1936-38 Falkland Apartments
in Danger of Demolition
This familiar Silver Spring landmark apartment complex, which extends over 24 acres just west and south of the Silver Spring metro station, faces the threat of demolition and replacement by at least one (800-unit) high-rise residential building.
Built between 1936 and 1938, the neo-colonial style Falkland consists of about 450 rental units. It was the first rental housing project in Montgomery County whose mortgage was guaranteed by the Federal government (the FHA, or Federal Housing Authority, which still operates today). The ribbon was cut on opening day by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Along with the Canada Dry building, Falkland is one of the most historically significant of downtown Silver Spring's structures. There is very likely no similar complex in the County.
Falkland and the New Deal
These garden-style apartments were designed for people of modest means. The Roosevelt New Deal administration that helped build them was committed to the ideals of social justice, and therefore was determined that there be ample open spaces, sunlight, privacy, and good design - in a word, adequate housing for people who otherwise could not afford it. The Great Depression of the 1930s in particular had made it very difficult for lower-income people to find good housing. Falkland was one of the pioneers (Colonial Village in Arlington, Va., was the first) in the Federal role in housing. To this day, Falkland rental costs remain reasonable.
The "Garden City" Idea
Falkland is also important historically in that it was based on "Garden City" principles; that is, the belief that people should live in pleasant surroundings with ample green space rather than in the crowded and unsanitary tenement buildings so familiar in many American cities. A number of other housing complexes throughout the country were based on the same ideals.
The architect, Louis Justement, designed several landmark structures in the area, including the Federal courthouse on Constitution Avenue. One of his buildings is on the National Register of Historic Places (the Harris & Ewing Photo Studio, in downtown Washington).
The "present danger" to Falkland
Last year, Falkland was sold. When it was advertized for sale, the marketing literature noted the potential for redevelopment (an 800-unit high-rise). For now, the apartments are going to remain rental for about 10 more years. However, the threat is still real.
The reason for the threat is that the owner filed a challenge when the County listed Falkland on the "Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites." All properties on the Atlas are protected until a plan is proposed for new development or major alteration, at which time the property would be reviewed for full official County protection. The fate of Falkland will be decided when a developer submits a plan. But almost immediately after Falkland was listed on the Atlas, the owner challenged the decision. Meanwhile, the Silver Spring Historical Society had nominated the apartments to the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination is pending.
What You Can Do
The next step in the drama is that the County Planning Board, in response to the owner's challenge, must hold a hearing at which it will decide whether to retain Falkland on the Atlas or remove it. Removal would mean the owner could make any changes to the exterior, so that Falkland could lose its unique character. It also would mean that the Falkland complex would have no County protection if and when a redevelopment plan is proposed.
The hearing on Falkland is tentatively scheduled for a Thursday in July, 2004 (as of yet, unscheduled). You can check this site for further updates, or call the Planning Board at 301-495-1320.