6060


About the Author

Diana Kohn
Diana Kohn is president of Historic Takoma, Inc., which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the heritage of both Takoma Park MD and DC. Diana is co-author of Images of America: Takoma Park, a photo history of the town.