July-August 2011 | July-August 2011

Since You Asked: July-Aug. 2011

Questions and answers about the Bethesda area.

share this

What’s the castle down by Candy Cane City in Chevy Chase?

—Jon Gardner, formerly of Silver Spring, now living in London

The Rossdhu Gatehouse is the last remnant of a 100-acre estate near Beach Drive in Chevy Chase, built in the late 1920s by Washington socialite Daisy Calhoun and Clarence Crittenden Calhoun, her third husband, according to a history of the property compiled by the Broulik family. The Brouliks bought the house in 1979.

The centerpiece of the estate was a 30-room castle named and modeled after a 15th-century stone castle associated with the Scottish Calhoun clan, the family history says. It was used briefly as a nightclub after the Great Depression depleted the Calhouns’ fortune. In 1939, the castle, gatehouse and 9 acres were sold at auction. The castle was converted into apartments, then demolished in 1957, according to the Brouliks.

The gatehouse, which looks like a miniature castle, became a single-family residence and is now home to Jan Broulik and his partner, Joe Phillips. They say people sometimes come onto the property to explore the grounds.

“We have had many people just stroll around, thinking it is a museum or a public building,” Phillips says. They’re “surprised when we tell them it’s a private home.”

What’s going on with the property at the corner of Wisconsin and Montgomery avenues? The Exxon station there closed many months ago, and there has been a fence around the property with no sign of what might be opening at that location.

—Jim Barnett, Bethesda

The property at 7340 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda was the focus of a legal dispute between ExxonMobil, which owns the site, and Bobby Joe Wheeler/Anchor Farms Inc., the station’s former manager.

The station closed in March 2009 after ExxonMobil decided to phase out of the direct-served retail business—where it acted as both owner and supplier—according to ExxonMobil spokeswoman Laura Paredes. ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit in March 2010 in Montgomery County Circuit Court against Wheeler and others for breach of contract and other issues, according to court records. Alan Rothenberg, Wheeler’s lawyer, said he couldn’t comment on the case because of a confidentiality agreement.

The lawsuit was dismissed in March. Now ExxonMobil is preparing to sell the property, Paredes says.

What’s the history of the Old Bethesda Trolley Trail?

—Stacy Cohen, Bethesda

The six-mile trail used for walking and cycling runs from Bethesda to Rockville, following the route of the Tenallytown and Rockville Railroad, a now-defunct trolley line. (Many trolley companies used “railroad” in their names to describe their tracks, says Ken Rucker, director of the National Capital Trolley Museum in Silver Spring.)

The trolley started running from Bethesda to Glen Echo in 1891, according to 100 Years of Capital Traction: The Story of Streetcars in the Nation’s Capital (Taylor Publishing Co., 1976), by LeRoy O. King Jr.

Soon after, the trolley line was extended to Bethesda Park, an amusement park in Alta Vista with “roller coasters, daredevil aeronautic performances, a dance hall and a hotel,” according to a Montgomery County Department of Transportation brochure.

In 1896, a hurricane destroyed the amusement park and it never reopened, King says in his book. The trolley line merged with the Georgetown and Tenallytown Railway Company in 1897. It was extended to Rockville in 1900, and continued to carry passengers from Washington to Rockville until 1935, when buses replaced the trolleys.

The Montgomery County Council decided in 2004 to upgrade the trail. The improvements included building bridges over Interstates 270 and 495, the Transportation Department brochure says.

Have a question you’d like answered about someone or something in the Bethesda area? Email your question to sinceyouasked@bethesdamagazine.com. Please include your name and the city in which you live.