Forest Glen Seminary


The ad copy should read, “Witness the virulent creep of gentrification in action at historic® Forest Glen Seminary.  While it lasts.  Because gentrification is like a cancer – it will take over until there is nothing distinctive left.”

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Vacant, ramshackle dormitories and crumbling school buildings intermingle with brand new luxury condominiums, offering vagrants and investors the unique opportunity to get cozy as neighbors, all within earshot of the beltway. But then, Forest Glen has been a bit of a potluck, pragmatic proposition since its inception in 1887.

Forest Glen began life in as a luxury hotel – Ye Forest Inne, to be precise – a summer resort catering to wealthy guests from the nation’s capital. Even though it predated the beltway and suburban sprawl by a generation or so, the idea of getting away from it all so close to home didn’t go anywhere – why stay when the railroads made it easier than ever before to go on a real vacation?

 

This is a great site that bears repeat visits, for now at least, revealing something new each time – another statue in the woods, another cracked window into which I might peep, a snake crawling across the back of my hand while I scale one of these crumbling rock walls, or another explorer with a kernel of insight to share. Each time I have been, though, there are further signs of renovation and development. Check it out while it’s still halfway weird.

For the record, the actual ad copy for National Park Seminary Condominiums reads:

NEW PRICING: Condominiums from the low $400s
PRIME LOCATION: Inside the Beltway, 1 mile from Forest Glen Metro
HIGH-END FINISHES: Hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances
HISTORIC FEATURES (per plan): Decorative fireplaces, wainscoting, crown molding
ABUNDANT GREENSPACE: On 13-acre glen, adjacent to Rock Creek Park

Units still available.

Location

Silver Spring

Learn more

Abandoned Washington DC by Thomas Kenning

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Discussion

16 thoughts on “Forest Glen Seminary

  1. When was the date of your last visit? And how much of this place is currently untouched? I was planning a visit sometime in the near future, but I’ve found a lot of ads for condos and the finished product. Any thoughts? Thanks! And great article/photos!

    Posted by LK | January 19, 2012, 7:25 pm
    • My last visit was several months ago. Large portions of this site have been redeveloped, and renovation continues… But it’s still worth the trip out, because there are a number of untouched buildings to see.

      Posted by DCinruins. | January 20, 2012, 1:21 pm
  2. Is this place still worth a visit or have I missed the opportunity to the forces of development?

    Posted by BZ | July 20, 2012, 10:19 pm
    • It’s in the throes of redevelopment, but it’s a big place, so there’s still a number of relatively untouched structures.

      One of its current charms is the surreal juxtaposition of retro-looking luxury condos and boarded-up vacant shambles.

      Posted by DCinruins. | July 23, 2012, 6:29 pm
  3. I’m glad that the developing company didn’t just raze the old buildings to the ground and build cookie cutter houses, like usual. They gymnasium is undergoing renovation right now, even though there have been large holes in the roof for years. The new townhouses are built in the same style as the existing buildings, and several of the single family homes on site have been and are being renovated without changing the outward appearance. There are still several abandoned buildings on site that are worth looking at. Also, the apartments are pretty awesome if you’re looking for something different.

    Posted by Penny | August 12, 2013, 6:11 pm
  4. I’m not sure where your snark comes from. How is it gentrification to develop a completely abandoned space? No one was displaced, no Mom and Pop shops closed, and as far as I know, it didn’t lead to any new species extinction.

    The prices at Forest Glen annex are not high for the neighborhoods around it — the rental units are in fact below market rate ($1475 for a three bedroom apartment?!). (I don’t think there will be useful comps for the single family homes that will be made from the pagoda or the Dutch windmill, or the stuccoed Spanish villa across the road, so you might be able to say they’re overpriced when they hit the market.)

    For those of us who’ve lived in Silver Spring during its long period of squalor, it’s a relief to have anything happening at all. Even at its worst, the Downtown is nowhere near as plastic as Bethesda (and is far more affordable) — while housing prices have climbed a bit, they were severely undervalued through the early 2000s and it’s still a great place to live, still cheaper than any other metro accessible area of MC. And other than that one block of Downtown, Silver Spring is still plenty funky.

    The Seminary grounds, both raw and finished areas, are still enchanting. I think the project is a fairly good example of history-sensitive, community-grounded development. Yes, the place was more romantic when it was crumbling and covered in kudzu — but only a goth would say it was better off that way. I took a tour led by Save Our Seminary in the early 90s and it was shameful the way the place had been abandoned for so long — several statues were destroyed or stolen. To develop it as a living part of the suburb where it is… just can’t be wrong, can it?

    Perhaps you’re upset that you didn’t discover this gem sooner? Or sensitive about being new to the area? I don’t get the attitude. Have any raccoons complained about having to move from the old ballroom?

    Posted by Robin | September 21, 2013, 11:19 pm
    • I hear all of your points, Robin… This was one of the first pieces I worked on with regard to this project, and I think at the time I was still struggling to articulate myself well. I feel an ambivalence toward the modern tendency toward a sort of middle brow homogeneity. You asked where the snark came from, and I guess a large part of it is seeing Forest Glen filtered through the vanilla copy of a real estate agent. The Seminary actually has a long history being reappropriated and adapted by new tenants. You’re right – there are far worse things that could be happening there now. I would still argue, though, that while something is certainly gained, something else – without a doubt less quantifiable and therefore less defensible- is lost. A ruin is a tragedy, but it is also a beautiful, meditative space. But I hear your words… Thank you!

      Posted by Thomas Kenning | September 22, 2013, 12:04 am
  5. If you’re going to go see what’s left of this beautiful ruin, I would go NOW. Much of it has been redeveloped, but if you poke around – and aren’t afraid to get a little dirty – then you can be rewarded in your search.

    Posted by John Combs | February 27, 2014, 3:17 pm
  6. Is there anything left of this place? I’m really interested in finding abandoned buildings near the DC area and it’s rare to find somewhere you can actually go inside. Is it worth the trip?

    Posted by Emma | October 17, 2014, 8:36 pm
    • Unfortunately I only recently discovered this particular area and have been desperately wanting to check it out if the renovations aren’t complete yet. I’d say if you can actually go there, it’s completely worth the trip. Few urbanex places are preserved this well.

      Posted by Rich Ellis | December 12, 2014, 1:52 pm
  7. I went there today. Only a few building left that are untouched. Almost completely redeveloped now. Still got some interesting photos, but I can imagine what it was like a couple of years ago.

    Posted by Joe Sirico | January 4, 2015, 9:41 pm
  8. I went here in 2010, and it was beautiful. I’ll have to dig up some of the photos.

    Posted by Donna | January 11, 2016, 10:01 pm
  9. You left out the 30 year work of SOS, the non profit that saved the entire historic site from demolition. It woulf have helped explain the period from 1988 to restoration..

    Posted by Rich Scahffer | July 9, 2016, 8:01 pm
  10. 2 books on the site: “Enchanted Forest Glen” and Images of America “Forest Glen”. The latter has great before and after pics..

    Posted by Rich Schaffer | July 9, 2016, 8:04 pm
  11. While everyone wants modern to go on building, I would like to say Forest Glenn was a home to me. I was a medical specialist at Walter Reed. Forest Glen at the time was home to us WACS (Women’s Army Corp) Enlisted. Also quite a few orthopedic men were housed there while waiting on their Prosthesis. I was an 18 year old girl after basic and AIT found it a beautiful wonderland. It was not the norm for barracks. The guys had the barracks on Walter Reed, we were annexed to Forest Glen. I am 65 now so I am presumed ancient along with this beauty. I have to tell you The main building where the ballroom was with a couple steps down to the dance floor was always waxed with a high buff. There were ropes around where girls from the school used to dance. We were not ever permitted to step on that floor. While Forest Glen is gone, now my beloved Walter Reed also is but an echo. I am so glad most of the Commanding officers even General Westmoreland past before seeing this hospital go away. As a young girl then serving the Army during Vietnam, I did it very proudly

    Posted by Armeldia (Marie) Smith | November 26, 2017, 4:25 am

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Abandoned Washington DC – More than 350 never before seen full color photos of DC in decay, accompanied by essays on urban exploration in the nation’s capital.  This is DCinruins the way it was meant to be seen.

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