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Historian documents Germantown’s rise
By Brooke Kenny   - 09/23/2008

The Germantown Gazette

More Info on This Book: Around Germantown

When out working in her garden, Margaret "Peg" Coleman sometimes catches herself looking up at the window of her 1786 log cabin and thinking about the struggles its previous residents endured.

"It seems they're still around in some way," she says. "…There's a different feeling you have in an old house versus in a new house."

"Local history is especially fascinating to me," Colesman says, so much so that she bought the abandoned log cabin on land just outsisde Germantown, then spent 16 years restoring it, eventually turning it into a bed and breakfast.

Preserving the cabin was always the plan.

"So many people told us we should just push it into the ground because it was almost there anyway," she recalls.

Coleman, who holds a degree in history from Hood College and belongs to both the Montgomery County and the Boyds historical societies, has made researching and documenting the county's roots a major part of her life.

Her most recent book "Around Germantown" is a pictorial history, filled with then and now pictures of various landmarks. Lengthy captions detail the historical facts.

If it were incorporated, the book point out, Germantown would be Maryland's second largest city. Its population was 85,000 in 2003, and the 2008 estimate is 90,000.

Coleman collected the pictures and information from members of the community with deep roots in Germantown and by sifting through land records at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. She took most of the modern-day photographs.

Coleman moved from New Mexico with her scientist husband to their Boyds home in 1969 when he took a job with the Atomic Energy Commission, now a U.S. Department of Energy facility in Germantown.

She says it feels like Germantown was built overnight. One day it had more cows than people, and the next, it was a bustling suburban town.

"It seemed like it was just so fast and so dramatic," she says.

Coleman has long been a history buff. In 1983, she researched and wrote "Montgomery County: A Pictorial History." She also wrote "Paul of Montgomery," a children's historical novel, and "Mama Wears Two Aprons," a book about women in farming and farm marketing.

Arcadia Publishing, which specializes in localized history books, invited Coleman to put together a book about Germantown. She was happy to oblige.

Coleman hopes her readers come to appreciate the work that has been done to make Germantown what it is — a town filled with lakes, hiker-biker trails, pedestrian-friendly areas, good schools and a great town center.

"I hope [readers] walk away feeling very proud of Germantown and the jobs the professional planners have done," she says, noting that it took a decade to come up with Germantown's first Master Plan, and planners scrutinized every inch of its 11,000 acres.

As pleased as Coleman is with the way Germantown has turned out, she sometimes misses the way things used to be.

"I do feel sort of bad for the old places that just aren't anymore."

"Around Germantown" is available at area bookstores, online retailers and at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Buy It Now: Around Germantown $19.99

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