- Our Community
- Forest Heights Town History
Our town has an interesting and varied background. The summary below was published in the Forest Heights News, June 14, 1999.
50th Year Remembrance of Forest Heights
Forest Heights, Maryland was originally a part of a 6,478-acre plantation, established in 1687 by Col. John Addison, and was called St. Elizabeth. In 1767 it was renamed Oxon Hill Manor. That land is now Forest Heights, Oxon Hill Farm and Oxon Hill, and is located just off the Capital Beltway (I-95), exit 3.
The first residents of Forest Heights were truly pioneers. From Washington, D.C. you reached Forest Heights by way of Old Livingston Road. The nearest bus stop was at the little S.G.S. Store near the District line. Everywhere there were woods and wide-open spaces. The road wound around a little dirt entrance to Forest Heights. A little wooden bridge covered the little stream, the course of which was changed when some twenty feet was filled in to put in Indianhead Highway. Along the dirt road that branched off of Oxon Hill Road there was a group of twelve mailboxes where we picked up our mail. There was a sign at the entrance that announced a "Bumpy Road." As long as you got in a rut and walked without trying to change to another rut you were safe. It was quite some years before the roads were paved.
The first building of homes began in late 1941, by Southern Maryland Homes, Inc. Construction was slow because of shortages in materials, due to the war. The West Side of town was built first. There were seven streets, each one a block long. The homes had a coal furnace and a bucket was used for heating water (this in itself was an adventure). It would hold about a quart of pea cold water -- it was hard to keep the furnaces burning. Electricity or bottled gas was used for cooking. Many of the homes had cement bath tubs. All of the homes had a septic system, many of which did not work properly. In 1948 everyone was required to connect to the sewage system. There was a charge of $2.00 per month for trash and garbage collection. There was a tree in the middle of Seneca Drive and cars had to go on one side or the other to get up or down the street. Homes sold for $6,000 or under. Interest was probably 3 to 3 1/2%. Everyone helped their neighbor. Many of the families were young with small children. There were no clothes dryers and in the winter you had to hang diapers on a clothesline. They froze immediately. . . as well as your fingers.
In 1945 houses were started on Rolph Drive. The Citizens Association was organized. Dues were $1.00 and two could vote. This organization worked to make many improvements. Forest Heights Homemakers was organized. This was a group of young mothers who needed help from the Extension Services, under guidance of the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland. The county sent out a Home Demonstration Agent once a month.
In January 1946, a newspaper was started and there was a contest to choose a name for the newspaper. By March the name, "The Spokesman" was chosen. The paper was $1.00 per year, and it was delivered once a month. Its motto was, "Everyone a Neighbor." The Boy Scouts were organized and meetings were held at Oxon Hill Baptist Church. Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls were organized and met in homes. Homemakers showed movies in basements for children, charging ten cents. Movies for adults were shown at night with a silver offering collected for admission. Bingo parties were also held in basements, and any profit made went to a project. Baby sitters charged thirty-five cents and hour, until midnight, fifty cents an hour afterwards.
We were protected by Oxon Hill Volunteer Fire Department. If the police were needed it could have taken three days for a response. There were 33 police officers for the entire county. Marlboro had 14 and Hyattsville had 19.
A public roads committee was formed. The homeowners did the work to have better roads. Money was collected to buy the materials needed to fill the potholes. The county had no authority over subdivision streets. The Citizen's Association worked for changes in the county system covering roads. Dogs chased cars then, as they do now, if allowed to run free.
A playground and community building were discussed many times, but it was years before these projects were completed. Citizens were asked to contribute, as there were no public funds available.
The little Oak Park was worked on by the men. First a little bus shelter was built, and later on a cinder block wall was constructed to enclose it. The cinder blocks, mortar, as well as grass seed were all donated. At Christmas, a tree was bought, uprooted and replanted again in the Park. Cash was collected to buy lights for the tree. The Park was also used in May, for Memorial Day Services, which also included a parade. A small monument was dedicated to the men who lost their lives in World War II. They were: Robert L. Davis; Richard N. Ryan; and John L. Talbert. This tradition of remembering our vets still continues.
In 1946 a contract was awarded which included water mains, sewage and fire hydrants. There were many sewage problems before this happened -- mired cars, closing of streets for long periods of time. Bread and milk deliveries were hampered. One time, water had to be carried in from Indianhead Highway for several days. If it wasn't brought in, everyone stayed thirsty and dirty. Our water was coming from a well on Oneida Way, which is now the lower part of Seneca Drive. There was a huge well on the East Side of town, too. This one was 603 feet deep and capable of pumping 430 gallons of water a minute. Because we were told there would be 500 homes built in the near future, another well was constructed on North Huron Drive. Later on, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission would provide our water.
For many years there was only one school for grades 1 to 12. It was built in 1925, and the first graduating class had five students. Forest Heights Elementary School was opened in 1953 with 497 students. The school had 14 classrooms, a library, cafeteria and a multi-purpose room. Four more classrooms were added by September 1955, and that year the school started with 828 students. First graders went only for one-half a day. Because of overcrowding, the following year, four 5`h grade and three 6t' grade classes were transported to other schools -- Tayac Elementary and John Hanson Junior High. The junior high school started with 7th and 8th grades and had an enrollment of 570 students. In 1958, a 9P grade was added. In 1957, Flintstone Elementary School opened with 364 students and by 1959 the student population had grown to 440. In 1959, a new Oxon Hill Senior High School was constructed, at its present location on Leyte Drive. The school opened with 785 students.
Flooding from storms was a frequent problem. Oxon Run would overflow and the water would come up as far as Mohican and Seneca Drives. The water would get so deep that rowboats had to be used. At one point, it reached as high as the 200 block of North Huron. In 1962 to 1964, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers corrected this and it was the last serious flooding the town experienced.
The original area of Forest Heights was 37 acres, east of Indianhead Highway, and 129 acres on the west side. In 1950 the total population was estimated at 1,125 people. In 1953, 80 additional acres were annexed -- 50 acres on the east side and 20 acres on the west. With the annexation of Forest Heights Elementary and Flintstone Elementary schools, an additional 20 1/2 acres were added. There were 892 homes.
In 1948 a lending library was started out of a private home, and the Prince George's Memorial Library Bookmobile visited the town once a month.
In 1954, someone decided there should be a hotel, called "The Forest Heights Biltmore." It was to be built at the entrance on the West Side. The hotel was never built, and subsequently the property was sold.
The Forest Heights Police Department was organized in 1952. It started with one full time officer and three part-time officers.
The Community Building was dedicated on June 20, 1954. One room of the building was used as a branch of the Prince George's Memorial Library. There was also a cooperative kindergarten, police department and mayor's office. The building has always been used by many different groups for meetings, classes and celebrations.
A flowering tree-planting program was started in 1959, with plantings in the spring and fall. Initially, 1,062 flowering crabapple trees were planted, which today still provide residents and visitors with their beautiful blooms in the spring.
On April 19, 1999, this town celebrated its fiftieth anniversary as an incorporated municipality. There are now six council members -- two from each ward. All elected officials serve a two-year term.
Forest Heights has always been a nice place to live; and it has been debt-free since its incorporation. From the beginning it has represented the best of family, friend and neighbor. Forest Heights is home.
Source: Thanks to former Town Councilman George F. Wiggers for archiving our municipality's publication.