Berwyn History


In 1900, an electric carline, known as "Washington and Suburban Railway", later called "City and Suburban Railway", and finally merged with "D.C. Transit Company", was built from downtown Washington, with its terminus at Berwyn Road. Later it extended on to Branchville Road and finally was extended to Laurel. It maintained regularly scheduled service for many years. The north end (from Branchville to Laurel and to Beltsville) was discontinued some years ago and recently all service was completely discontinued, and bus service installed. This electric carline was highly instrumental in the building and developing of the entire area, as before this service we had only the local trains on the B&O Railroad. 'Tis the trend of the times and we'll soon have other means of rapid transit (the monorail and the helicopter).

Also, in 1900, a local newspaper began publication which carried much neighborhood news and State and National items of interest. It was known as the "Berwyn News" and was edited by Judge John T. Burch. Publication was discontinued in 1908 upon the death of Judge Burch.

Image credit to Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division


For those of you who are unfamiliar, that's the house with tan siding, maroon porch and white trim next to the neighborhood park, at 8400 Rhode Island Avenue. My family has lived here for the last 46 years.

It was built in 1910 by a Mr. Aitcheson on land about where the current Holy Redeemer basketball court sits. In 1930 the Aitchesons moved to Laurel and gave the house to Holy Redeemer church which used it as a convent for the Sisters of Providence.

At this time, or soon after, the back porch was finished off with a huge country kitchen and the community room for the nuns downstairs, and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. This kitchen is now our library room. Mother Superior had an office on the first floor there. Our living room used to be a small chapel where the sisters had mass and prayers.

The house was used as a convent until 1960 when the current convent next to the church was completed. The house was then given by the church to the caretaker of the school, Mr. Umphries, provided he move it. They wanted to keep the land to expand the church/school parking lot. Mr. Umphries had a new foundation built on Rhode Island Avenue, just on the other side of Quebec Street, and had the house moved there. As the house was traveling over Quebec Street, the sewer collapsed underneath it. The whole house shook and nearly all the horsehair plaster walls in the house cracked or broke.

In 1964, Mr. Umphries put the house up for sale and my father noticed it. For a family of nine living in a duplex in Palmer Park, it was a godsend. My dad went to Mr. Umphries and gave him all the money he had on him, $1.87, to hold the house for him while he got financing. He did, and bought the house for $17,400.00. We moved in on July 4th, 1964. As great as it was for our family of nine, it was obvious the house had been lacking maintenance. There was a long list of things to do. Those cracked walls were falling down, the windows rattled in their frames, the paint was peeling, the wood on the porch had rot, the porch roof leaked, as did the flat roof on the back of the house, doors that no longer led to stairways or side porches were nailed shut. But, it was big enough for the nine of us, was right next door to a Catholic school we would all go to, and was closer to work for both mom and dad. And, as it turned out later, being walking distance from the University of Maryland made it possible for me to afford to go to college. The problems could be fixed.

In 1984, mom and dad wanted to retire, but could not sell the house without significant repairs first. So, I bought it from them, as is, and the repairs started. New windows, a new roof, walls, porch, railings, etc. Later – new floors, bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms.

From loving this new huge place, to wanting to get away from a wreck of a house as soon as I could, to group home, to back to family home, I now find it a pretty nice place to live. The neighborhood ain't so bad neither.

Contributed by Chris Dullnig


Early workers in the BDCA community group were Herbert Smith, Walter Mulligan, Arthur Gahan, William Duvall, Raymond Burch, Charles Sayre, Harry McNaraee, F. Wiser, and many other good civic-minded citizens willing to devote their time and energies to the advancement and improvement of the area.

There was also close cooperation with the Branchville Improvement Association and the Commissioners of the Town of Berwyn Heights. Considerable money for community betterment was raised through the joint effort of these groups each summer by the never-to-be-forgotten annual "carnivals." "Old Berwyn" was a wonderful place to live, with good neighbors and all one could ask in the early days. Time and the population growth soon required more planning and services to the people which finally led to the joining of the surrounding sections in the formation of the City of College Park.


By 1925 there were approximately 100 single-family homes in the Berwyn neighborhood. The original homes were mostly two-story, wood-frame buildings. The area supported a number of general stores, a weekly newspaper, a post office, and a church which provided library services. These businesses were mostly centered around the intersection of the street car line (now Rhode Island Avenue) with the main east-west road (Berwyn Road).

The community continued to develop in the 1930s, undeveloped lots in Francis Shannabrook's original subdivision of Central Heights were re-subdivided into smaller lots and improved with small one-story brick bungalows. Homes were built in the late 1930s for the increased number of workers employed in the Federal government during the New Deal Administration.


In 1940, the College Park Dinner operated at 8205 Baltimore Ave, College Park, MD where the McDonald's now sits. It was one of many locations where arrests were made during the 1962 sit-ins.

Berwyn and nearby areas joined together to form the City of College Park around 1945, when the city was incorporated.


Town Hall had been a College Park landmark at the gateway of Berwyn. And the Del Haven Motel offered TV and radio and lasted until it was recently replaced by the Best Western Plus.


Yes, present day Lidl’s Grocery Store was for the longest time a hotel or motel, and in the 1960s it was the Interstate Inn.