An effort is underway to have nine of the properties that make up the 110-year-old Kentlands Old Farm site designated as a historic preservation district. The Kentlands Firehouse, also part of the site, received its historic designation in February 2012.
The remaining properties that comprise Kentlands Old Farm (Tschiffely-Kent Farm) include the Kentlands Mansion, which was built in 1900 at a then-staggering sum of $10,000; Springhouse Ruins; Caretaker’s House; Grotto/Crypt; Garage; Arts Barn; Brick Building Peacock House; and Gatehouse Replica.
The properties are a mix of city and privately owned sites, and the designations would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In June 2011, the city of Gaithersburg considered listing the Firehouse as part of its surplus property. A month later a demolition permit came in for the garage portion of the Firehouse and, because of the age and history of the building, a decision was made to consider it for historic designation. The Firehouse received an expedited historic designation less than eight months later.
The URS Corporation performed an intensive architectural survey and historical review of all of the properties and the findings were significant. The Kentlands Firehouse was built sometime between 1942 and 1961 and was incorporated into portions of a circa 1900 carriage house. The Firehouse was built to house Otis Beall Kent’s fire engine collection/fully-equipped fire department. It later served as a dormitory for farm workers, and the basement was constructed to act as a fallout shelter in case of war. Another unique component of the Firehouse was the inclusion of an emergency well.
Based on its initial 14-page report, URS put together an executive summary for the Mayor and City Council in January. Those findings led to the City of Gaithersburg Historic District Commission holding a site visit on May 24 and a June 7 hearing at Gaithersburg City Hall.
The Historic District Commission will meet in July to make a decision as to whether or not to proceed with the process for gaining historic designations for the nine properties.
“The Kentlands Old Farm is rich with history and a historical designation is appropriate,” said Denise Kayser, Gaithersburg Arts Barn cultural arts director. “The designation also brings with it certain financial benefits in terms of applying for grants to help with the restoration process.”
While not a necessary step, the local designation does make gaining a spot on the National Register of Historic Places easier.
The Kentlands properties are described today as a neotraditional/new urbanist community within the city of Gaithersburg. The property dates back to 1852 when Frederick A. Tschiffely purchased the original plot from the Clagett family.
Upon his father’s death in 1892, Frederick A. Tschiffely Jr. took ownership of the property and ran it until his death in 1931. Otis Beall Kent purchased the property a few years after Tschiffely Jr.’s death and ran it as an agrarian estate until his own death in 1972. The property became known as the Kentland Farms during this time period.
After Kent passed, his adopted daughter, Helene Danger Kent, inherited the property, and she helped create the Kentland Foundation with a 162-acre parcel of land. Kent sold and transferred the property to the Joseph Alfandre Company for development of the residential neighborhood in 1989.
“A property like the Kentlands Old Farm is a point of pride for any city,” said Matthew T. Bowling, planner and liaison to the Historic District Commission. “There are just not many 1900 gentlemen’s farms around with these types of structures.”