Reprinted with permission of the Takoma Voice, printed May 2000.

By Sharon Burke

It was one of those cool and breezy spring days, with pale April light slanting eerily through the trees — a perfect day to commune with ghosts.

On Saturday, April 9th, 45 Takoma Park residents did just that as they retraced a long-lost trolley route once known as the Dinky Line. The walking tour, sponsored by Historic Takoma and led by long-time Takoma Park resident Larry Hodes, began outside the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op and ended just short of the Carroll Avenue bridge.

Clocking in at four hours, the tour almost lasted longer than the Dinky Line itself. The route was started in 1897, partly discontinued in 1905, and completely dismantled in 1937.

The Dinky Line was built to ferry Washingtonians away from the malarial swamps downtown to “an ideal spot for the seekers of country air and an evening’s entertainment,” according to a June 1900 Evening Star article.

This “ideal spot” was a resort called Wildwood, featuring the Glen Sligo Hotel, a dance pavilion, a log cabin lunchroon, “polite vaudeville” performances, and a millpond complete with mock “Caribbean” islands.

Although Washingtonians at the turn of the last century would have boarded the trolley to the hotel at Takoma Station after a 45 minute train ride from the city, the walking tour departed from what would have been the halfway point to the hotel.

Moving down Ethan Allen Avenue, the tour passed the site of a water tower torn down in 1924 and the Old Carroll Mansion, which was destroyed in 1950. The mansion once belonged to Civil War hero General Samuel “Old Bricktop” Carroll, whose heirs later conveyed the right-of-way for the trolley.

The tour wound through neighborhoods along Jackson, Boyd and Lincoln streets, pausing at a site along Heather Avenue where the Glen Sligo Hotel once stood.

Hodes encouraged his charges to look down at present day Sligo Creek and imagine a lakeside view. Decades before the Glen Sligo Hotel was built in 1900, the Sligo Creek had been dammed to support a mill, which originally produced whiskey in the 19th century. The dam created a large millpond, giving the “family-oriented” hotel its lakeside view.

According to Hodes, few families had a chance to enjoy the view, however. After only two years of operation, the Glen Sligo Hotel’s Boston-based owner ran into financial trouble and lost the property. The new owner leased the hotel to Baltimore gambling interests, who installed a seedy casino on the site.

Takoma Park residents, lured to the community by developer B.F. Gilbert’s promise of a “clean and healthful” environment, objected to the casino, mounting a vigilante raid at one point. Within only a year, the community had prevailed and the casino was closed. The buildings were finally demolished in 1920.

Continuing along the Sligo Creek Hiker-Biker trail, the tour literally followed in the footsteps of hotel guests, Hodes noted. The recently built trail is an echo of a 100-year old footpath, with some of the same trees still standing.

“This was a nice window on a past we didn’t know,” commented tour-goer Stacy Baker. “The extent of our local history knowledge was Roscoe the Rooster, ” she added. “We knew there had to be more.”

“It brought back memories for me,” said Charles “Al” Blackburn, who remembered seeing the”new” Carroll Avenue Bridge built in 1932.

Hodes said that the tour was possible because he and the tour’s originator, Claire Garman, had recently discovered the lost portion of the trolley route in an 1897 deed.

Historic Takoma plans to offer the Dinky Line Tour again in June.

Copyright © May 2000 Takoma Voice