as published by The North Potomac Times, written by Susan Petro, August 2016
On Saturday, June 26, the Pleasant View Historic Site, located at 11810 Darnestown Road in Gaithersburg, opened its doors to the public for its annual June Fest: a day filled with fun, music, home-cooked meals, and presentations by trustees and associates of the Pleasant View Historical Association. The event is intended to honor and celebrate the African-American ancestry and heritage of the Quince Orchard area dating back to before the 1860s when the original school and church were built on the site.
This festival is the only time during the year when the property is open to the public. The June Fest also serves as a large family reunion for many of the descendants of the original Pleasant View Church. Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the festivities along with many community members and others interested in taking part or learning more about the history of the site. The event has taken place in May or June of every year since 1984.
A large tent was set up on the grounds with chairs for the attendees. Trustees of the Pleasant View Historic Site gave a presentation that included an introduction by Rev. Dr. Gerard Green, Jr., a descendant of some of the original church members and chairman of the Pleasant View Historical Association. Other trustees and members of the Pleasant View Church were introduced, including Ida Pearl Green, who, at age ninety-eight, is the oldest living member of the church. Historian Vernon Green gave a presentation detailing the history of the Pleasant View Site.
Musical performances from the Quince Orchard Drum Line, The Chosen Vessels, Mr. Teddy Lyles, The Royal Harmonizers, Rev. Melvin Martin, and the Men’s Choir of Asbury UMC, Germantown entertained the crowd while many of the adults sat under the tent and children ran and played in the field.
According to the Pleasant View Historical Association historian, Vernon Green, the property was purchased in 1868 for $54 for the establishment of a Methodist Episcopal Church to serve the African-American community that resided in the area. The congregants originally worshiped in a school on the property until they could afford to build a church. The church was built in 1888. In 1901, the Quince Orchard Colored School burned down under suspicious circumstances. In 1902, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to move the old school for white children that was located across the street to the Pleasant View site to be used for the black students. A new school was built for the white population.
Inside the former school, the ladies of Pleasant View cooked up a delicious meal that included many favorites of the past and present like fried chicken, fish, chitterlings, pigs’ feet, and hot dogs. Another table featured homemade desserts, cold sodas, and water for sale. The food was so popular it sold out before the end of the day.
The school building is set up to look much today as it did approximately a hundred years ago. A large stove sits in the middle of the classroom that is filled with desks and chalkboards. Newspaper clippings, pictures, and articles line the walls showing what life was like a century ago.
The former church was also open to the public and featured movies depicting the history of the church and the congregation. According to the historical presentation by Vernon Green, members of Pleasant View and two other local churches transferred their memberships to the new Fairhaven United Methodist Church in 1968 due to dwindling memberships and low population growth; however, Pleasant View retained its legal distinction with trustees who continue to maintain the site.
Today, the church building and property are leased to Mt. of Olives Church. An active cemetery still remains on the site and holds the remains of many of the original members of the Pleasant View Church, as well as subsequent generations.
Jason Green, the grandson of Ida Pearl Green and son of Rev. Dr. Gerard Green, Jr., two of the trustees of the site and former parishioners of Pleasant View Church, has taken a special interest in documenting the history, telling the story of Pleasant View and the Quince Orchard Community itself. He and his sister, Dr. Kisha Davis, are currently collaborating on a documentary called The Quince Orchard Project. According to Jason, the project was conceived after conversations he and Davis had with their grandmother, Ida Pearl. They were surprised to learn that Quince Orchard used to be its own distinct community, separate from Gaithersburg and other local towns. To learn more about The Quince Orchard Project, visit thequinceorchardproject.com or stay tuned for future issues of The North Potomac Times for upcoming stories about the project and the Pleasant View Historical Site.
Monies raised from the food sales and other fundraising activities at the June Fest go toward the maintenance and preservation of the Pleasant View Historic Site, in addition to ensuring that the property will remain relevant and available for future generations to enjoy.