Monday, December 12, 2016

Westbard developer seeking to move forward with survey of African-American cemetery in Bethesda

Westbard developer Regency Centers/Equity One is moving quickly to seek answers about a historic African-American cemetery located on part of the property it now owns along Westbard Avenue. According to Springfield Civic Association President Phyllis Edelman, the firm was close to signing a contract with a "heritage and cultural management firm" late last week.

The contractor was recommended to Equity One by the Montgomery County Parks Department, and was favored because it is the only one on the department's list that can finish the survey this month, Edelman reports. After representatives of the Macedonia Baptist Church expressed concerns over the short timeframe, and potential uselessness of ground penetrating radar given the site's current conditions, Equity One offered to let the church or Parks Department direct the survey methods while still paying for the search effort.

Macedonia Baptist Church did not own the cemetery, but it is believed some of its members were among those buried there. The cemetery and remains interred there were very likely desecrated by construction crews who excavated part of the site when building the Westwood Tower apartments in the late 1960s. A pastor emeritus of Macedonia Baptist Church called for a full investigation into the incident last week, and for those responsible to be held accountable, if they did what witnesses have alleged they did.

From what I've researched so far, I find it highly unlikely that graves - much less all graves and possibly-relocated remains - could be located by the end of this month. If radar is unable to penetrate the fill on the site, the alternative search methods are much more time-consuming.


Anonymous said...

You spend entirely too much time wondering about Dyer.

Anonymous said...

The cemetery investigation at Westbard should precede redevelopment of the site. Any remains should be removed and reburied before redevelopment takes place, as required under the Maryland Burial Law.

Kudos to those who have submitted comments to the Planning Department on this point.

NOTE: Comments can be submitted on all aspects of the Westbard Sketch Plan to John Marcolin at the Planning Department: