Over a year ago (June 18, 2014), The Town Courier profiled the community that was Quince Orchard and told of a project to resurrect the area’s history. Most of the work of that project, called “The Quince Orchard Project,” has been going on at Quince Orchard High School where students from QO and other area high schools and colleges have been gathering to learn more about the history of the area and to film it. Now a major push not only to understand and research the area, but also to help preserve and protect it, is underway through Maryland’s Six-to-Fix program.
Six-to-Fix is a program of Preservation Maryland, and Pleasant View is one of six programs in the state to receive attention this year. The reasons for its selection are several: the historical nature of the site, not just to Montgomery County and Maryland but to the nation, the need for preservation amidst deterioration, and the strong support of the Quince Orchard Project at Quince Orchard High School. The Six-to-Fix program will supervise and assist in the preservation and advancement of the three primary sites within the community of Quince Orchard, known as Pleasant View. Their engineers, and especially their professional grant writers, will assist the Pleasant View Historic Association trustees and others in laying out a plan that will preserve the church, rehab the school and develop and protect the land covered by the cemetery.
The Rev. Gerard Green, chairman of the association, said that several projects demand attention. “It will take between 150 and 200 thousand dollars just to stabilize the church, with its cracking steeple, sides which are bowing out, and to rehab the school. All three—church, school and cemetery—have populations of groundhogs that are growing, aggressive and not helping stability.” The reason for the lack of progress in rehab of both has clearly been the small size of the association membership and its dispersal throughout the community to other churches like Fairhaven, one of the original three, and the state. “There is no endowment, no provision for an operating budget. The Association Board has been paying for basic maintenance out of their pockets,” Green pointed out. That the buildings are still standing is a testament to the trustees’ dedication and commitment to preservation, he added.
Green is adamant about the value of the history of the Pleasant View site to Quince Orchard and Montgomery County in particular. “Pleasant View is the only one of the three sites (Hunting Hill and McDonald Chapel are the other two) to still exist in visible form,” Green said. He wonders if the full significance of the fusion of the three into Fairhaven is fully realized since Montgomery County was one of the few counties in Maryland to stay together through the trauma of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Compromise was necessary for the survival of the smaller communities, and it happened here,” he pointed out. Green is also convinced that the nature of Quince Orchard, which once existed on maps of the area as a settled town, established an equality and sense of cooperation that is rare in American life. “The folks of Quince Orchard, white and black, made a specific and hard decision amidst the chaos of the ‘60s and ‘70s to stay together. Reconciliation rather than resistance made it all possible and gave us the diverse community we enjoy today,” he said.
The success of the Quince Orchard Project, conceived by Green’s son, Jason, and his daughter, Dr. Kisha Davis, continues with Whitman High School and other schools getting involved and a turn to area middle schools and their teachers to join in the educational effort. Green foresees the day that Pleasant View becomes a regularly visited site by classes interested in studying its history. “There are plans for a complete survey and listing of those interred in the cemetery with information developed for the public there, as well as projects involving the Colored School,” Green said. These projects are naturals for Explorer Scouts and the QO Project. It is even conceivable that the QO Project could expand to include middle school members in its work to develop the history of the area.
“We spent some weeks after hearing of the grant just dreaming,” said Green about the Pleasant View Historic Association. “What are the goals for this project, what do we want in the program that will lead to further understanding of the role of Quince Orchard in the area’s and the state’s history? This is such a rich area in so many ways that it demands study and expansion to the public’s attention.” With the help and expertise of the Six-to-Fix program, it might be possible to bring the association’s dreams to reality.
Green credits Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland, with enthusiastic, knowledgeable and effective adoption of the Pleasant View project as one of the six. “His enthusiasm was apparent, and he knew the value of the site. He got me excited about it!” Green said.
Preliminary work has already begun on planning. More to come as plans become firmer.