Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sense of Place

Over the past week, I've met several people from "Silver Spring." I have to say that it seems people from Montgomery County have reduced the name 'Silver Spring' to the point of uselessness. From my experience anyone who lives east of Connecticut Avenue claims to be from Silver Spring and everyone who lives west of Connecticut says Bethesda (except in Rockville).

What would the Metro map look like if we used
how people defined the area to name stations?

While neither Silver Spring nor Bethesda are incorporated places and therefore don't have definite boundaries, one can use common sense to define the places. I work in Silver Spring (note: not "Silver Spring") and I can really call it Silver Spring. But if you live in Kensington, a place which is incorporated and has definite boundaries, you shouldn't call it "Silver Spring." I've even heard of people calling Langley Park and Burtonsville "Silver Spring."

I certainly understand why people want to call most of Montgomery County "Silver Spring." It's a phenomenon repeated across the Country. For instance, if you are marketing housing to anyone from Atlanta, you should bill it as being in "Vinings" (even if it's in Denver).

But when it comes to having a sense of community, it seems that people won't claim the places they actually live. In the District, it seems, people have a much stronger connection to neighborhoods so what is driving the lack of community in the suburbs?

What are your thoughts?


kenf said...

I think a lot of that has to do with the Post Office, that assigns a "Silver Spring" address to large portions of Montgomery County, irregardless of what neighborhood is involved. Used to be the portion of the county that was within a few miles of the railroad station, or the Montgomery Blair HS school district. BTW the actual spring, which used to exist, is right next to the railroad station.

Langley Park is in no way Silver Spring. Part of it is in PG county, and some more of it is in Takoma Park, again an incorporated city.

On the other, west, side of the park, there are several incorporated Chevy Chases, as well as Gathersburg just north of Rockville and a few other incorporated areas.

Dan Reed said...

There are two ways to look at it. Some people say they live in Silver Spring (because they have a Silver Spring address) but identify with a specific place, like Colesville or Aspen Hill or Calverton, where I grew up. This happens a lot more than you think, but is less apparent because within each of these communities are smaller subdivisions. Another way is to acknowledge that all parts of Silver Spring are actually quite similar - if not physically, then in terms of demographics and mindset.

I think that's what gives Silver Spring a "sense of place" - it is a large city, albeit an undefined one, and like a large city it's made up of smaller neighborhoods that are very different than each other but can generally come together to say "Yes, we live in Silver Spring." That's due in large part because of Silver Spring's revitalization, which made the name a desirable one to uphold.

(Unless you live in Burtonsville, in which case you say you live in Burtonsville, and I've never heard anyone say they actually live in Silver Spring; in fact, I've seen the reverse.)

My fellow Silver Spring bloggers, all of whom actually do live in what's traditionally called Silver Spring, might disagree with this, but I think you might get different answers depending on which part of Silver Spring the person you're asking is from.

In the meantime, we have the zip codes 20901-10, all of which have Silver Spring addresses. Using that, the boundaries of Silver Spring could look like this.

Michael said...

You forgot to rename "Dunn Loring/Merrifield" as "Falls Church" since that seems to be a name that's been abused a lot too.


Davemurphy said...

To put a finer point on Dan Reed's comment, 20910 and most of 20901 are what are commonly considered "real" Silver Spring.

Culturally all the other areas are tied insofar as that they are all located on the Georgia Avenue and US 29 corridors, which are the golden paths to DTSS. There is a strong sense of identification to the down town area, even if you grew up in Colesville or Calverton.

Unknown said...

I actually live by the Dunn Loring Metro, and I say live in 'Vienna' since my mailing address is Vienna.

Anonymous said...

Then again there are places (between Jones Mill Rd. and Grubb Rd) which are called Silver Spring CDP by the census bureau, Chevy Chase by the post office (20815), and Bethesda by the telcos.