The Talbot Avenue Bridge, built in 1918 by the B&O Railroad, has a huge historical significance to the African American population of Lyttonsville. Protests have erupted over plans to relocate the bridge in order to construct a 16 mile light-rail Purple line between Prince George’s and Montgomery County.
This century-old bridge dates back to the time of segregation, as it connected the black population of Lyttonsville to the stores and neighborhoods of downtown Silver Spring. At this time, blacks could not live in suburbs like Silver Spring due to discriminatory covenants and Jim Crow laws.
In honor of Black History Month, it is more imperative now than ever to look at the triumphs and struggles of African Americans. Lyttonsville was founded by a freed slave named Samuel Lytton in the 1950s. His city soon became populated by African Americans suffering from the repercussions racial discrimination.
According to Charlotte Coffield, an 83-year-old third-generation Lyttonsville resident, “We have deep feelings about the bridge. People who grew up here and the people here years before us have a very close connection to that bridge.” She recalls using the bridge to reach public buses in order to go shopping, eat in a restaurant or go to the movies in downtown Silver Spring. The bridge was essential to reaching the amenities located in the white communities.
While the Talbot Avenue Bridge may be the last surviving historically significant structure in the Lyttonsville community, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) seeks to tear it down and replace it to build the Purple Line.
Their reasoning is that this 105 foot long bridge is too short for the wider rail corridor they have in mind. Additionally, the Talbot Avenue Bridge was recently rated the most deteriorated bridge in Montgomery County for it has rusted greatly over time.
After a September Washington Post story addressed the concerns of local residents and historians, political momentum to save the bridge grew. The construction of the new purple line has been postponed due to a federal lawsuit opposing the demolishment on environmental grounds.
The director of the Montgomery County Parks Department, Mike Riley, is searching for a hospitable home for the bridge, noting that he would need the proper funding in order to execute a relocation. “We’d be excited to have any historical artifact in our parks that speaks to the county’s African American heritage,” Riley said.
In order to properly make way for the purple line, the unstable Talbot Avenue Bridge must be relocated. Instead of demolishing it, the bridge should instead be transferred to a new location, like Riley recommended, with a plaque detailing its historical significance. The Talbot Avenue is a piece of living history, and deserves proper treatment.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Robyn Fohouo of Richard Montgomery High School