Restored visitors center showcases Clarksburg history
Aug. 14, 2002
Susan Singer-Bart
Staff Writer

Tom Fedor/The Gazette

Kim Ambrose (left), regional marketing manager for Terrabrook, Thomas "Tucky" Woodfield and his wife Eloise of Clarksburg, and Joann Woodson (right) stand outside the new Clarksburg Visitors Center for Terrabrook, which is developing Clarksburg Town Center. The Woodfields and Woodson are planning a 250th anniversary celebration for Clarksburg.

The pink house on the corner of Route 355 and Redgrave Place in the Clarksburg historic district is pink no more.

Terrabrook, developer of the adjacent Clarksburg Town Center, bought the house and has restored the exterior to a more traditional shade of taupe. The interior has been converted into a visitor center on the first floor and offices on the second.

"We tried to keep in the character of what was there," said architect Mary Reader of the Architecture Design Group in Alexandria.

Earlier renovations to the house had damaged the structure and character of the 91-year old house, Reader said. The house was originally the elegant home for Laura and John Gardner. Gardner built the wooden house himself.

Most recently the house was a photographer's studio and an insurance business was in the garage.

Eloise Woodfield remembers visiting the house in the late 1940s when she was a child. The then 13-room house belonged to her friend's grandparents.

"Hoffman bought it and turned it into a sew and save center in the 1960s," said Joanne Woodson.

This was once the commercial center of Clarksburg. Doctor offices and stores filled the houses around it, Woodfield said.

"The house was structurally in very bad shape," Reader said. "We took everything off. It was down to the studs."

Maryland's new smart code allowed them to bring the house up to current code standards without destroying the historic integrity of the house.

The floor joists were reinforced, the major beams replaced and a new heating and air condition system, lighting, bathroom and butler's pantry added. A ramp from the back of the building makes the first floor handicap accessible.

The staircase through the center of the building and an outside staircase to the second floor were removed and a new staircase added to the back. The front entry stairs were widened and new pickets and floor planks added to the front porch.

"We brought it back to its glory we hope and made it structurally sound," said Terrabrook regional marketing manager Kim Ambrose.

Terrabrook bought the house a year ago for $500,000, or about the price of a single-family home in the town center community. The renovation cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, Ambrose said.

The exterior is now a more subdued shade of taupe with white shutters and a wrap around white front porch. Overgrown bushes were cut back or removed and new shrubs and flowers that are appropriate for the house's original era were added, Ambrose said. The house is surrounded by a new white picket fence.

"Why don't you buy the rest of the old structures and do the same thing?" longtime resident Tom Woodfield asked.

A large three-dimensional map of the community sits in the center of the first floor. Clarksburg's history is displayed on the walls. Terrabrook has adopted a bicycle theme for the town center because the community will be pedestrian friendly and a hiker-biker trail will tie the neighborhoods together. The house décor reflects the bicycle theme.

The town center is adjacent and northwest of the existing center of Clarksburg, which is now the historic district. The Gardner House center will introduce visitors to historic Clarksburg, explain the local schools and services and the design of the new home community. Potential buyers will be referred to the builders' sales offices in the town center.

A multi-use town center of nearly 300 acres is planned to be compatible with the Clarksburg historic district. It will have a dense mix of 1,300 homes -- including townhouses and apartments -- bordered by Clarksburg, Piedmont and Stringtown roads.

So far 40 families have moved to the Clarksburg town center. All 1,300 homes planned will be occupied within three to five years, Ambrose said.

The town center, with a mix of retail and residential aspects, is set to be the centerpiece of Montgomery County's last planned development along the Interstate 270 corridor.

To visit

The Clarksburg Visitors Center, 23330 Frederick Road, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, call 301-515-8200.