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The area where the U.S. Census Bureau headquarters is located is named after Col. Samuel Taylor Suit, a nineteenth century businessman and entrepreneur, whose farm, "Suitland," was located near the current intersection of Suitland and Silver Hill Roads.
Col. Suit's son, Arthur, owned some 41 acres of land where the Federal Center is now located, and sold all but 3 acres to William A. Harrison in 1892. Arthur Suit and his wife moved into a house near the corner of Suitland and Silver Hill Roads. Suit also had a store and bar and bowling alley in one building about 1900. Arthur Suit, who also served as constable and deputy sheriff, erected a small one-room building near the house to serve as a jail. He found it more convenient to keep prisoners there for a short period of time than to take them by horse and buggy to the county seat in Upper Marlboro.
At the turn of the Twentieth century, the village of Suitland had a general store, post office, churches and several houses. In 1909, local residents organized the Suitland Improvement Association and built a community meeting hall still used today by the Suitland Civic Association.
One of the properties acquired by the federal government was the 52-acre Minear tract, which was purchased for $100,000. The tract included the colonial-style house, now known as Suitland House, which was built in 1937 by Lovell O. Minear, developer of Fort Lincoln Cemetery.
Another property acquired for the Suitland Federal Center was the former dairy farm and summer home of the Carry Family, located between the present locations of gates one and two, on Suitland Road. Arthur Carry emigrated from Germany in the late 1880s and established the National Capital Brewing Company, located at 14th and D Streets, S.E. The National Capital Brewing Company was associated with several other local breweries that produced National Bohemian Beer, which would become more closely associated with Baltimore, Maryland, in the post-WWII years.
When Prohibition closed the brewery, Carry switched to the manufacture of ice cream, which he sold under the name "Carry's Special" to the B&O Railroad for their dining cars. The company later became part of the Meadowgold Ice Cream Company. In 1923, the Carry Ice Cream Co. was also one of the first companies in the country to sell individual servings of ice cream in a 5-oz. container--a new marketing concept introduced by the Dixie Cup Company of Easton, MD. The Carry Home served as an office and community center for government housing that was built on the property in about 1943. It burned to the ground in 1960.
The Suitland Manor apartments, directly across Suitland Road from the Federal Center, were built in 1942 in anticipation of an influx of federal workers. Parkway Terrace, off Silver Hill Road at Suitland Parkway was built five years later. Many Census Bureau employees lived in these developments and others in the community, such as Whitehall Square and Marlborough House, and walked to work.
Cedar Hill Cemetery is the oldest of the three cemeteries in Suitland, likely named for the cedar trees that used to line both sides of Suitland Road from the DC line to Silver Hill Road. Prior to 1913, it was known as Forest Lake Cemetery, and currently covers some 135 acres. Early churches are reported to have performed baptisms in the pond in the cemetery.
Across the road from Cedar Hill Cemetery is Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, covering 108 acres. It was started in 1927 as a burial ground for African Americans.
The Washington National Cemetery, next to the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, has 65 acres and dates to 1934. Both of these cemeteries are located on what was once the Landon Dairy Farm.
The store on the southwest corner of Suitland and Silver Hill Roads was originally a Safeway grocery store, built in 1944. The Safeway relocated to the shopping center at Silver Hill and Swann Roads in 1960, and then to Penn Station (at the corner of Silver Hill Road and Pennsylvania Avenue) in the 1980s.
Even though a post office was first established in Suitland in 1878, it was discontinued and reestablished several times over the next 25 years. In the early 1900s, "Anacostia" was the general mailing address for the Suitland area. A mail collection box was placed at the intersection of Suitland and Silver Hill Roads in 1941. The current post office building on Suitland Road was built around 1955.
Silver Hill Road was formerly known as "Old Road" or "Alexandria Road," and went from the Silver Hill Area to what is now Marlboro Pike in District Heights. Silver Hill Road was paved with two lanes of concrete in 1932, from District Heights to St. Barnabas Road. It was widened to six lanes in 1965.
The Suitland Parkway was opened in 1944 to connect the Navy's Anacostia Air Station and the Army's Bolling Field to the Camp Springs Army Airfield, now known as Andrew's Air Force Base, which became operational in May of 1943. Originally the 9-mile long highway was for military use only. It came under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service in 1949. The legislation establishing Suitland Parkway stated: ". . .the Parkway shall be developed, operated, and administered as a limited access road primarily to provide a dignified, protected, safe, and suitable approach for passenger vehicle traffic to the National Capital and for an uninterrupted means of access between the several Federal establishments adjacent thereto and the seat of government in the District of Columbia." The Parkway was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 as an historic transportation entryway into the nation's capital and for its landscape architecture. It was listed on that register on June 2, 1995.
[Thanks to Darlie Norton and her "A History of Suitland, Maryland, 1867-1976," for much of the information about the early days of Suitland]