In one of the Washington, D.C. newspapers (the "Times-Herald" of August 8, 1949) there appeared a noteworthy description of Takoma Park in the series "Washington—How She's Grown." This article was on the first page under the title "Takoma Park Hopes to Stay a Green Eden by Sligo Creek." The back page carried five pictures of local scenes, the largest by far being of the Sligo S.D.A. church.
In this series the friendly reporter Edwin D. Neff takes his readers on a Picturesque tour of metropolitan Washington, showing the amazing changes of the past few decades. The story of Takoma Park is written in such a kindly spirit toward S.D.A.'s and gives such interesting historical information regarding the early beginnings of the town, that we are sure MINISTRY readers will be glad to read a brief summary of the contents.—M. H.T.
There's no place like Takoma Park. It's a state of mind, a way of life. Though it is incorporated under Maryland law as a city, it really is a city park with houses.
"If you live in Takoma Park you earn about $5,000 a year, work for the Department of Agriculture, or have just retired, spend most of your time in the garden (it's a beauty), rarely bother with the movies and want to be left strictly alone by politicians in the District, Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, though your town lies in all three jurisdictions. . . .
"IT BEGAN IN 1883.—Your town began as an idea in one man's mind. That was long ago in 1883, when the District was a malarial swamp with an evil-smelling water supply. The man was Benjamin F. Gilbert, a real estate promoter, who was looking for high ground, pure air, delightful shade, crystal water and no mosquitoes.
"He located 90 acres of these God-given commodities northwest of the city in a rolling, wooded country of black dirt, fine forests, wildflowers and bubbling springs. It was a great place to raise kids and azaleas. Any change in this little Eden by Sligo creek clearly would be for the worse.
"GREEN THUMBS ABOUND.—And so your town stayed pretty much the same, though of course it grew. It was never a place for high-kickers and ta-ra-ra-boom-deay. High up—near heaven. That's what the Indian word Takoma means, a good place for family living.
"Your town was further anchored to the verities by a group of learned gentlemen from the Department of Agriculture, all of whom had at least five green thumbs. They could grow lilies in a desert and apple trees on rocks. In Takoma Park, however, lay that rich, black earth. . . . Shortly the whole place was blooming like a greenhouse.
"There was a faint horticultural flavor to the street names these gentlemen supposedly chose, too—Holly, Fern, Elder, Dahlia, Cedar, Butternut, Oak, Tulip, Maple, Spruce, Poplar, Hickory and Ash. And a fine disregard for historical sensitivities—Grant and Lee avenues running side-by-side!
"High up—near heaven. A garden near the sky. That was, and still is, Takoma Park. No wonder the Seventh Day Adventists who came early in the century, believed they were divinely guided in selecting your town for their new headquarters.
"STRANGE AT FIRST.—And these people, too, added to the dignity and self-respect of Takoma. They were obviously nice people, with soft voices and kind faces, eager to be your friends, or let you alone—however you wanted it. They didn't smoke nor drink, nor use tea, coffee nor meat. They worked hard and prospered. They built splendid churches and fine homes. Their sanitarium became one of the best anywhere. Their publication, Review and Herald, was and is, a thriving business.
"It was a bit strange at first, though, seeing the little groups of Adventist churchgoers worship from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, then hang out the wash on Sunday morning when you were on your way to church. But, if you complained, they graciously gave up their Sunday labors. They worshipped their way and respected your worship. If you asked, they explained their beliefs willingly.
"All Christians are familiar with the teaching against labor on the Sabbath, but the Adventists rigidly stick to it. 'Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work : but the seventh day is the Sabbath . . . in it thou shalt not do any work. . .
"Saturday is arrived at as the seventh day by counting from the previous Sunday. 'And the evening and the morning were the first day.'
"The sunset-to-sunset worship is based on Leviticus 23, 32: 'from even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.'
"All Christians believe in the second coming of Christ, but the Adventists stress this promise and have built their religion around it, though they set no date. They believe that death is only a sleep until the return of Christ when the righteous shall be raised to Heaven. One thousand years from Christ's return—the millennium—all evil will be destroyed (by fire) and the earth purified, becoming an Eden for man's return.
"3,000 ADVENTISTS THERE.—There are 3,000 Adventists in Takoma Park today, about one-fourth the total population, and this is the headquarters for world-wide missions, supported by a $9,000,000 mission budget. . . .
"A FAMILY PLACE.—Yes, your town is garden near the sky, high up—near heaven.
You like it that way and want it to stay that way. A family place without commercial hustle to spoil the quiet afternoons and evenings when Takomans like to sit on their front porches. . . .
"But now, something's in the air. There are those confounded young people who want shopping centers and movies. And that abortive' effort last May to annex the Prince Georges county area where most of the new construction is going up. Folks over there don't go back to the old times. They'd sure stir up a fuss if they ever got their people on your city council.
"But, you remember, the Department of Agriculture men were new once, with fancy ideas about gardening. And the Seventh-day Adventists with their Saturday church-going. You absorbed them all and your town only grew more beautiful. At bottom something tells you it will stay that way—Eden by Sligo creek."