Just a mile or two from historic Brookeville, which served as the U.S. capital for a day, lies the site of a bombed-out area where the Civil Defense Administration trained its staff on what to do if nuclear weapons rained down on an American city.
Six partially-completed concrete-and-brick buildings were built on what became known as Rescue Street. The buildings had neither windows nor doors. No one ever lived in this ghost town, but it was an active place. Two-week training courses, which occurred daily, featured scenarios with lots of fake blood, smoke, and the saving of frantic, injured people. These “victims” were often students from nearby colleges.
The simulations and drills went on from 1952 to 1958. After those six years, the training ended, and the land remained dormant until 1968 when most of it was sold to become the Brookeville Knolls subdivision. People moved into the new houses near the intersection of Rena Court and DuBarry Drive, beginning in the 1970s.
A family that currently lives in a home where some 5,000 CDA personnel learned how to save lives in the event of a nuclear attack was surprised to learn of the land’s history. They were impressed and hoped they might be able to find some relics around the neighborhood.
The nearby Longwood Community Center was also constructed near the site.
The area where the community center now sits traces its history back several hundred years. The building’s original owner was Thomas Moore, a civil engineer, inventor of the refrigerator and a friend of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Washington, D.C.-based patent attorney George Kimmel bought the home and surrounding land in 1935 and established the Longwood Preparatory School for Boys, which opened in 1947.
According to the records kept at the community center, “Longwood is founded upon the premise that, coincident with a sound formal education and character training, there must be an adequate health and physical development program.”
Tuition, including room and board, was $1,300 a year, and only $600 for day students who got their lunches there.
The school operated until 1951, when Kimmel sold the land to the federal government for the civil defense training center.
The County purchased 9.4 acres, upon which now stands the home of the Longwood Recreation Center. It is a historic site.
Cristen Steele, a recreation coordinator who works at the center, is aware of the area’s history.
Steele proudly pointed out the huge mural, painted by artist Greg Mort. It features bits and pieces of the area’s history, a portrait of Kimmel, and depictions of students practicing several different sports.
Several people have told her that a nearby hill was created to shelter the Civil Defense Administration’s supplies, but Steele is skeptical. She has seen photos of the area that clearly show the hill was there before the 1950s, she said.
The area most people know as Brookeville is an unincorporated area in the County, near Olney and Sandy Spring.
However, there is a Town of Brookeville. It covers about 60 acres and a population of fewer than 150 people.
This tiny town, however, is home to the Madison House, which was built in the late 1700s. During the War of 1812, President James Madison fled Washington and stayed in this brick residence when British forces invaded the capital and burned the White House.
Madison arrived at the house on Aug. 26, 1814 and spent the night there, leaving the next afternoon. During that short time, the house served as both the capital and the Executive Mansion.
Brookeville is in the northeastern section of the County, only 12 miles north of Washington, D.C.