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Archive for April, 2011

Historic Riggs – Thompson House in Downtown Silver Spring has Long History

The Riggs – Thompson House was built in 1858 by George Washington RiggsRiggs Thompson House Front Silver Spring MdThe house was used as a country estate and working farm that was known for it’s “fine blooded” cattle. 

The estate was originally sited on over 140 acres facing what is now Georgia Avenue.  Imagine a property that originally stretched from Georgia Avenue in the front, to past Sligo Creek in the back and from Colesville Road to present day Bonifant Street on the sides.   The house was accessed by a long drive from Georgia Avenue (then called Westminster Road).  The driveway is now the present day Pershing Drive.  The original GW Riggs house was brick, built in the Second Empire Style with a handsome mansard roof.   At this time the area was known as Sligo, it was not known as Silver Spring yet. 

Riggs Thompson House Front PorchThe Riggs family sold their Silver Spring Farm in July of 1864, a week after the torching and plundering of the Silver Spring area in a skirmish by Confederate and Union troops.  The Riggs estate was generally unscathed by the skirmish, except for the loss of some “hay forage”, vegetables and a valuable ox.
The second owners were William and Helen Thompson.  William Thompson was a prominent Washington businessman who was retiring from a plumbing and gas fitting business.  Thompson was also vice president of the Metropolitan National Bank and had financial interests in Steamboats and Real Estate. 

The Thompsons enlarged the house by adding an Italinate style front and side, encasing the original brick Second Empire/Mansard style house.  The outline of  the original Riggs house and mansard roof can still be seen peeking out over the top and at the back of the present house.

Riggs Thompson House from side showing original 1858 mansard roof outlineIn 1872 Thompson aquired more land along Colesville Rd increasing the size of the estate to 160 acres.

After the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad station opened in Silver Spring (1873) development increased in the Sligo area.  The train stop was given the name Silver Spring in Honor of the Blair Estate, but the area around the intersection of Colesville Road and Georgia Ave continued to be known as Sligo until the early 1900’s.

The Thompsons maintained a home in NW, Washington, DC and their country estate became a social center where they entertained frequently.  In the late 1880’s the Evening Star reported that the “beautiful rolling country of the Silver Sprng area” was characterized by “attractive residences of people who have established charming country homes with spacious surroundings of lawn, park,
forest and farm”.  The Riggs-Thompson house represents a period of prosperity when upper class Washingtonians established country seats in lower Riggs - Thompson House circa 1930-33?Montgomery County.

William Thompson died in 1896 on his Silver Spring  Farm and Helen Thompson continued to maintain the country estate until the early 1920’s.  She owned several automobiles driven by a chauffer and to manage the estate she employed an overseer.  Helen Thompson died in 1923 leaving her estate to her sister and a sister in law.

To be Continued . . . . .

Posted by Debbie Cook | Discussion: 2 Comments »

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