A walk back in time: National Park Seminary

Let’s take a walk back in time on a guided tour of the National Park Seminary!

Once an exclusive finishing school for young women founded in 1894, the Seminary was taken over by the U.S. Army in 1942 for use by convalescing soldiers during World War Two. In 1972 the site was designated as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1988 the  Save Our Seminary at Forest Glen (SOS) was founded to preserve the Seminary, communicate its history, and guide its future. The Army transferred the property to Montgomery County in 2004, and the county selected The Alexander Company to restore the historic buildings and transform the site into a residential community.

The Seminary features sorority houses inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition: a Dutch windmill, a Swiss chalet, an English castle, an Italian villa and a Japanese Pagoda. Dotting the grounds like pepper specks on your breakfast eggs are statues of Greek goddesses, lions, and even a statue of Hiawatha!

The route: From the Forest Glen Kiss & Ride, we’ll hike about a mile west and southwest to the Seminary, along Forest Glen Road and Linden Lane. Along the way we’ll pass "The Castle," a unique landmark of uncertain origin at the intersection of Forest Glen and Seminary roads, which is also the site where the Forest Glen Station once stood. Arriving at the Seminary around 10:30, we’ll meet our tour guide near the old gymnasium and take a short break in case anyone needs to freshen up before the tour.

During the tour, our guide will show us the buildings, statues, and other Seminary landmarks and relate their historical and social background. A visit to the interior of some of the buildings is included. As a bonus last event in the tour, our guide will take us down into the glen itself, where we can get idea of what the grounds must have looked like when a raised boardwalk once enabled students and their visitors to reach the Seminary from the Forest Glen Station we passed earlier.

After the tour, we’ll head southwest from the Seminary grounds and descend through the woods into the Rock Creek Basin, where we’ll hike upstream and turn right on Forsythe Ave, to  ascend back to the high ground on Woodley and Linden Ave, to return to our meetup point at Forest Glen Metro Kiss & Ride parking lot.

This is a modified out and back hike of about 4 miles of smiles. The outbound leg is 1 mile, the return leg is 2.1 miles, and the tour itself is probably around a mile. The transit time to and from the seminary is about an hour, and the tour takes about 2 hours, so the total event should take at least around 3 hours.

The hike difficulty is easy to moderate. The surface is a mix of paved and gravel surfaces and is quite hilly. There are no scrambles, but some stair climbing is involved.

Google map: http://tinyurl.com/pp29ukd  

How to get there:  

• Metro: Forest Glen Metro Station is on the Red Line. Follow signs for the Kiss & Ride parking lot as you exit the station.

• Driving: From the I-495 Capital Beltway (either direction), take exit 31A to merge onto MD-97 N/​Georgia Ave toward Wheaton. After passing under I-495, turn left on Forest Glen Dr. The next right turn is the Kiss & Ride parking lot. If the lot is full, the next right turn after the Kiss & Ride (Darcy Forest Dr.) leads to the Park & Ride parking lot.

Where to meet: We'll meet in the Forest Glen Metro Kiss & Ride parking lot.

What to bring: Water and comfy shoes. (Sorry, our furry friends must stay behind for this event.) I’ll post a weather advisory as we get closer, but plan on the layered look.

Administrative stuff: Facilities are a bit limited, so please plan accordingly. The Seminary has a one-person restroom and a kitchenette to refill water bottles as needed. As a reminder, this is a kids-free zone, no one under 18 years of age is permitted.

Cost: $5 per person (cash only, exact change, please), payable to the organizer at the meetup point immediately before the hike.

After the hike: Pacci’s Trattoria, which we will pass during the hike, has good reviews on Yelp and Urban Spoon gives it a 93% thumbs up. It’s open for lunch on Saturday’s from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Yes, they have pizza.

Notes:

• Save Our Seminary at Forest Glen: http://www.saveourseminary.org/

• The Seminary at Forest Glen: http://tinyurl.com/cknctd9

• Pacci’s Trattoria, 6 Post Office Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910, (301)[masked], http://paccistrattoria.com/

Join or login to comment.

  • Michael M.

    I've been Negligent because of internet issues.
    Never have I had as much fun walking in circles

    1 · April 21

  • Lana

    Another awesome walk, thank you John!!!!!!

    2 · April 13

  • Karen

    I noticed several folks have cancelled, are there any open slots, I would love to join the group.

    April 12

    • Dwan

      Hi Karen, there will another one on the 27th....read John 's post...

      April 12

    • Karen

      Thanks Dwan, maybe I'll make that one.

      April 13

  • Jim

    John - thanks for all the effort you put into arranging this hike. It was fascinating to learn the history of the school - fluxed by the local estate market, wars, and govt .planning. Those dances with half the girls dressed up as George Washington and half dressed as Martha must have been a hoot.

    1 · April 12

    • John M

      I think we had waaay too much fun with the backstory on that... :D

      1 · April 12

    • Jim

      I was trying to keep to the high road and then Linda brought Edna St. Vincent Millay into the discussion. I still have not stopped blushing.

      2 · April 12

  • A former member
    A former member

    Odd and fascinating! It would be interesting to see what zoning would say to such architectural styles nowadays... ;) Thank you, John

    1 · April 12

    • John M

      Ugh, what a Home Owner's Association that would be! "Sorry, your proposed renovations don't blend in with the existing architecture..." ???

      April 12

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm sorry. I got this notice too late adn will not be able to make it.

    April 12

    • John M

      I went ahead and updated your RSVP. Thanks for letting us know!

      April 12

    • Cat

      Thanks, John. Thought I had updated it, but glad you caught it for me!

      April 12

  • Hank

    Fascinating venue. Great day for it. Thanks, John!

    1 · April 12

  • Kimberly Ten Pas B.

    Thanks john

    1 · April 12

  • Bill L.

    Great walk and visit to the seminary!

    1 · April 12

  • John M

    Always great to hang out with fun folks! Fascinating place, great tour guide, and nice free maps and booklets to read afterwards. Next time we'll shorten the scripted part a bit to get a little more walking in. Thanks!!

    April 12

  • Gabrielle C.

    Hi all, I'm new to the wait list concept. Sometime in the last hour my status changed from wait list to yes. Did a spot open up? I got it much too late. Will try to join you end of the month fir second trip!

    April 12

    • Ian B.

      Someone must have cancelled last minute. No worries, it happens. We will seen you for the next hike.

      1 · April 12

  • Claire S.

    I will meet everyone there

    April 12

  • Claire S.

    I am running late how long will everyone wait

    April 12

  • Carolyn and J.

    Something came out at the last moment. Have fun and I will try to join you all on the next one.

    April 12

  • Cat

    Cherry Blossom Parade conflict. Hope to visit the National Park Seminary in future. Sorry to be missing out!

    April 10

    • Dwan

      Is the Cherry Blossom parade going on this weekend?

      April 12

  • Laura

    Great info at this website: http://www.saveourseminary.org/

    April 11

  • Karen C.

    Sorry, won't be able to make this event. I went ahead and made other plans thinking my chances were slim.

    April 11

  • Joy

    My plans have changed and I freed up a spot for someone on the wait-list. Have fun!

    April 11

  • Diane H.

    Thanks for the opening. I am excited to visit this very special site.

    1 · April 11

  • Jim

    I hope folks appreciate the vivid metaphor in the hike description. At least for me, it will be difficult not to think of the Natl. Park Seminary at breakfast-time.

    1 · April 11

  • lynn m.

    So bummed that I am not able to attend...family obligations have prevailed. Perhaps a "Return to..." as we did with the Haupt Garden tour? Enjoy!

    April 11

  • Karen C.

    This sounds like a great hike. Would love to go. Any space available?

    April 11

  • Dwan

    Are there any slots open with cancellations? I'd love to join the group!

    April 10

  • kerry

    Gotta get the taxes done. Sigh... Hope someone can enjoy our spot(s) on the tour!

    April 9

    • John M

      Ouch! Thanks for updating your RSVP...

      April 9

  • Jim

    Since John lined up a tour guide for this jaunt, I hope we get a high percentage of RSVPs attending on Saturday. I asked whether I could pay the $5 with Bitcoin but John said no such luck - U.S. currency only.

    1 · April 9

  • ML M.

    Sadly I can't attend - attending a memorial service. Hope to be able to come out again soon

    April 9

  • Skysusan

    Oh no! I've the Alexandria National Cemetery cleanup that morning... bummer - see you soon - ditto on the redo as appropriate :) sky

    1 · March 31, 2014

  • Edna

    Oh John. You definitely have to do a Part II of this walk for those of us who can't make this day. What a fascinating place...a microcosm of the world's architectural personalities?!

    3 · March 28, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Agreed here! Would love to see this one again. Thanks!

      1 · March 28, 2014

    • John M

      Yes, and in the adjacent Park & Ride lot if the Kiss & Ride lot is full.

      March 29, 2014

  • Jim

    Wikipedia has a nice entry on the Seminary. Their May Day celebration looked like painfully proper good clean fun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Park_Seminary

    3 · March 28, 2014

  • Susan

    I WISH I could come. Local hustory is right up my alley. I never knew about this spot and you describe beautifully it as if we are already standing there.

    3 · March 28, 2014

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