Star Spangled Banner author linked to Sligo Creek

Porch atop Sligo Mill (early 1900s). Photo provided by Historic Takoma.


While the rest of Maryland celebrates the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner,” Takoma Park reflects on Key’s close ties to local history.

“This land had a history and an existence before it was Takoma Park,” said Diana Kohn, President of Historic Takoma.

Key was close to brothers Daniel and Charles Carroll, which is how he came to purchase a stake in Sligo Mill. The elite community in 19th century Maryland was closely connected and “some of those people [Key] knew were characters in our history,” Kohn said.


Mill Race for Sligo Mill – Sligo Creek to the right. Photo provided by Historic Takoma.

Key “was connected to just about anybody and everybody” involved in Maryland business and government, said Francis O’Neill, a reference librarian for the Maryland Historical Society.

The Carroll family was an integral part of pre-Takoma Park, with longstanding ties to the area’s foundation. Takoma Park renamed “Sandy Spring Road,” now “Carroll Avenue,” to honor Civil War hero General Samuel Sprigg Carroll, grandson of Charles Carroll.


Map provided by Historic Takoma.

Clair Garman, webmaster for Historic Takoma, with the help of Larry Hodes, connected much of Sligo Mill’s history to the founding of Takoma Park. The mill “was a serious financial enterprise requiring major capital,” which is why men like Key and the Carrolls invested, Garman said.

Elie Williams and the Carroll brothers purchased the acreage for the Sligo Mill and distillery in 1811. Williams, unable to afford his investment, mortgaged his share to Daniel Carroll and Francis Scott Key in 1817, five years after the mill’s opening, according to the Friends of Sligo Creek website. Sligo Mill was destroyed in 1920 but some surviving bricks were used in other building foundations in the area, according to Garman.

The 414 acres of land originally purchased by the Williams and Carroll partnership became almost one-third of Takoma Park, near the modern day intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway.


Remains of Sligo Mill (1920s). Photo provided by Historic Takoma.

The Carroll family held the pre-Takoma Park mill land until General Carroll and his sister sold their acreage to Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, Takoma Park’s founder.

Gilbert purchased the land for Takoma Park in the late 19th century. Strategically situated on high ground overlooking D.C., Takoma Park became known as “health area.” According to Garman and Hodes, Gilbert marketed the suburbs for clean country living, homeownership, healthful elevation, and commutable convenience to D.C.

Takoma Park became one of D.C.’s earliest “rail suburbs” leading to its population growth and evolution into an affordable city.