Not far from the Capital Beltway is a cluster of formerly dilapidated structures, now integrated into a beautiful condo development. These are the remains of the National Park Seminary.
The development dates back to 1887, when Ye Forest Inn was built as a tourist resort. In 1894, the buildings were turned into a girls’ boarding school called the National Park Seminary. The new ornate, classically-inspired architecture on campus was based on plans brought from the Chicago World’s Fair.
While there were around 400 students in the 1920s, by the Great Depression there were only 40. During World War II, the Army took over the Forest Glen campus and used it for recovering amputees. It was also employed to house wounded soldiers during the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as for animal research.
Yet in the 1970s, the place was in a state of decay, and by 1978 all patients were gone. The Army planned to tear down the campus, but it was spared by the Save Our Seminary association. An arson destroyed one structure in 1993, and in 2003 a private developer took over the property. While it continues to be altered into a residential community, there is an effort to preserve the historic structures that remain.
As of 2015, much of the property has been turned into residential space; efforts continue, but there are still interesting architectural fixtures and ruins on the site. There is a self-guided tour, comprised of nine markers, that give some context to the sights.
Know Before You Go
From the Capital Beltway (I-495), take the Georgia Avenue Southbound exit; turn left on Seminary Road. Seminary Road bears off to the right at a traffic light, but continue through the traffic light onto Linden Lane. After about a mile, Linden Lane intersects with Cassedy Street; the best way to continue is to park on Linden Lane and proceed onto Cassedy on foot.
Once a month, the Save Our Seminary group gives guided tours of the grounds and inside a couple of the buildings; check their website for times.
As of summer 2017, most of the former campus has been converted into townhouses, and the best way to access the remaining ruins is via Smith Street, a dead end that sweeps around toward the castle, a former dormitory, and a handful of statues that are surrounded by overgrowth. Entering via Smith Street and driving to the end allows access to the remaining ruins on foot, without having to walk through the considerable undergrowth that prevents access from the Linden Place side. Be aware that the remaining grounds have been purchased by a development company and plans are in place for renovations, but so far the remaining structures remain untouched.
- "Forest Glen: Photographs of a Seminary in Arresting Decay," Atlas Obscura: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/washington-dc-forest-glen/