National Park Seminary, Japanese Pagoda, 2805 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, MD
Significance: The Japanese pagoda is one of the landmark campus buildings. Even before its upturned eaves were removed, the Japanese bungalow looked austere compared to this ostentatious structure next door. Instead of simply incorporating Japanese detailing on an American house design, the pagoda resembles a Japanese temple. It is one of the most flamboyant and ornamental of any of the campus structures. The building was one of eight clubhouses built on campus. It was the sorority house for Chi Psi Epsilon. The pagoda was not a rare form of garden and suburban architecture. The building type appeared in many estate gardens and in many suburban neighborhoods. Only one other girls school was located that had a Japanese-inspired building on campus, however, Traces of a Japanese design are barely legible in the Ransom Everglades School's meeting house, located in Coconut Grove, Florida. It is not nearly as provocative as the pagoda at NPS. Since the eighteenth century, wealthy English and American estate owners have erected Asian-inspired houses and follies on their grounds. Asian designs became popular with Americans after trade with China was established in the eighteenth century. The reopening of trade with Japan in the 1850s after years of isolation, the publication of Edward Morse's "Japanese Houses and Their Surroundings" in 1885, and the exhibition of Japanese houses at World Fairs, all contributed to the popularity of Japanese goods and designs around the turn of the twentieth century. Exotic forms, in this case, Asian, were intended to reflect the owner's sophistication and refinement. Many wealthy Americans had Japanese rooms in their houses and less affluent ones purchased Japanese wares. Because of its size and ostentatious design, the pagoda looks more like a garden folly than a dwelling house. A wide assortment of exotic Japanese buildings were designed as enticing eye-catchers in many country estate gardens. Some were placed within picturesque English-style landscapes and others were a part of a larger Japanese garden design. Japanese architects were responsible for many works, but pattern books were also available for American builders' use. The NPS pagoda was probably a result of the latter. Because the pagoda is closely situated between several eclectic buildings instead of in a natural garden setting, it is slightly out of context for a garden folly and somewhat more like an amusement park attraction.
Survey number: HABS MD-1109-J
Building/structure dates: 1907 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1919-1923 Subsequent Work