New laws for smoke detectors in Maryland

March 2nd, 2016
new smoke detector

An example of the new 10 year smoke detector where the battery cannot be removed

A lot of homeowners have overlooked the new law for smoke detectors in Maryland that went into effect this year. The law applies to all homes in Maryland including condos and townhomes. The  requirements of Maryland’s smoke detector law vary depending on the date that your home was built. Basically recently built homes or those that are undergoing major renovation and  or expansion must have built in hard wire smoke detectors with a ten year battery back up.  In this case a good and dependable contractor is going to know what is required of your home. The purpose of this article is to address the requirements of homes that are older. In the past, the law required all homes did not require hard wired smoke detector  to have battery powered smoke detectors installed. These detectors are usually installed by the homeowner. The smoke detectors had to be is specific locations depending on the location of bedrooms and number of levels in a home. Under the new Maryland law “all” home owners with battery powered smoke detectors must replace the older type 9 volt battery powered smoke detectors with new, 10 year non-removable battery powered detectors that also have a hush button.

 

The reason behind this is to correct two serious and common issues occurring in households that have battery powered detectors. The first is that the average life of a smoke detector  is about 1o years. Many homes now have detectors that were installed over ten years ago and may be defective or just non functioning. The other issue is that sometimes high humidity or cooking smoke will set off a smoke alarm. Residents will then sometimes remove the battery to turn off the alarm and forget to replace it. The problem with both of these issues is that they usually are not noticed until after the fire department puts out the fire.  The new required detectors will have a permanent battery that cannot be removed but will have a “hush” button where you can turn off the detector for a short time. After that the detector will self reset.

Obsolete smoke detector

Do not install a smoke detector where you can remove the battery. This is now forbidden by Maryland law.

I know that some detectors can seem like a nuisance but since the 1970s home fire fatalities have been virtually halved. Much of this success is attributed to the general  installation of fire detectors nationwide in the past four decades. The new detectors will cost a little more than the older ones but anyone who has experienced a home fire knows how devastating it can be to you and your family. Detectors are worth it.  Note that if you are currently a landlord you must upgrade your smoke detectors upon changing tenants. Otherwise all homeowners and landlords must comply with this new requirements by 2018 at the latest. If you are considering putting your home on the market this year it probably is a good idea to upgrade your detectors beforehand. Although, they are not required as of yet, I have noticed many home inspectors flagging the old detectors and home purchasers are already asking sellers to comply when negotiating the contract. Not sure if you are in compliance? You can get a free fire safety inspection from  the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service by applying on line.

A trip to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

February 10th, 2016
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

An Australian Kookaburra greets visitors at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

For my wife’s birthday this past week we made a trip to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. The zoo, located in Druid Park in downtown Baltimore,  is one of the country’s oldest serving zoos. It is sited on 125 acres of land within the park and has  close to 2,000 animals  in it’s collection. We have been residents of Maryland for a long time but because we live in the Washington DC suburbs have always visited the National Zoo in DC. I regret that we have waited so long to see The Maryland Zoo as it is a wonderful zoo and considered one of the best zoos in the country. Fans of the National zoo can be a bit spoiled as the National zoo had a greater wealth of resources and funding to draw on. There are probably very few zoos in the world that can compare to the National Zoo. However The Maryland Zoo offers the benefit of both a lovely walkable grounds and some unique species  that you will not find at the larger DC Zoo. We found it well worth our time to spend an afternoon there.

African Black Footed Penguin

An African Black Footed Penguin performs for visitors in the underground viewing room.

 

One thing that The Maryland Zoo has over its DC compatriot is its amazing Penguin Coast exhibit. The exhibit is fairly new and considered to be the prize of the zoo. There the zoo featured a highly successful breeding program for the endangered African Black Footed Penguin. We were lucky enough to go through their special back stage “Penguin Encounter” program where small groups are allowed back stage to meet  their special “embassy” penguins who act as ambassadors for the overall penguin community. These special penguins not only get to meet small groups at the zoo but go outside of the zoo to visit institutions such as schools.  We had a delightful time visiting with four penguins and their keeper Tammy who patiently answered all our questions about these marvelous birds. One other attraction that we especially liked was the  Panamanian Golden Frogs . Feared to be extinct in the wild The Maryland Zoo has a successful breeding program for these beautiful amphibians and we were told that there are plans to eventually begin introducing some of these frogs back into the wild.

Panamanian Golden Frog

The Panamanian Golden Frog is believed to be extinct in the wild.

Zoo hours in the winter are limited but I would say that a nice winter day is certainly the time to visit. We found ourselves outnumbered by the zoo’s local volunteers who were more than pleased to spend time with us talking about the animals in the zoo. I would have to say that The Maryland Zoos volunteers are about the best aspect of the whole zoo experience. We found them to be so much more accessible than their counterparts at the National Zoo It is  pretty obvious that they love their zoo and enjoyed sharing their vast knowledge with us

Screech Owl

One of The Maryland Zoo’s wonderful volunteers introduces us to a tiny Screech Owl

The Maryland Zoo as with most zoos does charge admission. However, the admission fee is not high and in these days of budget shortfalls we could not find much wrong with helping out a little bit. Parking at the zoo is free, and I would have to say that the grounds are even more lovely than Washington’s zoo. In the winter time a lot of the animals are indoors and not on display but there were still plenty to see and the beautiful zoo setting combined with the first rate staff made our first visit a delight.

The Peacock Room-James McNeill Whistler’s masterpiece

October 16th, 2015
James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room

“The Peacock Room” by Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery

Yesterday, we made a trip downtown to The Freer Gallery of Art to see The Peacock Room considered by many to be one of James McNeill Whistler’s masterpieces. We made a afternoon of it and wandered through both the Freer Gallery and the adjoining Sackler Gallery. It is hard for me to explain how in all my years living in the area and all my trips down to the museums on The Mall why I have never been to see The Peacock Room. Thanks to my mom’s persistence I finally made the time. Normally closed to the outdoor light to protect the paint in the room from fading, on the third Thursday of every month (check the schedule) the shutters in the room are thrown open for a few hours to allow the sunlight in for visitors to view the room in natural light. This is certainly the best time to go see the rich beauty of  of Whistler’s amazing creation.

Whistler's Peacock Room

A rare monthly event when The Peacock Room is opened up to natural light for the public to see.

What makes the trip even more interesting is to read up on the back story of The Peacock Room. Whistler was a controversial figure during his time due to his over bearing personality. Many of his peers found him arrogant and self centered. But there is no doubt about his massive talent and the quality of the works that he created. The story of The Peacock Room is too long to recount here. Save to say, that it ended a friendship between the wealthy owner of the room and Whistler who seems to have gotten a bit carried away while he completed the room when the owner was away.

Whistler's Peacock Room details

Close up of the details on the door to James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room

You really have no excuse for not visiting The Peacock Room at The Freer Gallery of Art. As with so many things in Washington DC admission to the art gallery is free. (How much longer will this last?) So, for the cost of the parking meter or a Metro ticket, you are on you way to a cheap date that is both fun and fulfilling. The Freer is located on Independence Avenue very close to the Old Castle Building. There is metered parking on the street and we had not trouble finding a space but usually they are limited to  two hour. Metro is easy to take and probably the better choice if you are planning to make a day of it. For a limited time you will get a double treat with a visit to The Sackler/Freer Gallery of Art. On your visit make sure to see The Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre  in the adjoining Sackler Gallery.  It is a life sized artist’s rendition of the original room gone wild and a work of genius in itself.

 

Ah, I have made you famous. My work will live when you are forgotten. Still, per chance, in the dim ages to come you will be remembered as the proprietor of the Peacock Room.[ Whistler

Hillandale’s National Night Out

August 8th, 2015

 

Hillandale Maryland

All kids seem to be drawn to fire trucks. The Hillandale Volunteer Fire Department did not disappoint.

Here are a few nice photos of the community of Hillandale Maryland celebrating National Night out last week. The annual summer event is organized by  National Night Out in celebration of all the communities who participate in local neighborhood watch programs. Hillandale’s National Night Out  was sponsored by the Hillandale Community Association and hosted at the West Hillandale Swim Club. The event featured good food and ice cream for all with special visitors from out local fire and police department. This year a special guest was Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker  who dropped in for a while to talk with neighbors and eat a little ice cream. We had great attendance this year and a little rain towards the end of the evening did not serve to dampen our spirits. My wife and I are proud citizens of Hillandale and I have served on the board as editor of our Hillandale Bulletin for a number of years now. The greater Hillandale Community consist of a number of smaller subdivisions and is  located in the northeast corner of Montgomery County near New Hampshire Avenue and Powder Mill Rd.  We also have a few homes in Hillandale Forrest that are part of Prince Georges County.

Hillandale Maryland

Yours truly serving up ice cream to Councilmember Tom Hucker

Hillandale Maryland

Hillandale Kids share a lot of freebies laid out for them by the Hillandale Volunteer Fire Department

Hillandale Maryland

The police were out in force as well to talk with the community and share a little ice cream

Downtown Silver Spring’s new public library is open for business

July 3rd, 2015
Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland’s new public library

Yesterday I ventured downtown to pay a visit to the long awaited new Silver Spring Public Library. The library has only been open for a few weeks so I wanted to check it out and see if is worth all the hype. I was not disappointed. The centrally located three story building is pretty impressive to both see and visit. I love going to the library and have gotten a lot of mileage out of our local White Oak branch over the past 25 years. I wanted to compare the two and see if is worth the longer trip and parking hassles for me to use the downtown library instead.

silver spring public library

The information desk and checkout on the main level

In many ways there is no comparison. The venerable White Oak branch is a bit long in the tooth and struggles to offer the latest technology with its outdated building. The new Silver Spring Public Library is a dream when it comes to state of the art facility. It seems to be loaded to the gills with the latest modern technology. All the tables and exterior walls have multiple outlets and jacks to meet then needs of just about any device that you can take to the library. There are tons of computers for public use and the materials check out is easy with terminals on each level. There were also lots of staff on hand to help answer questions. Every floor features multiple conference and study rooms and most seemed to be in use. (The library recommends that you reserve a room if you are planning ahead and want to be sure of a space for a group meeting.)  A few things seemed out of place but that may be more to the new facility having to sort itself out for a few months. There are plenty of books in the library but I am not so sure about the selection. I am a history fan and the history section was definitely very thin. I also like to borrow DVD’s and  the Silver Spring Library has a pretty good selection. However, browsing DVDs and checking them out at White Oak is a simple procedure while the Silver Spring Library forces you to flip through the DVDs like you would at an vinyl records at an old music store and checking them out is a pain as the DVDs are not in the cases. You have to check out the case and then wait for the actual DVD to be delivered up to you-apparently from the secure DVD vault.  DVDs are pretty old technology. Are people still swiping them?

Silver Spring Public Library

The best feature of the new library is the comfy reading chairs located near the picture windows.

The building is quite large with many stairs. The main level is one full story from the street and there are two levels above that. There are escalators and elevators but still one feels a bit lost when browsing around. This is to be expected with an urban library but it is by no means cozy. The entire third floor, which is close to the size of a regular library is given over to kids.  There is a lot of nice stuff for kids to do up there and it is well laid out but really now, an entire floor for kids? I suppose that it does keep the noise down in other parts of the library. However, I think the space could be better used. Perhaps by creating more room to display DVDs. The adult stuff is on the first and second level, and there is plenty of shelf space and places to sit and work. I am a big fan of books on tape and there is a good selection, but I noticed that some of the college lecture series are individually shelved with the book while others are collected in a special section. Kind of confusing to me. Although not yet open,  there is also a little café for patrons to use just off of the main street entrance.

Silver Spring, Maryland Public Library

One of the many computer rooms in the library. This one is devoted to Mac users.

My real problem with the new Silver Spring Public Library is the aesthetics. To my eye it is pretty damn ugly-especially the interior. It is kind of a mish mash of steam punk and mid-century modern mixing the worst of both worlds and creating a cold, sterile space. Top that off with the worst color selections possible and there you have it, just awful. And, don’t get me started on the carpets which look like they came directly out of a bad sixties sitcom. One thing that does work  it is that there are lots of yummy comfortable chairs situated near the sunny, exterior windows.  The natural lighting is excellent and I can see wasting some time in a chair and getting lost in a book.

Silver Spring Maryland Public Library

The entire third level is given over to kids. Lots on nice things for them to do here.

In the end, I will probably use my local White Oak branch and leave the new library to special needs and occasions. My old branch is on one level and just easier for me to use. The one nice thing about the county system is that if I do use the Silver Spring Public Library, any material checked out there can be returned to any Montgomery County branch.  The downtown library is worth visiting  and great for group meetings and study sessions due to the space and facilities. I think I will find a reason to use it some. All in all not a bad thing for Silver Spring to have.

Hillandale Park gets it’s trail back.

June 12th, 2015
Hillandale Park, Maryland

Luke takes a break by the stream in Hillandale Park.

Hillandale Park is a small community park located in the neighborhood of Hillandale. The park fronts New Hampshire Avenue and offers the community soccer and softball fields plus a tot lot and community room (now torn down). The park is slated to undergo renovation and the community is pretty excited about the changes. We have used the park as an area to run our dogs when the park is not crowded. In the old days (we have lived here 25 years) there were a series of trails into and through the woods located at the back end of the park. These were not official trails but natural trails cut by the kids and deer that traveled through the park. Unknown to many Hillandale residents the trails offered a quiet and secluded place to wander about in a rare suburban wooded area. There is a nice little stream in the woods and we have picnicked and played with out dogs there many times.

Hillandale Park, Md

You can enter the trail right behind the tot lot.

A decade ago, when Hurricane Isabel came to Washington the park suffered serious damage. There were so many large trees knocked down in the woods that the trails in the woods became impossible to use for all but the most agile hiker. We quit venturing into the woods as did many others as the trails eventually became overgrown and virtually disappeared. The problem was enhanced by some serious erosion along some of the feeder streams that made walking the trails even more difficult. Well, the good news is that our trails are back. In preparation for renovating Hillandale Park, the park service has sent a crew into the woods to recut and improve the trail. This includes some minor grading and the construction of a few small footbridges where needed. Now the trails are a delight to walk and in our opinion even better than before.

Hillandale Park, MD

One of the new footbridges in Hillandale Park

You can access the trails by entering Hillandale Park and going to the tot lot at the rear of the park. The trailhead is located right behind the tot lot. By taking the trail you can either follow the trail along the stream and now cut through to Sweetbriar Pkwy in Old Hillandale or there is a spot where you can branch off the main trail and follow a nice long loop back to the tot lot trailhead.  This is really an old fashioned unimproved trail, so you will need to wear good shoes and perhaps long pants. The trail is fairly clear and wide enough but poison ivy and the occasional tick is an issue. We see it as our mission to get the word out about the trail and encourage not only Hillandalers but folks from all of the neighboring communities to seek out and enjoy this lovely little suburban oasis.

Silver Spring Farmer’s Market is the place to be.

June 3rd, 2015
Downtown Silver Spring

You find the coolest things at the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market.

Those of you that are in the know, are aware that downtown Silver Spring Farmer’s Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings. I have to admit that I have been a little slow to the party but finally got down to the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market last week. It was a fine spring day and we took some out of town friends down for a morning of play and shopping. As far as markets go, this one is a fairly nice one-offering a variety of good food and drink with an emphasis on quality and environmentally friendly products. There are a lot of other wares for sale other than food, ranging from stained glass art to hand made drums.  The market is located on Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia avenue (where the fountain is) and is surprisingly open  year round. The hours are 10 AM to 1 PM from January to March and 9AM to 1 PM for the rest of the year. I have not seen it in the cold season but imagine that there is much more to see during the warmer months.

Dowtown Silver Spring Farmer's Market

Downtown Silver Spring, MD Farmer’s Market

There is a lot more going on at the market. Usually they have some sort of live music set up near the fountain and there are always a variety of street performers to keep you occupied. Our little friend Rubin thought that the juggler was the best but I will let you judge for yourself. Our seven year old friend who is a saver and very cautious with his money decided to invest $20 in a hand made drum. It was the perfect size for a little guy and I am sure that his parents were pleased as playing the drum was pretty much his focus for the rest of his visit with us. I have to admit that he was getting pretty good on it after a while, so perhaps we have germinated the seed of a budding musician. Biggest find for me was the quart of spiced, dill green beans, (better than pickles) and a trio of homemade sauces. (Buy three and get a discount!)

Juggler Silver Spring

A juggler entertains all comers at the farmer’s market in Silver Spring.

I never before gave much thought to who actually runs a farmers market but the Silver Spring Farmers Market is run by Fresh Farm Markets a company that runs over a dozen farmer’s markets in the Chesapeake region. Judging from the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market they are pretty competent at the job that they do. I highly recommend you pay a visit to the market one Saturday this summer. I think the we are going to be regulars from now on.

Yoga class in downtown Silver Spring

There is more going on than just the market.

Old Greenbelt Theater is back in action

May 18th, 2015
Old Greenbelt Theater

Night time at the Old Greenbelt Theater

We took in a movie this past week at the newly refurbished Old Greenbelt Theater located in the historic Crescent Shopping Center in Old Greenbelt. We discovered the theater about two decades ago and it has been our go to movie theater ever since. Although a bit run down, the theater offered a bigger screen than you would find in most other theaters and offered first run films at a substantially lower price than the current cinemaplex fare. We loved the low key approach and did not miss the 20 minutes of crap that you are forced to watch before seeing a movie at a commercial theater. Tie it in with some music and Lebanese food at the New Deal Café across the way and you could not miss a nice evening out. To our regret (and joy) the theater has been closed for over nine months while undergoing a major renovation. Long underused and underfunded the theater has changed management and is now in the hands of a non-profit organization under the leadership of Caitlin McGrath-an English professor at the University of Maryland.

Old Greenbelt Theater

Lobby and concession stand

The theater will continue to screen mainstream movies at night, but it will now hold events, film series and special screenings for the first time, McGrath said. For example, she hopes to start by showing Oscar-nominated movies and other notable films from the nine months during which the theater was closed for renovation. (Diamondback)

Old Greenbelt Theater

Old Greenbelt Theater ticket window

I took some photos for you to see because they have done an amazing job. The dumpy old theater is no more and a beautiful gem has emerged. The front and lobby have been renovated to show what the theater looked like when it opened over 75 years ago. The concession counter has it old Art Deco flavor. More  important is that the horrid old bathrooms have been enlarge and modernized in lovely Deco accent. The Old Greenbelt Theater was not built as a high end showcase as was the lovingly restored AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, but as a budget minded building to reflect the blue collar community that Old Greenbelt was designed for. Still, it is a gem to see and offers a theater going experience reminiscent of  your grandparent’s day and time.

Old Greenbelt Theater

Old Greenbelt Theater lobby

I highly recommend that you find time to check out the place and go see a move there. You won’t regret it. For a schedule of films and special activities you can go to their website.  http://greenbelttheatre.org/

Old Greenbelt Theater

Old Greenbelt Theater’s new bathrooms

I am amazed how few area residents know about Old Greenbelt. The City of Greenbelt has gone into the history books as the first community in the United States built as a federal venture in housing. From the beginning it was designed as a complete city, with businesses, schools, roads and facilities for recreation and town government. Greenbelt was a planned community, noted for its interior walkways, underpasses, its system of inner courtyards and one of the first mall-type shopping centers in the United States. Modeled after English garden cities of the 19th century, Greenbelt took its name from the belt of green forestland with which it was surrounded and from the belts of green between neighborhoods that offered easy contact with nature.  (greenbeltmd.gov)

New Ashton, Maryland listing

April 25th, 2015

Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery. How did I miss this?

April 6th, 2015
Franscican monstaery DC

Front view of the monastery from: http://catbirdinamerica.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/catacombs-crypts-of-the-franciscan-monastery

 

Have you ever visited the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery in the Brookland neighborhood of DC? I take a lot of pride in my knowledge of Washington DC’s many fine buildings but was totally taken aback a few years ago when I stumbled on this one. Being a Realtor, my wife and I love to just go off on little side trips to look at homes and neighborhoods-just to get a feel for the communities. We were blown away when we discovered the monastery while trolling through the Brookland neighborhood. Modeled after classical Byzantine Churches such as the Hagi Sophia the main church building is certainly one of the loveliest in the United States.

Fransciscan Monstery, Washington DC

Visit in the spring to see the lovely gardens. Image from DCmemorials.com

 

Built in the late 1800’s the Franciscan Monastery “includes gardens, replicas of various shrines throughout Israel, a replica of the catacombs in Rome, an archive, a library, as well as bones of Saint Benignus of Armagh, brought from the Roman Catacombs and originally in the Cathedral of NarniItaly.” It is usually open to the public daily from 10 AM to 4PM but you should check their website before venturing down. The building is extraordinary inside and out but I recommend going in the warm seasons as the outdoor gardens are also stunning. We like to go in spring or fall when as the summer season draws more tourists as the monastery and grounds are best enjoyed when it is peaceful and quiet.  The last time we visited was in the spring and about the only activity going on was a lovely young couple taking wedding photographs in the garden.

Franciscan Monstery, Washington DC

The interior of the church is amazing. Image from 500pix.com

The Mount St. Sepulchre  Franciscan Monastery is located at 1400 Quincy St. NE in Washington, DC., only six blocks from the Brookland Metro station.  We recommend taking Metro as the walk from the station to the monastery is not long and takes you through a fine residential neighborhood with many of the homes dating back to the 1920s and 30s. Although we just like to show up and wander about, they do offer guided tours for those who have an interest in the history and details of the monastery. For the tours, drop-ins are welcome but it is best to call ahead for reservations. Take some time out of your busy life and visit this Washington DC landmark. You won’t be disappointed.

Like a lot of communities in DC, the Brookland neighborhood is undergoing a great amount of change. The area around Catholic University has grown quite popular in the past few years and home values are going through the roof. With change comes controversy as some of the long time residents are finding themselves priced out of their own community and the pace of development has raised controversy both with old and new residents. You can go to my website at RossSutton.com to see what homes are selling for in Brookland.