April 12, 2016

Monday, February 11, 2013

Poetry Postcard 26: Forest Glen, Maryland

Like most people who live in or near a big city, we don't always make time for touristy stuff. My husband, kids and I live 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore. There are certain special events we do make time for . . .

spending Mother's Day enjoying baseball at Camden Yards,
watching the ships roll in for B'more's War of 1812 bicentennial,
"Hon" spotting at the Baltimore Book Festival,
or celebrating a Super Bowl win
with a few hundred thousand friends.
We don't get into Washington, D.C. (40 minutes, on a good day) as much as I'd like. It's embarrassing. We've lived here for 13 years and I have never been to the Library of Congress.

I admit, having grown up and lived in Manhattan, I find D.C. confusing. Where's a simple grid system when you need one?

Postcard #26 in my 44 Poetry Postcard project introduced me to a hidden gem that I am putting on my "tourist in my own back yard" list.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Forest Glen Annex, 1944
(Formerly National Park Seminary) Painting by  Jack McMillen
Save Our Seminary, Forest Glen, Maryland,
Postcard: Walter Reed Annex, 1944

The eye is busy with mythologies.
Two hippocamps squat scaly rears
in a fountain, their equine heads
spouting. A gryphon stretches
eagle wings, its lion claws
folded in repose. A woman in gloves
has come to hear the Army band.
Everyone she passes is clean
shadowless. One nurse holds
a letter. Her companion waves
something white – a handkerchief?
Or is that a dove, about to perch
on her outstretched hand?

Laura Shovan

Forest Glen, located in Silver Spring, has had multiple lives: a plantation, a farm, a wealthy getaway from the nation's capitol, and a girls' school with internationally themed buildings. 

Forest Glen's pagoda at
In the 1940s, it became an annex of Walter Reed Medical Center. Soldiers wounded in WWII came here to recuperate, amputees in particular.  That is the era Postcard 26 comes from, and you can see the idealized atmosphere in McMillen's painting. Everyone is dressed in clean, bright colors. Everyone is smiling. There is no one of color here, no nod to ethnicity or multiculturalism. Striking, in this atmosphere of buildings from around the world.

I sent this card to poet Frederick Foote, himself an Army doctor. Fred has been working with the new Walter Reed, using creative arts to help war veterans.

Forest Glen was sold by the military years ago. It is now known as National Park Seminary. Save Our Seminarya nonprofit group, is trying to preserve the buildings at Forest Glen, which still boasts its eclectic blend of architecture, though the buildings have been long-neglected.

I am hoping to visit with my husband in the spring. Tours are just $5!

Forest Glen's unique buildings are in disrepair today.
According to the blog DC in Ruins, Forest Glen is being parceled off as an upscale development.

What are the hidden gems in your area? Have you made time to visit them, or do you have a "tourist in my back yard" list like mine?

I hope Forest Glen doesn't go the way of Enchanted Forest, a closed landmark in Ellicott City, where I live. On the positive side, the abandoned theme park is the setting for an excellent middle grade mystery by children's novelist Mary Downing Hahn, Closed for the Season.

Buy it at Better World Books.
Maybe I will discover more things to write about when I visit Forest Glen.


Tabatha said...

I just made a note for myself about visiting Forest Glen/National Park Seminary. Thanks for the tip. What an interesting postcard and poem! Rich with imagery and ideas. Also, I enjoyed visiting Frederick Foote's site. I'll have to come back.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. Let me know whether you'd like to go together this spring.

Fred and I are going to North Carolina with two other local authors for a literary event this weekend. He is a super guy to spend time with and his poetic voice is unique.

Linda B said...

In Denver, the landmarks are often taken down, although one thing is left. We've had such change, like a new airport, so the old one, right here in the city, is now a vast new neighborhood, with one hangar and the control tower left as a museum. I don't get to the mountains as much as I should, although my grown children do. We even have a condo that we share with a friend! Time flees! I love the postcard picture, interesting how everyone does seem so happy, and all the patients are in red. I like your imaginary hankie, or dove, a fleeting image it seems. Will you be sad when this project ends, Laura?

Author Amok said...

Hi, Linda. That's interesting about Denver's landmarks. This postcard reminded me, with its clean-happiness, of some of the communist propaganda posters of the same era. That's probably not fair, but it is a fascinating image, all the same.

I have enough postcards (and a long enough mailing list) to keep going with the project. After the initial 44 poems are done, I will probably shift to sending out just one or two postcard poems a week. That should last me through 2013, at least!