Rockville’s West End neighborhood comprises over 700 acres just west of downtown Rockville. The area is generally bordered on the west by I-270, on the north by Nelson Street, on the east by Rockville Town Center, and on the south by Maryland Avenue. It also includes properties southeast of Maryland Avenue on both sides of Argyle Street and the Courthouse Walk development. In addition to the historic West End area, the community includes the neighborhoods of Rose Hill, Rose Hill Falls, Chestnut Lodge, and Thirty Oaks (carved out of property that was once part of Chestnut Lodge).
The West End had an estimated population of approximately 5,000 in 2018, consisting of over 1,600 households. The area remains predominantly residential. Most of the single-unit detached homes are zoned either R-60 or R-90. There are some multi-unit residential developments in the northeastern portion of the area. There are mixes of single-unit detached houses and townhouses in the Rose Hill and Rose Hill Falls Planned Developments and more townhouses at Courthouse Walk and Cambridge Cluster. The remaining household units are assisted living or senior housing. Average West End household size is 3.1.
Parts of the West End were among the areas first settled in Rockville. The neighborhood encompasses part of the 1784 “Williamsburgh” tract of 200 acres surveyed by William Prather Williams that was later subdivided into 85 lots along Wood Lane, Middle Lane, Commerce Lane (Montgomery Avenue), and Jefferson Street.
In the late 1770s, the Beall family settled on land near what is now North Adams Street. The family homestead was built in 1815 and extended well to the north to Martins Lane. This Beall-Dawson house still exists at 103 West Montgomery Avenue. The house and grounds have been owned by the City of Rockville since 1965 and are occupied by the Montgomery County Historical Society.
The West End is the home of Rockville’s three original free black communities.
- The Bealls sold numerous small parcels of their land to the freed slaves and other African American families, notably along Martins Lane and Middle Lane, which became two of Rockville’s free black neighborhoods.
- The north side of Martins Lane had been farmed in the 1830s by Samuel Martin, a free black person. Many descendants of these original families still reside along Martins Lane. The community is known as Haiti and the neighborhood contains homes dating from the mid-1800s through the late twentieth century. Of particular note is the historic Haiti Cemetery that is located to the rear of 205 Martins Lane. Currently owned and maintained by the Crutchfield family, this is the earliest known cemetery for black residents of Rockville and is a locally designated historic site.
- Another community of free black residents was established prior to the Civil War near the intersection of Great Falls Road and Maryland Avenue. Three free African American women and one man purchased contiguous properties that encompassed more than ten acres. After the Civil War they brought their families to their land holdings. Previously the children and spouses had been scattered around Montgomery County. This community endured for more than 100 years. Today there are two locally designated historic properties: the Bessie Hill House (602 Great Falls Road), is the home of a grandchild of Ann Wilson, who was an original purchaser in 1845. The other, the Kelley House, at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Great Falls Road (628 Great Falls Road), is located on the property of Thomas Price, another of the original free black settlers.
Rockville grew slowly as a mostly farming community in the 19th century until the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad arrived in 1873. The railroad provided a new gateway to Washington, DC and spurred the creation of a summer resort, attracting Washington residents to Rockville’s “healthy” climate. Several large houses in the West End became boarding houses and the Woodlawn Hotel (opened 1889 and later became Chestnut Lodge Hospital) was constructed on West Montgomery Avenue – one of three grand hotels in the area. The Woodlawn was Rockville’s premier destination during the town’s heyday as a summer resort. The hotel became the westernmost destination point for the Washington and Rockville Electric Railway Company’s trolley line.
Prompted by Rockville’s growing reputation as a resort destination in the late 1800s, farmland at the western limits of town, along Darnestown and Great Falls Roads, was subdivided by developers from Rockville and Washington, DC. Margaret Beall subdivided her 67-acre estate in 1875 and began to sell lots for new houses to the north and northwest of the Beall-Dawson House. Another local woman, Rebecca Veirs, bought and developed land for housing along Darnestown Road in 1887-1888 around what is now Thomas and Wall Streets, which became R.T. Veirs Addition.
Other subdivisions were created in the West End throughout the nineteenth century. The most ambitious was West End Park by Washingtonian Henry N. Copp around 1890. Copp designed the 520-acre West End Park subdivision in a plan of diagonal streets with connecting circles, large lots, and land set aside for churches, schools, and parks. The traffic circles at Mannakee Street and Beall Avenue and at Laird, Luckett and Lynch Streets are enduring results of the original design.
Quarter-acre lots sold quickly, and large Victorian homes were built before Copp’s development went bankrupt following economic recessions and lawsuits. Many of the lots remained vacant until well into the twentieth century. Rockville’s first suburban building boom was over by the end of the 19th century. Large ornate Victorian houses were the typical prototype in the West End prior to the turn of the 20th century. These are the homes that “provide the flavor of the historic district” according to the Maryland Historical Trust survey form for the West Montgomery Avenue Historic District.
The start of the new century, through the mid-1900s, brought a variety of residential styles. Bungalows, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, and Cape Cod styles were commonly constructed. The gradual development of the area gives the West End its eclectic mix of architectural styles ranging from distinctive Victorians to modern split-level houses. The result of this patchwork development pattern and variety of architectural styles is a unique neighborhood reflecting the evolution of small towns in America beginning in the late 1800s and continuing into the 21st century.