Long before it was designed as a “New Urbanism” development, King Farm was prized for its strategic location on Frederick Road. Hopefully, key remnants of King Farm’s 200-year history will survive the transformation from productive farmland to a thriving community.
Its early history is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – King Farm was occupied by a variety of colorful characters. In addition to long-time Rockville families, such as the Veirs and Magruders, former tenants and owners included Shadrach Nugent, son of an Irish indentured servant and an African-born slave, and Rebecca Fields, widow of the founder of the Montgomery County Sentinel. In 1822, Andrew Graff purchased the 122 acres along Frederick Road where he had lived since 1814; his family farmed this land over a century. A description from 1877 notes that “the property has a frontage of about a third of a mile on the Frederick Road … in full view of the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O RR and is located convenient to three railroad stations, the county seat, churches [and] schools.” Then, as now, the farm’s location along major transit routes made it desirable and convenient.
The Graff family sold the property, including a large farmhouse, to W. Lawson King in 1925. King subsequently purchased three neighboring farms, which he consolidated into Irvington Farm, a successful dairy business. At its peak, Irvington Farm boasted the world’s largest Holstein herd and sold cows from its champion stock internationally. It was also the largest milk producer in the area, much of which was processed by Thompson’s Dairy. The roof sign was recently repainted by the City to keep it visible from Frederick Road.
At the time of Lawson King’s death in 1985, there was considerable speculation about the fate of King Farm, long considered a prime target for planned development. Following a decade of legal and financial difficulties, the bank foreclosed and sold the 430-acre estate to developers. The City of Rockville annexed the property in 1995. Touted in the press as a “Field of Dreams,” King Farm was transformed into a large-scale mixed use community, inspired by “New Urbanism,” a comprehensive design philosophy that advocates, among other principles, pedestrian-friendly communities with a variety of housing types, interconnected networks of streets, accessible retail and recreational facilities, and civic buildings that promote communal identity – all prime characteristics of the new King Farm. Also emphasized are the preservation of historic structures for community use and a respect for local architectural traditions.
Today, King Farm is home to new residents and businesses, and its population may reach 19,000 by 2006. As construction continues, the City of Rockville is considering alternatives for the farmhouse, dairy barns, and outbuildings clustered on the 5-acre site that it owns. Proposed uses may include a museum, theatre, a recreation facility, or others. Peerless will continue to work with King Farm residents and City officials to help ensure that the history of this noteworthy property is available to future generations.
Click on the link for a King Farm Tour.