With all the news coverage of the opening of the new Father Hurley Boulevard extension in Germantown, most people have probably heard that road’s namesake currently lives in D.C., was the first priest for Mother Seton Catholic Church, and helped found the Germantown Alliance.
But there’s still a major question: Why name a road after Father Hurley?
The Archdiocese of Washington sent Father Hurley to Germantown by in order to establish a new congregation in the growing community. By the time he was reassigned in 1987, Hurley had left more than a good impression.
I first met Father Hurley in February 1974, when he moved into the house next door. Not being Catholic, I was very curious about this new neighbor and his plans for the little 1926 bungalow that shared a driveway with our home. He said he was going to set up a church in that tiny two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. He expanded the driveway to accommodate a dozen parked cars and turned one bedroom into a chapel, with larger services taking place in the double living room.
By July 1974, 38 families had joined the church. A parish was established with the name Mother Seton. Its congregation moved to the nearby Germantown Elementary School for services, and in 1977 moved to Seneca Valley High School, though small services and meetings were still held at the little house.
In October 1981, Father Hurley moved into the new parish house on Germantown Drive — present-day Father Hurley Boulevard.
As the church grew, so did the needs of the community.
Hurley had begun meeting with pastors of other Germantown churches in 1975, eventually forming the Germantown Association of Churches. The group partnered with other organizations and local government in order to coordinate youth activities, child and elder care, and other social services. Thus, in the spring of 1976, the Germantown Alliance was formed.
The founders included Hurley; John Matthias, Germantown coordinator for the Montgomery County Planning Board; the Rev. Stan Bliss of Neelsville Presbyterian Church; Stanley Dahlman, provost of the new Germantown campus of Montgomery College; Stanley Hoffberger of Churchill Investments; David Perry of the Germantown Lions Club; and Slava Bloom of the Germantown Citizens Association.
The Germantown Alliance labored to channel community needs into government action and was fairly successful in the first 10 years of its existence, mainly because it took the place of a local advisory council, helping to mold Germantown as we recognize it today.
But Father Hurley was reassigned in 1987 and left Germantown.
At the time, Mother Seton Parish property was the only address on Germantown Drive — not to be confused with Germantown Road (Route 118) — and was supposed to form a new east-west passage across Germantown, by connecting with Ridge Road (Route 27) on the east side of I-270.
Construction was scheduled to begin 1987 and most people assumed that the extension would be named Ridge Road. But parishioners advocated that the extension be named for Father Hurley, in recognition of his ecumenical and civic work. At the time, some of the chief arguments against naming the road after Father Hurley were that it was confusing to have a road with different names on either side of an interchange and that future residents and businesses such as doctors’ offices or future churches located on this road might be uncomfortable with an address named for a Catholic priest.
Ultimately, the county approved naming the road for Father Hurley in 1987.
Father Hurley is now chaplain at the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Northeast D.C. When asked why the thought the road was named for him, he said he thought it was because he was good at “activating people” in order to get things done. I guess he was.
And for that attribute his name is embedded in the identity of an unincorporated community of more than 100,000 people.