On Frederick Road in Germantown, once the main route north out of Washington, DC, a one-of-a kind, 12-foot-tall, patriotically painted Cider Barrel sits vacant.
Constructed in 1922 by entrepreneur Andrew Baker as a place to sell his homegrown apples and cider, the Cider Barrel is considered a prime example of roadside novelty architecture because the building itself represents the business conducted inside, notes Susan Soderberg, an historian with the Germantown Historical Society, who nominated the handcrafted property to this year’s list.
In 1934, William Cross took over the business and continued selling his own “secret formula” cider until he retired in 1995. Operations continued until 2004. Since then, Frederick Road has been widened, and a housing development has been built around the Cider Barrel, which now sits alone without supporting buildings or a parking area, explains Soderberg.
Though no longer used as a business, it stands in stark contrast to its modern surroundings as a reminder of Germantown’s past and as a national icon (because of its connection with the Prohibition Era), she says.
Over a decade ago, the 17.5-acre Cider Barrel property and the iconic barrel itself were sold to Virginia-based Elm Street Development for more than $7 million. The company would like to move the barrel from its roadside location.
However, notes Soderberg, “It would lose its historical significance as roadside novelty architecture. And to move it would change the interpretation of the history of Germantown.”
She hopes the barrel, which is part of the Maryland Historical Trust inventory, can be saved and perhaps utilized as a roadside stand to sell produce or T-shirts. Even unused, she says, the site remains an important community landmark.
Soderberg encourages citizens in favor of keeping the Cider Barrel at its current site to write to the Montgomery County Council.
Counters Elm Street Development President David Flanagan, however, “We do not want any part of more restrictions and forced expenses for our property.”