Discover Bethesda, Maryland...365 Days a Year!

Day 33: Heavenly Rights

Air Rights Center

Thank god for all the lawyers!  As a real estate agent I know all too well that this town would not be the thriving economic powerhouse it is today without the high paying lawyers who help fuel the local economy.  There are no lawyer jokes allowed at our house.  Bethesda is also known in legal circles for a unique piece of real estate that utilizes the concept of “air rights.”  The legal rights to the air above a property go back to an ancient Latin saying Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos. Translated it means “To whoever owns the land, shall belong the earth to its center and up to the heavens.” (My Latin teacher Mr. Lester at Winston Churchill, H.S. would be so impressed I’m quoting Latin!) Only big cities like New York had ever heard of the concept of development above the land someone else actually owned.  In 1954, Roger Eisinger purchased the air rights on a parcel of land that sat above the B&O Railroad tracks that ran through downtown Bethesda.  He waited 12 more years to develop the property that today holds the three towers of the Air Rights Center.

Air Rights Center (formerly Air Rights Building)

The popular Capital Crescent Trail (the former B&O railroad) runs through a tunnel underneath Wisconsin Avenue that Roger Eisinger built in order to build the Air Rights Center above.  In 1966 this was really the first major office building to be built in Bethesda.  At that time all businesses were in downtown D.C. and convincing businesses that they could have an office in the suburbs of Maryland was no easy task.  Roger Eisinger was a personal friend of my mother and step-father.  His firm fell on rough times during the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s and he passed away in 2002.  Bethesda residents owe a debt of gratitude to this visionary who saw the future of Bethesda as the striving metropolis that it is today and played a major role in developing it.  ~Brian

  1. Kevin

    That was a very interesting article! Thanks for the short history lesson!

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