Artists are supposed to create art, not to destroy it. Silver Spring's circa 1938 Little Tavern (and not 1950 as the eBay posting proclaims it to be) is a wonderful example of the "art" of mid-20th century Commercial "Roadside" architecture. This building has been a presence in downtown Silver Spring for over 60 years. To remove it from its original site and sever it from its commercial context is an unfortunate decision to make.
Pyramid Atlantic should CELEBRATE the architectural whimsy and eccentricity that the Little Tavern would bring to their project. They should also be RESPECTFUL of our community's history and culture. The Silver Spring Historical Society ENCOURAGES Pyramid Atlantic to re-think the incorporation of Little Tavern into SEMAT. All of those artists and visitors are going to need somewhere to take a break and the use of Little Tavern as a cafe would provide a perfect, welcoming respite!
Please voice your encouragements to Ms. Helen C. Frederick, Executive Artistic Director of Pyramid Atlantic. by emailing her at:
6001 66th Avenue, Suite 103
Riverdale, MD 20737
Please send copies of any correspondence to:
Silver Spring Historical Society
PO Box 1160
Silver Spring, MD 20910-1160
One idea I had, in the event that Pyramid Atlantic is determined to get rid of Little Tavern, is to move it to the east side of Georgia Avenue. At the former 8219 Georgia Avenue is a piece of Montgomery County Government-owned property known as "The Mayor's Promenade." Currently on this site sits a portrait bust of Norman Lane (1911-1987). Norman was a homeless man who the community basically "adopted" and took care of for many years. The opening of 8219 Georgia Avenue is 23' 8" wide. The front elevation of Little Tavern is 15'' 8" wide...8 feet less!
With the designation of downtown Silver Spring as an Arts & Entertainment District, a relocated Little Tavern would make an AWESOME art gallery. Currently there is no exhibation space in the downtown area. Here is an INCREDIBLE opportunity to adaptively reuse an historic piece of Silver Spring's past for the exhibition of art! And we wouldn't lose Norman's statue. He was a regular at Little Tavern and his statue could be placed out front...a fitting tribute to a man whose motto was "Don't worry about it!"
Together we can help Pyramid Atlantic save Silver Spring's past for future generations (and artists!). Please forward this URL to anyone you know who cares about art, Silver Spring's history, historic preservation, or just neat old buildings. The eBay auction ended April 10, 2003. No bids wereplaced. Please contact Pyramid Atlantic. Together we can make a difference. Thank you.
Jerry A. McCoy
On March 11, 2003 Pyramid Atlantic, an artist-centered community which explores the arts of hand papermaking, printmaking and artist books, listed Little Tavern on the on-line auction service eBay.
Priced at $89,000 is a piece of Silver Spring's architectural past, the circa 1938 Little Tavern, located at 8230 Georgia Avenue. The asking price is for the building ONLY, which then has to be removed from the site. In 2001 Pyramid Atlantic announced their plans to relocate from Riverdale, MD to downtown Silver Spring. Their chosen location was the former Little Tavern property, consisting of the Little Tavern hamburger stand and the Little Tavern corporate headquarters, located in the rear of the property at 1007 Ripley Street. It is interesting to note that the phrase "Little Tavern" appears nowhere in the eBay listing. Here is a map showing the location:
Silver Spring's circa 1938 Little Tavern on eBay!
Help Save This Piece of Architectural History!
Pyramid Atlantic's original architectural rendering for the design of the property appeared in 2001 (right) showing the structure with an artistically-rendered "Cafe" sign (flanked by a steaming cup of coffee) on the front of the building. The Silver Spring Historical Society was pleased with this plan. Here was an organization that obviously appreciated the importance of our community's cultural and architectural history. Pyramid Atlantic thought "outside the box" and would offer the community a noteworthy example of how an historic structure could be adaptively reused and given a new lease on life.
By 2002, instead of thinking "outside the box," Pyramid Atlantic had thought of a box (left)! In the place of the Little Tavern was now a non-descript cube, void of any life or architectural interest. The overall design for their new $4.75 million contemporary art center, dubbed SEMAT (the Site for Electronic Media, Art and Technology), is out of context with the architecture of its surrounding early-20th century neighbors.
Click HERE for March 19, 2003 Silver Spring Gazette article "Restaurant becomes an eBay bargain: Little Tavern's listing on web surprises area preservationists."
Click HERE for March 19, 2003 Washington Post article "Nostalgia Buffs Can't Stomach Cafe's Planned Sale: Silver Spring's Little Tavern Offered Up on eBay."
Click HERE for June 27, 2003 Washington Post article "A Little Taste of History in Silver Spring: Preservationists Hope to Save Burger Joint That Stands in Arts Group's Way."
Click HERE for July 7, 2003 Preservation Online article "Historic Maryland Eatery at Center of Preservation Debate."
July 9th Hearing to Evaluate
Little Tavern Hamburger Shop!
Pyramid Atlantic has applied for a demolition permit for Little Tavern. On Monday, June 23, 2003, the Silver Spring Historical Society formally requested to the Montgomery County Govrnment that SSHS wanted to nominate the structure to the county's Locational Atlas & Index of Historic Sites. A hearing will be held to evaluate the historic and architectural significance of the former Little Tavern at 8230 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.
The Historic Preservation Commission meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission auditorium at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, MD, 20910. Public testimony will be limited to a maximum of one hour; however, written testimony submitted before the meeting date is encouraged.
Immediately following the public hearing, the Historic Preservation Commission will hold a worksession and will formulate a recommendation to be sent to the Montgomery County Planning Board on whether to add the site to the Locational Atlas, and/or place the site on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation based on criteria set forth is Chapter 24A-3 of the Montgomery County Code. If the property is ultimately forwarded to the Montgomery County Council for review, and if it is eventually included in the Master Plan, all construction, exterior alterations, and demolition plans would be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission before issuance of any permits. Properties that are designated on the Master Plan are eligible fore State and local tax credits for repair, maintenance and/or restoration projects.
You are encouraged to attend the public hearing. If you wish to testify, you must sign up that night using sign-up sheets that will be provided at the meeting. Alternatively, you may submit written comments to Susan Velasquez, Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, at the address listed above.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Clare Cavicchi or Gwen Wright at 301/563-3400.
Also contact Ms. Helen C. Frederick, Executive Artistic Director of Pyramid Atlantic, and tell herthat you want Little Tavern saved!
To see how a Little Tavern in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC is being incorporated into new development, click HERE.
Wouldn't a PYRAMID ATLANTIC neon sign look GREAT on the exterior of the restored Little Tavern!
LEFT: "Harry Duncan, founder of the Little Tavern empire." Photo by Wellner Streets, Washington Star-News, December 11, 1972, B3. Duncan poses with a model of the Georgia Avenue Little Tavern. Courtesy Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library
BELOW From Washington Star-News, December 11, 1972, B3. Courtesy Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library
Historic Designation of Little Tavern Denied
Despite compelling evidence of the historic/architectural merits of Silver Spring's 1938 Little Tavern, presented on July 9, 2003 before Montgomery County's Historic Preservation
Commission, the Little Tavern was denied listing to the Locational Atlas & Index of Historic Sites. This clears the way for demolition of the structure, which can occur as early as July 24, 2003 when the current Stop Work Order (for demolition) expires.
Little Tavern owner Pyramid Atlantic has recently stated that they will GIVE the structure to anyone who will remove it from their property. The SSHS obtained a ballpark figure of
$70,000 to relocate the structure across Georgia Avenue to the Mayor's Promenade, a county-owned park. We have since learned that this site is not available.
Another option, instead of moving the entire structure, is to just removed the buildings unique
porcelain enamel panels. The building underneath is cinder block. A new cinder block or even wood-frame structure could be build and the "skin" re-attached. Pyramid Atlantic has stated that it would cost $3,500 to remove the panels ONLY.
SSHS is not in the financial position to accept Little Tavern. If you, or someone you know, wants Little Tavern, please contact Ms. Cheryl P. Derricotte, Financial/Facility Project Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or FAX: 301-577-8779.
As for available sites in downtown Silver Spring to move Little Tavern (our second option to retaining it on its original site), the best person to contact is Gary Stith at the Silver Spring Regional Center, Phone: 301/565-7300 Fax: 301/565-7365.
Hopefully Little Tavern can be salvaged, restored, and operated as a business.
July 12, 2003
Subject: Re: Historic Designation of Little Tavern Denied
I am truly sorry to hear the bad news about no restoration of SS Little Tavern. How many burgers I enjoyed there could never, never, be counted. Growing up in Silver Spring and loving every moment of it, I would love to be able to be a big contributor -- but I am 81, living on Soc. Sec. and a small pension, but nevertheless I dearly love my home town....But I know that doesn't help you financially.
God Bless You and all that are trying to accomplish your worthwhile goal.
My best wishes to all in my beloved old home town. I do wish you all the best of luck.
Montgomery Blair High School
Class of '39
BELOW The Washington Post, July 20, 2003, p. D2
LITTLE TAVERN DISMANTLED
Dismantling of Little Tavern began in ernest on Friday morning, July 25, 2003, one day after the 30-day stop work order expired. The loss of Downtown Silver Spring's Little Tavern is unfortunate not only for the severing it represents of one more link to our community's past but unfortunate for owner Pyramid Atlantic for the incredible cultural legacy that they allowed to slip through their hands. Little Tavern was meaningful on so many levels to such a diverse spectrum of the community and its adaptive reuse would have served as a golden asset to Pyramid Atlantic's project.
Pyramid Atlantic had offered Little Tavern to the Silver Spring Historical Socety with the stipulation that the entire structure be moved from the property. As the society was not financially able to undertake such a project, we contacted Montgomery Preservation Inc. to assist us. MPI requested of Pyramid Atlantic to save only the structure's exterior panels for storage and eventual reconstruction in Downtown Silver Spring. The offer was refused. MPI made a last hour attempt to find a developer to take upon themselves the financial responsibility of re-locating the structure, but that attempt failed.
Instead, Pyramid Atlantic transfered ownership of Little Tavern to the National Capital Trolley Museum with the stipulation that they did not have to remove the entire sturcture...that they could take only the exterior panels. Why the Silver Spring Historical Society and Montgomery Preservation Inc. were subjected to the more stringent prerequisite will never be fully explained.
Click HERE for July 23, 2003 Silver Spring Gazette article "Little Tavern has found a home - the trolley museum."
Click HERE for July 27, 2003 Washington Post article "Silver Spring Saves A Slice of History."
LEFT June 22, 2003
BELOW July 27, 2003
Photos by Jerry A. McCoy
ABOVE July 27, 2003
RIGHT June 23, 2003
Photos by Jerry A. McCoy
ABOVE Uncovered under the panels on the north side of the building was this original sign. Soot from the 1983 fire is still visible. Photo July 25, 2003 by Jerry A. McCoy
RIGHT Thomas T Bertch of Arlington, VA deserves sole credit for devising a plan to individually identify the over 200 porcelain enamel panels that encased Little Tavern. ABOVE Schematic for the north face of Little Tavern. The outside of each panel was marked with a grease pencil and the inside was spray painted with the corresponding letters/number. Tom volunteered his time to saving the panels so a reproduction of Little Tavern could live on at the Trolley Museum. Thanks Tom! Photos July 25, 2003 by Jerry A. McCoy.
LEFT Panel E-B6 was from the east front (Georgia Avenue). RIGHT Before numbering of the panels began, someone stole this panel from the south facade (Ripley Street). Tom made a sign asking that it be returned. Photos July 25, 2003 by Jerry A. McCoy.
ABOVE The "scalped" Ripley Street facade. All that remains are the red wooden window frames. Photo July 25, 2003 by Jerry A. McCoy.
All photos taken July 29, 2003 by Jerry A. McCoy. Little Tavern tile pieces from the SSHS archives.
RIGHT "Come on in!" Little Tavern front door.
LEFT Debris pile, looking towards Georgia Avenue
RIGHT In the background is the circa 1927 Silver Spring Lumber Co. - in all probability to be demolished for "Revitalization."
Pyramid Atlantic's Pattern of Deception
The below materials from the SSHS archives document Pyramid Atlantic's deception in making the public think that monies contributed to their capital campaign would assist in the permanent retention of Little Tavern into their project. How many perhaps contributed thinking that Little Tavern would be retained?
Pyramid Atlantic had repeatedly claimed that Little Tavern was never "up to code." Older buildings seldom are...developers have to bring them up to code. This has been successfully done with Little Taverns located all over the metropolitan Washington area. Pyramid Atlantic also made the excuse on July 9, 2003 before the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission that retention of Little Tavern was only "Phase One" of their project and that its demolition to make way for additional construction was "Phase Two." If you examine the below Pyramid Atlantic materials carefully you will NOT see any indication of "Phases" but you WILL see prominent display of a restored Little Tavern. These materials were distributed to the public during 2001-02.
BELOWSilver Spring Gazette, June 6, 2001.
BELOW Letter submitted to Pyramid Atlantic. A response was never received.
BELOW Silver Spring Gazette, August 29, 2001
BELOW Pyramid Atlantic materials distributed to the public 2001-2002
Thoughts on a Lost Opportunity...
As I examined the above materials from the SSHS archives, I was saddened by not only the historical loss that the Silver Spring community suffered but the loss of community goodwill that Pyramid Atlantic created for themselves. If Pyramid Atlantic had been honest and forthcoming to our organization and the community at large in June of 2001, additional time could have been devoted to working together to retain Little Tavern on its original site.
I noted in the above brochure a listing for "SEMAT Named Gift Opportunities." For the amount of $500,000 an individual/organization/company could have had naming rights for the Cafe/Little Tavern. While the SSHS was/is not in the position to have endowed that amount of money, we would have been extremely diligent in lobbying an individual/organization/company for that amount. How many of Pyramid Atlantic's $125 bricks would our members, as well as others, have purchased if all thought their support would result in Little Tavern's preservation? Quite a few, I imagine. But Pyramid Atlantic never extended to us the courtesy, from the beginning, of helping them reach their goals.
Pyramid Atlantic's claim to take "a leadership in the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring" did not give them the right to move into our community and with taxpayers money destroy an historic part of it. They proclaim that "for over twenty years, Pyramid Atlantic has been a center of creative opportunity...this is our history."
My name is Morgan Arielle Weinrich and I am a young artist in Suburban Maryland, a member of the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, and the Frederick County Arts Association in Frederick, MD, as well as a resident of Kensington, MD. I imagine that by now, the subject of The Little Tavern is nothing but a nuisance, albeit now, as I have just learned this morning, the actual structure has become nothing more than a memory (though thankfully the outer casing has been saved). I personally did not have the pleasure of patronizing this establishment, as a quaint burger joint or in it's pre-mortem state as a small gallery, though through my boyfriend, a lifelong resident of Rockville, I have come to an outsider's understanding of this un-officially historical landmark. He has many great memories of the Little Tavern, and was very disappointed that I, being younger than he and not originally from this area, would never experience this icon of Washington DC suburban life. As I have listened to him describe this fast-food hut with such relish (sorry, comic relief), it has become apparent to me how much The Little Tavern, as perhaps insignificant as that humble burger-slinging establishment may have seemed, had, over it's many years, been a defining element in the communal memory and current-day character of Silver Spring, and in those who have called this area home for so many years.
I am originally from Upstate New York, from an historic area of Westchester County. I grew up in a centuries-old pre-Revolutionary home, surrounded by structures of similar vintage. If Emily Shaw's Inn, now the Inn at Pound Ridge, where to be demolished and replaced with slick glass and concrete, in the name of modernization, it would be a serious disservice to the community, and an important piece of the identity of the area would be lost. I believe that a similar situation has been played out with your organization's change in sensibility from the original plans to include the circa-1939 structure to the most recent blueprint which excludes any nod to the history, culture, or community of the Silver Spring area. Granted, this is not to say that your organization must bow to the whim of the community. I am writing this letter because since my mother and I moved to Montgomery County in 1991, I have been shocked and saddened by the wide-spread blotting-out of any native soul that makes Maryland anything other than a strip-mall infested mecca for the new, with little visible history, scant links to the past, save for Annapolis. Whew, we've got that one, that'll do! No, it won't. As an artist and a history and art history buff, I am acutely aware of the importance of that which has come before. We do not create in a void, rather we create with the influence of the world around us. Pyramid Atlantic's original design would have been a reflection of the latter, and a great example for the hope of Maryland's historic places, those that are still left, and even those that for whatever reason, do not make it onto the Historic Register. I am extremely disappointed to learn of the way in which the Pyramid Atlantic group has fallen into the same trap as the mega-malls, mushroom-town homes and office-complex monsters, paving over anything that is part of the Maryland of the past, leaving it bright and shiny and devoid of soul. I have travelled a fair bit in my life so far, and the places I have enjoyed the most are those communities that are both artsy and modern, incorporating the new and the old to produce something of nostalgia and vision. I understand that your organization had it's reasons for choosing the path that it has, and they may have been very legitimate reasons, but I strongly believe that Pyramid Atlantic has chosen to turn it's back not only on an integral part of a design that could have produced a very funky, modern and fun place to enjoy, discover and learn about the arts, but also on an important aspect of the community, that being the community members, and the principle of their desire to preserve a piece of their history, and being given little time in which to do so, and false hope that history would be more than just considered. As an artist and a member of the community, I am disappointed in this organization, and I would seriously think twice about involving myself, my boyfriend, and any of my friends and acquaintances in any activities hosted by Pyramid Atlantic, which is unfortunate, as Silver Spring needs a strong center for the arts, but needs one that does not create in a void. Thank you for your time in reading this letter, hopefully it will be taken into account with any future decisions by Pyramid Atlantic that effect the community identity of your adopted home of Silver Spring, MD.