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National Park Seminary

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The site that is now the National Park Seminary Historic District was originally a wooded glen and tobacco plantation. It was developed in 1887 as a resort hotel designed by the noted Washington architect T. F. Schneider and known as Ye Forest Inne. When the hotel proved to be unsuccessful, John and Vesta Cassedy rented and later purchased the property to create, in 1894, National Park Seminary, a finishing school for young women.

The Cassedys believed that art and culture should be integral to the new school’s curriculum and they used architecture, landscaping, sculpture, painting, and stained glass to create a uniquely beautiful educational environment.

The Seminary was purchased in 1916 by Dr. James E. Ament, who expanded the campus, added and enlarged buildings, created a network of walkways to connect and unify the campus, and, in 1927, built Ament Hall with its imposing grand ballroom. Dr. Roy Tasco Davis bought the school in 1937 and, when the Great Depression caused a sharp decline in students, he introduced a business-oriented curriculum and renamed the school National Park College.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Davis was required by the War Powers Act to sell the Seminary to the U. S. Army. The Seminary became an annex to the Walter Reed Army Hospital and it served as a rehabilitation and convalescent center for soldiers wounded in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Viet Nam War. After patient care was discontinued at the Seminary, the property continued to be used for medical research, military housing, and administrative purposes. Over the years, the buildings and grounds declined from inadequate maintenance, the army tore down or altered several Seminary buildings, and painted or covered over much of the decorative woodwork that graced the original interiors. When army officials began to discuss tearing down more of the historic buildings to make room for modern structures, the Maryland Historic Trust sought to protect the most historic part of the site by securing its listing in 1972 on the National Register of Historic Places as the National Park Seminary Historic District.

Because of the efforts of Save Our Seminary and its supporters, the army decided in 2001 that the historic district and an adjacent tract were excess to its needs. In October 2004, the excess property was transferred through Montgomery County to a partnership of The Alexander Company, a development company with an excellent record of adapting historic properties to new uses, and EYA, an award winning developer of new homes in established neighborhoods. Their plan to save all of the historic buildings, to add new townhouses in compatible styles, and to transform the Seminary into a unique residential community of apartments, condominiums, and single-family homes has been approved by local planning and historic preservation agencies and is now being carried out. A permanent preservation easement will protect the historic district and assure public access to it.

For more on the Seminary’s history, see www.operant.com/seminary.