WASHINGTON – The Army said formally Friday that it will dispose of a group of Forest Glen buildings, raising fears among neighbors that a piece of Maryland history could be destroyed.
The run-down National Park Seminary, part of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, has been turned over to the General Services Administration, which is responsible for finding a new owner.
“The Army does not have the money to keep it or repair it, unfortunately,” said Beverly Chidel, a Walter Reed spokeswoman.
Gary Caruso, a spokesman for GSA in the Washington region, said the agency is “in the process of evaluating the property just to see what needs to be done next.” Once the evaluation is complete, the property will be offered to government agencies first. If no agencies want the parcel, it will become available to private organizations, said Chidel.
But residents in the Silver Spring community are concerned that new owners might destroy the buildings, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Everybody in the community and the public sector is concerned about the state of the buildings,” said Glenn Kreger, leader for the Montgomery County Parks and Planning Commission’s Silver Spring/Takoma Park Team. “The community has asked us to examine various reuse options.”
Representatives from Save Our Seminary could not be reached Friday. But the group, which was organized to preserve the historic property, has said in the past that it is concerned about what new owners would do to the seminary.
Caruso said Forest Glen’s supporters have no reason to be concerned and that GSA always works well with the community.
“We maintain the historical significance of areas,” Caruso said. “That is one of our top priorities.”
And the seminary definitely has a long history.
Built in the late 1880s as an inn, the property was converted to an all- girls school in 1894. The new owners constructed many whimsical buildings for their seminary — a pagoda, an English castle, a windmill and a Swiss Chalet, among others.
In 1916, the seminary was sold again and became a junior college. In 1942, the military took the property and converted the buildings into barracks and hospital wards.
The buildings began deteriorating in the early 1970s after the Army gave up on the property for better facilities at Walter Reed. The seminary was turned into administrative offices for the military and eventually abandoned.
Any new owners will have to face the Montgomery County Parks and Planning Commission if they plan to make changes to the historic property. Planners will have a varying degree of control over the property’s fate, depending on who the new owners are: very little control if a government agency takes the buildings, and more if a private party buys them, said a commission official.
“We recognize that is necessary to maintain and preserve the historic buildings,” Kreger said. “We can’t really do too much until the disposition decision has been made.”