This building has been identified as an outstanding property within the Garrett Park Historic District, a small section of the Town that was designated by Montgomery County and placed on the County Historic Preservation Master Plan in 1992. The entire town of Garrett Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Date of Construction
The original building on this property was erected sometime between August 1877 and September 1888. The second very similar building was probably erected sometime between 1892 and 1894.
Original and Subsequent Owners
1886 Henry L. and Margaret J. Cranford sold a large tract of land to the Metropolitan Investment and Building Company(MIBC) for about $20,000.
1892 MIBC sold the property to Florida H. Hurdle
1894 Florida Hurdle to George W. Offutt
1894 George W. and Gertrude V. Offutt to Rudolph I. Heley. Heley mortgages the property several times until it is finally foreclosed by Frank D. Leizear and sold at public auction.
1912 Robert B. Peter, attorney for Frank D. Leizear to Mary Heley.
1914 Mary Heley, widow, to Samuel Farber
1920 Samuel and Annie Farber to William Maynard Penn
1976 Charles M. Penn, executor for the estate of Lina Penn, to the Town of Garrett Park. Purchase price $141,680.
History/Residents of Note
This is the only commercially zoned building in Garrett Park. It was one of the first buildings erected in the new town. It served as a general store until the 1980s. Since then, it has been a restaurant. Especially in its early years, the store was vital to the Town, but because its clientele was so small, store keepers had trouble making a living, and the store changed hands many times. The building was purchased by the Penn Family in 1920. The post office was moved into the store in about 1930 when Lina Penn became Postmaster. The combination store and post office became the hub of the community under the Penn's stable ownership. The Town bulletin board was set up there and an informal lending library, that eventually became the Garrett Park Library, was started there. In 1955, the Post Office Department tried to consolidate the Garrett Park and Kensington Post Offices and offer home delivery out of the Kensington Office. Garrett Parkers declared that they liked the cracker barrel atmosphere of their post office, and preferred picking up their mail, meeting neighbors, and sharing gossip to the convenience of home delivery. (The Evening Star, 10/19/1955 and 10/27/1955.) Through petitions, meetings, and publicity, the post office was saved.
Until the 1950s, the western half of the building was the residence of Mrs. Penn. After the death of her husband, she made plans to increase the commercial space in the building. She converted the entire first floor to commercial space and added three stories to the back of the building for commercial space and an expanded post office. Mrs. Penn converted the second floor and attic of the original building for her residence.
Mrs. Penn retired in 1960 after 30 years as Post Master and was followed by another Garrett Park Resident, Olive Parsons (4517 Clermont Place) who served for 25 years. When Mrs. Penn died, the fate of the building was uncertain. After a referendum, the Town decided to purchase the building in 1976 to insure a place for the post office and named it Penn Place in honor of Mrs. Penn's long service. A new stairway addition was built to provide easier access to the upstairs offices. Rents from retail and office space were supposed to cover the maintenance of the building. When the temporary closing of the store in 1981 eliminated interior access to the Post Office, a second addition was built joining the stairway to the side entrance of the Post Office and the interior access was walled off. In 1981 the Town offices were moved to the second floor of the building. In 1982, the general store room began a gradual transition from a store with deli counter to a full service restaurant under the management of several Garrett Park women. In 1990, under local chef Lynn Foster (10808 Keswick St.), The Town Store and Cafe began a 10-year period of service as a local eating and gathering spot.
In 1998, the Town began considering long-term maintenance issues and handicap accessibility to the building. After a public charrette to gather citizen input, many public meetings, a referendum, and successful applications for grants and bond bills, the Town began a thorough renovation of Penn Place in 2002. The front of the building was returned to its late Victorian appearance. The most significant change to the original structure was the removal of the original residential stairway to provide circulation space through the center of the building. The old cinder block addition was removed, and a new visually compatible addition was built on the rear. The Post Office moved to the lower floor and the main floor became the Black Market Bistro (owned by former Garrett Park residents Jeff and Barbara Black (10935 Montrose Avenue) and public restrooms. The upper floor contains offices, including those of the Town of Garrett Park.
Over the years, Penn Place has been the scene of local public gatherings. The annual Fourth of July parade ends there, and the adjacent basketball court and park has been the site of concerts, Halloween festivities, and anniversary celebrations. Penn Place is truly the heart of the Garrett Park community.
Sources: Lot and Block Index Cards provide information on chain of title, building and alteration dates. Most of the material in this entry is condensed from the Penn Place Historic Structures Report, 1998, prepared by late resident Nancy Schwartz. Unless otherwise specified, sources can be found in the Garrett Park Town Archives.