Takoma Park is a city in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States. It is a suburb of Washington, D.C., and part of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Founded in 1883 and incorporated in 1890, Takoma Park, informally called “Azalea City,” is a Tree City USA and a nuclear-free zone. A planned commuter suburb, it is situated along the Metropolitan Branch of the historic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, just northeast of Washington. It is governed by an elected mayor and six elected councilmembers, who form the city council, and an appointed city manager, under a council-manager style of government. The city’s population was 16,715 at the 2010 national census.
Takoma Park was founded by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert in 1883 and incorporated in 1890. It was one of the first planned Victorian commuter suburbs, centered on the B&O railroad station in Takoma, D.C., and bore aspects of a spa and trolley park. For many decades it was the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which maintains a regional hospital, college, radio station and several churches and other local facilities in the city.
In 1964, an inside-the-Capital-Beltway extension of Interstate 70S, also known as the North Central Freeway, was proposed via a route known as “Option #11 Railroad Sligo East,” up to 1/4 mile parallel to the B&O railroad upon a swath of land displacing 471 houses, that would have cut the city in two. In the mid-to-late 1960s, the future Mayor and civil rights activist Sam Abbott led a campaign to halt freeway construction and replace it with a Metrorail line to the site of the former train station, and worked with other neighborhood groups to halt plans for a wider system of freeways going into and out of DC.
This controversy also raised the profile of Takoma Park at a time in the late 1960s and 1970s when it was becoming noted regionally and nationally for political activism outside the Nation’s capital, with newspaper commentators describing it as “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” or “The Berkeley of the East”, also “Tacky Park”.
Also dividing the community is the boundary line of the District of Columbia, which contains part of the original Gilbert tract. This area is now known as Takoma, D.C. While politically separate from Takoma Park, Maryland, it shares its history and much of its culture.
Much of the old town Takoma Park was incorporated into the Takoma Park Historic District; listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Before 1995, the eastern boundary of the city of Takoma Park was in Prince George’s County, Maryland, causing the community to be divided across two counties and the Maryland/D.C. line (where the original downtown area is located). For several years, Takoma Park lobbied the State of Maryland for legislation allowing county boundaries to be adjusted. The State finally agreed to this change, with the stipulation that cross-county municipalities would no longer be allowed; the new municipal boundary would forever remain within the county of its choosing. In August 1995, after passage of the law, the city held a public referendum asking registered voters living in three Prince George’s County neighborhoods north of New Hampshire Avenue whether they wanted to be annexed to the city of Takoma Park. There was a majority of votes, 211 out of 304, in favor of annexation to the city.
In November 1995, the State-sponsored referendum was held asking whether the portions of the city in Prince George’s County should be annexed to Montgomery County, or vice versa. The majority of votes in the referendum were in favor of unification of the entire city in Montgomery County. Following subsequent approval by both counties’ councils and the Maryland General Assembly, the county line was moved to include the entire city into Montgomery County (including territory in Prince George’s County newly annexed by the city) on July 1, 1997. This process became known as Unification.
The city has experienced substantial gentrification in the 1990s and early 2000s, with many group houses containing accessory apartments being converted back into single-family homes. This process was encouraged by an M-NCPPC “phase back”, effectively eliminating scattered-site multifamily housing and implementing single-use zoning citywide, which prompted calls by some residents for the city to have its own planning authority. The majority of the city’s population remain tenants, many of whom live in a cluster of high-rise and mid-rise apartment buildings surrounding Sligo Creek, which cuts a deep valley through the community.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.36 square miles (6.1 km2), all land. Sligo Creek and Long Branch (both tributaries of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River) flow through the area. Sligo Creek Park and the 9-mile (14 km) Sligo Creek Trail bisect the area. The main street, Carroll Avenue, and the main state highway, Route 410/East West Highway, narrow to two lanes within city limits. Takoma park has an extensive hardwood tree canopy which is protected by local ordinance.
Takoma Park sits on the edge of the Mid-Atlantic fall line and is thus quite hilly, with many narrow, gridded streets.
Takoma Park is bounded by downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, a major urban center to the northwest, by Montgomery College campus; East Silver Spring, a community of houses, apartments and small shops, along Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road, to the north; Langley Park, Maryland, a community of apartments and shopping centers, along University Boulevard to the northeast; Chillum, Maryland, in Prince George’s County to the southeast, bounded by New Hampshire Avenue, a state highway; and Takoma, Washington, D.C. to the southwest, separated by Eastern Avenue, which follows the District of Columbia line.
The corner of Eastern and Carroll Avenues roughly marks the center of the old commercial district. Other town centers include: “Takoma Junction”, the corner of Carroll Avenue and Route 410 in the geographic center of town, home to the city’s large food co-op; Takoma-Langley Crossroads in downtown Langley Park, and the Flower shopping district, both of which are home to many immigrant-owned establishments. Takoma Park’s municipal center is located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Route 410. Washington Adventist University marks the corner of Carroll and Flower Avenues.