Woodley Gardens Celebrates 50 Years

Winter 2011

Aerial view of Woodley Gardens, circa 1962. On the left is Blossom Drive and on the right is Crocus Drive with Azalea Drive running parallel in the front and Nelson Street in the back. Photo courtesy of Jennie Forehand, Peerless Rockville Collection.

By Joan M. Zenzen

Many of Rockville’s larger neighborhoods are turning fifty years old and Woodley Gardens West is one of them. The community was developed in the early 1960s by Monroe Warren, Sr. and his son, Monroe Warren, Jr. Prior to developing Woodley Gardens, Warren, Sr. had constructed the Kennedy-Warren and Tilden Gardens apartments in the District, plus hundreds of homes in Rockcrest in Rockville. Woodley Gardens is significant because it is Montgomery County’s first pre-planned community. In planning Woodley Gardens, the Warrens took advantage of a new zoning category that allowed developers to design entire neighborhoods instead of several house lots within a designated space.

The Warrens purchased 220 acres of the Milor Farm, which had open fields traversed by matured trees. The Warrens kept many of those beautiful trees and incorporated them into the community they designed with single-family homes, rental town houses, apartments, an elementary school, a shopping center, a large public park, and a neighborhood pool. They advertised the development as a “country club community,” possibly to counter many people who saw Rockville, then with a population of only 26,000
people, as being out in the “sticks” or “boonies.”

The Warrens paid attention to details and built houses of lasting value. Brick houses in colonial styles were the trademark of Woodley Gardens. Andrea Washburn, who worked as the Warrens’ realtor, remembered that the site superintendent they hired would shake
a staircase and if it rattled, he ordered the staircase redone. He built houses like it was the “make it last” 1930s, not the “anything goes” 1960s.

Because Woodley Gardens had its own elementary school, it was a draw for many young couples. Jennie Forehand remembered that when the school first opened, about eighteen kindergartners lived on Crocus Drive alone. As the numbers of students decreased over
time, some grades were combined, and Montgomery County bused in students from Martin’s Lane and Lincoln Park. The county closed the school in 1979, and the City of Rockville re-opened it as the Senior Center in 1982, consolidating all of its senior programming in the renovated building.

Original owners still live in Woodley Gardens. Some families have three generations within blocks of each other, with kids who grew up in the neighborhood choosing to raise their
own children here. Neighbors continue to reach out and help each other in need or simply to stop by with some freshly baked cookies. In June, the community hosted a fiftieth birthday party celebrating those strong ties to the neighborhood. The Warrens would be pleased.

Click on the link for a Woodley Gardens Tour.