Riggs Thompson House
Riggs Thompson House
Silver Spring, Maryland
From 1990, The Chelsea School in Silver Spring utilized the historic Riggs-Thompson House and a series of subsequent additions as the buildings on its educational campus. The historic property itself is actually an aggregation of building initiatives.
The c 1858 Riggs-Thompson House had once been a much larger land parcel (about 3% of the original), but it remains in its original location with sufficient surrounding grounds to preserve its character as a free standing house on open space considerably more generous than other neighboring properties on far smaller lots. It no longer retains its historic landscape or its integrity of setting, both having changed considerably since its construction. A driveway brings visitors to the front (south) of the house although an earlier orientation (and landscape strategy) brought a stepped entrance (still extant) from Pershing Avenue. The formal garden west of the structure has largely disappeared and most of the trees around the house are relatively new trees, not of the original varieties.
The house itself is in good condition, benefiting from good stewardship and a renovation program. Perhaps because of its eclectic nature, the house through its size, scale, design, detailing, and materials retains the appearance of a country house of informal, domestic character. It sits on the highest portion of the Chelsea School site in a wooded, residential setting, and as such, is buffered by plant materials and topography from its neighbors. The immediate grounds surrounding the house established as the Environmental Setting provides sufficient grounds to discern the historical architectural character of the Riggs-Thompson House.
The proposed new lot that would be created through the sub-division reinforces the concept of open space around the historic Riggs-Thompson House. It is to be the same size as the Environmental Setting but in a configuration that lends better understanding of the historic qualities of the house including its setting. The removal of the school additions is the most important part of the strategy to achieve this, but the house will benefit from being seen atop its historic hill setting largely from public open space below. Trees and other landscaping features create a buffer zone between the new development and the historic resource and dependency outbuildings related to the house (mostly the garage) start to accommodate the differing orientations and their geometries. The house, now within a campus of parking lots and amorphous spaces, will have a more formal setting restored with defined open grounds establishing its immediate domain.