Historic Takoma Reading Room

Reading Room Opens, October 2021

After months of planning and preparation, Historic Takoma opens its Reading Room on October 17, 2021. Initial hours are 1 PM – 4 PM on the first and third Sundays of each month. Hours and dates will be expanded in the future based on public interest and availability of volunteers to staff the room.

NOTE: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter the Reading Room. Visitors are asked to follow County health guidelines, including wearing a mask while in the Reading Room.
Historic Takoma’s Reading Room

The Reading Room marks the first time Historic Takoma has established regular visiting hours. The Reading Room contains Historic Takoma’s reference collections (see below) and archives. At this time only the reference collections will be open to the public. Processing and cataloging of the research archives continues, with the expectation that they will be open sometime in 2022. Access to the research archives is possible by appointment – see below.

The Reading Room is non-circulating. Visitors are invited to enjoy use of the materials in the room, but cannot remove items.

Reading Room Collections

The Reading Room contains a variety of reference collections. Featured is the Maryland Reference Collection on loan from the Takoma Park Maryland Library (city library) while the library undergoes renovation and reconstruction in the next few years. Historic Takoma is pleased to enter into this partnership arrangement.

The Reading Room also includes the Historic Takoma Reference Collection of books about Takoma Park, Montgomery County, Maryland, Washington DC, the Civil War, and a wide variety of architectural and design publications. The Local Authors Collection contains books by local writers, mainly from Takoma Park. We welcome donations by authors of books not yet in our collection. Most of the issues of the Takoma Voice and City Newsletter are also available for reading, along with a collection of journals and magazines about Maryland history. Details on all of these materials can be found in the Guide to Collections.

Reading Room Resources

In addition to the reference collections, the Reading Room contains other materials of interest – historical maps, exhibits of artifacts of early Takoma, and literature on such topics as property research and sources of additional information about Takoma Park and related topics. Handouts on these topics are in the Reading Room and can be found here.

The Historic Takoma Archives

The Historic Takoma Archives contain decades of records about the history of the Takoma area – photos, letters, government documents, scrapbooks, publications, newspapers, and more. The core of the collections are materials gathered by the Takoma Park Historical Society and transferred to Historic Takoma in the early 1980s. Over the last few decades additional records have been added, including those of many civic groups.

Historic Takoma volunteers are processing these materials by placing them in proper housing and cataloging them to make them available for future public access. Plans are underway to digitize certain highly fragile items and those that have particular interest and value to the community. This is slow, tedious work – we hope to begin making materials widely available sometime in 2022. Meanwhile, limited access is available by appointment. If interested, please write to archives@historictakoma.org.

How You Can Help

First – if you’re not a member of Historic Takoma, please consider joining. Information is available on the website.

Second – tell us what you’re interested in learning about. When you visit the Reading Room you will find a short questionnaire you can fill out and leave with us. Or send your thoughts and ideas to archives@historictakoma.org.

Third – volunteer! we need help with all manner of tasks to make the Reading Room successful. Those of you with technical skills in information technology (digitizing, GIS, websites), archives/library science, and grant writing are especially needed, but we welcome anyone with an interest in helping and learning to join the effort. When you visit the Reading Room you will find a short questionnaire you can fill out and leave with us. Or send your thoughts and ideas to archives@historictakoma.org and let us know how you would like to help.

Fourth – donate and contribute. We need your financial support to protect the collections and make them available to the public. We also need your historical items. If you’ve got old pictures, copies of documents, letters, newspapers, organizational records, and so on that are part of the story of the Takoma community we’d like to add them to our collections. Write to archives@historictakoma.org for more information on how to donate.

Reading Room FAQs

What is Historic Takoma? How do I join? How do I volunteer?

Historic Takoma is a non-profit civic organization dedicated to preserving, documenting, and sharing the history of Takoma Park, both in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Learn more about us, what we do, and how to join and volunteer at About Historic Takoma.

Can I check out books or other materials from the Reading Room? How about making copies of materials?

The Reading Room is a non- circulating collection. Use and enjoy the materials in the Reading Room only. They are not available for check out. You may scan items with a personal scanner. Historic Takoma does not offer photocopy or scan services. Remember, you are responsible for honoring any copyright restrictions.

Sunday afternoons are a bad time for me. Can I visit the Reading Room some other time?

Sure. Send a note to archives@historictakoma.org with the time you’d like to visit and we can schedule a visit. Give us multiple options so we can find a time that works for one of our volunteers.

How can I get access to items in your archives, like pictures of my house?

We plan to have the archives regularly open for research some time next year. In the meantime you can request an appointment to conduct research. Please write to archives@historictakoma.org to request an appointment. Be as specific as you can about what you are looking for so we can better assist you.

Is my house in the historic district?

For the Takoma Park (Maryland) Historic District you can look up the addresses of houses in the historic district in the Montgomery County Master Plan – a copy of this list is in a binder on the shelf with Takoma Park materials. You can also use this online GIS tool from the Montgomery County planning department. 

Detailed information about the historic districts in both Maryland and Washington DC is on our website under Historic Preservation.

I want to know about the history of my house. Do you have information about the houses in Takoma Park?

We have guides on researching property and house history. We also might have information in our Archives that is relevant. Start by building a property history as described in the guides. If you need help, contact Jim Douglas at sixmilesfromwashington@gmail.com. Jim has explored the histories of many properties in Takoma Park and can assist you. Once you know more about the house and people that lived there, contact us to see if we have additional information in our Archives. Write to archives@historictakoma.org.  You can also look in the index of House and Garden Tour brochures to see if your house was once on the tour. Tour brochures often include a brief history of the houses. Some brochures are available in the Reading Room. The entire collection is online and can be found through our website under “Using the Archives.”

I have some things to donate to Historic Takoma. How can I do that? 

Please send a note to archives@historictakoma.org with a description of the items. We’ll work with you to review the materials and arrange for a donation. We cannot accept drop offs of materials without prior notice.

I have a question about getting tax credits for work on my house. Can you help?

We have volunteers that are knowledgeable about tax credits and can provide advice on the process. Leave your contact information and we’ll have someone contact you, or send a note to info@historictakoma.org.

I want to make changes to my house in the Takoma Park Historic District. Does Historic Takoma need to approve that?

No. Historic Takoma is a private, civic organization. Permits for work in the Historic District in Maryland are managed by the Historic Preservation Commission. Contact them directly for information on how to apply. In DC, contact the Historic Preservation Review Board. Historic Takoma has volunteers that can provide advice on the permitting process. Drop a note to info@historictakoma.org to ask for assistance. 

My organization (club, neighborhood association, board, etc.) would like to hold meetings at Historic Takoma. You used to make space available. Are you still doing that?

For the time being Historic Takoma is not providing meeting space to outside groups due to COVID. We hope to resume doing so next year. Leave your contact information and we’ll let you know about using the space when we resume.

What about lectures and other programs? You used to do a lot of those. Are you going to start those again?

Yes! We hope to be able to resume lectures and talks in 2022. Is there something in particular you’d like to see on a program? Or a particular speaker you’d like to hear? Watch our website for information about events.

What about the House and Garden Tour? Are you still doing those?

Yes! We had to miss 2020 and 2021, but hope to have a tour in 2022. Watch our website for details. We’re also looking for volunteers to help with the tour and ideas of what to include in future tours. If you have suggestions please write to info@historictakoma.org.

I want to cite some of these materials in my work. What’s the proper citation?

Please cite either the Historic Takoma Reference Collection or the Takoma Park Library Maryland Reference Collection for those materials on loan from the Takoma Park Library.