The National Park Seminary, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, is getting a new lease on life as a housing community after almost 120 years in various incarnations as an inn, a girls’ finishing school, and a military facility. After years of neglect, the unique historic site is being converted into apartments, condominiums, and single-family homes.
The former campus consists of 27 buildings, 23 of which date from 1887 to 1927, representing a wide range of architectural styles, including bungalows, a Japanese pagoda, an English garden castle, a Greek temple, a Swiss chalet, a Dutch windmill, and an Italian villa. The most prominent building on the campus, known simply as “Main,” was built in 1887 as the Ye Forest Inne, an exclusive vacation resort for Washington, D.C., residents.
From 1893 to 1942, the site saw an extensive building boom and became the premier women’s finishing school in the country, catering to the highest socioeconomic class and boasting tuition costs higher than those of Harvard. In 1942, the U.S. Army took control of the campus under the War Powers Act.
During World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the grounds of National Park Seminary served as a rehabilitative center for returning soldiers. However, since 1978, the property has been mostly vacant, and many of the unique historic structures on the site have fallen into a state of disrepair and decay. Extensive water damage, frequent vandalism, and theft have left much of the site in a dangerous and blighted condition.