Belward Farm, located at the intersection of Darnestown and Muddy Branch Roads, is one of the last remaining pieces of undeveloped farmland left in the Gaithersburg/Rockville area. Developers have been drooling over these 138 rolling acres for years, but owner Elizabeth Beall Banks spent most of her life fighting to protect the land. According to an article in the Washington Post, "Banks once scared county planning officials off her land with a shotgun. Another time she stood in front of bulldozers, hugging trees to stop development around her. She turned down numerous lucrative offers to turn the grassy fields into a housing development." Banks, who died on January 17, 2005, eventually sold her land for $5 million (when at the time it was worth $40 million+) to Johns Hopkins University.
The old house located on this property was built by Ignatius Ward in 1891 to replace an earlier structure that burned down. This house is a great example of a 19th-century farmhouse with Victorian features. The photo on the left was taken in 1974. "COMMENTS"
Ignatius Ward was a longtime farmer and resident of the area. Around the south end of his property, near the driveway of Belward along Darnestown Road, was an area known as Hunting Hill. Ward built a country store/post office here in 1873. He also ran a blacksmith shop at this location. The post office closed in 1905 and Ward died a few years later, in 1909. His granddaughter converted the former store into a residence in 1929 and lived there for many years. The home was demolished in 1995 and Elizabeth Banks erected this plaque in its memory. "COMMENTS"
Hunting Hill Methodist Episcopal Church was a very small rural church with an all-white congregation of about 50 people, most of who were small farm owners in the vicinity. In 1965 Hunting Hill and McDonald Chapel Church merged and a few years later, the two merged with the black congregation of Pleasant View Church. "COMMENTS"
The last remaining houses of what was once Hunting Hill have been flattened to make way for "luxury" townhomes. "COMMENTS
Summit Avenue looking west, towards Gaithersburg High School, circa 1900 and today. "COMMENTS"
Henry Brookes owned more than 1,000 acres in and around Gaithersburg. His home "Montpelier" was located near the intersection of Frederick and Montgomery Village Avenues and was built sometime in the late 1700s. This house was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the parking lot of the IBM site. "COMMENTS"
Another house that was lost to a parking lot was the Mills House, located on Muddy Branch Road, just past the bridge over I-270. The Mills family farmed this land and lived in this square Colonial Revival style house for over 100 years. This site is now the Montgomery Club Apartments. "COMMENTS"