California Living in Maryland: Determining Significance and Integrity of Ranch Houses in the Washington, DC Suburbs

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This final project examines the varieties of ranch houses in the Washington, DC suburban area to create a context for determining significance and integrity for National Register and Maryland Inventory of Historic Places eligibility. Though ranch houses and suburban neighborhoods have been included in the Maryland historic inventory, a Washington, DC suburban area context report specifically focused on ranch houses is absent. Individual neighborhoods together make up a significant portion of Maryland’s suburban housing stock, making it particularly important to develop such a document. As many hundreds of these mid-century resources become eligible for the National Register, questions about their treatment are particularly relevant. The Georgia State Historic Preservation Office produced a theme study of ranch houses in 2010 that serves as a model for developing the survey methodology to study a sample of ranch houses located in Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. The completeness of the Georgia study, the thoroughness of their suggested survey methodology, and the quality of their findings, make it an appropriate model to apply to Maryland. This study focuses on the two counties with the highest concentration of ranch houses and mid-century suburban development located “inside” the Washington beltway. Survey questions address construction material, stylistic attributes, context, and proximity to other listed resources and districts. These questions led to the identification of local patterns, which are then placed in the national context of ranch house development to better understand their significance. A review of the national history of ranch houses gives appropriate context for the survey results, and for their introduction and construction in Maryland, and provides a timeline for the growth of suburban ranch tract neighborhoods in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.


Advisory committee: Dennis Pogue and Kirsten Crase.