Freedmen’s Communities in Maryland

After years of African American resistance to slavery and self-emancipation, as well as investment as Union soldiers in the Civil War, Maryland abolished slavery in 1864 when voters approved a new state Constitution.[1] Land ownership carried important practical and symbolic protections following emancipation – property served as a homeplace for Black families that white enslavers had separated, as a means for self sufficiency through farming and raising livestock, and as an important message of individual rights and citizenship. In these post-war years, some white landowners sold property to African Americans, although this land was often less than ideal; it might be swampy or have dense forests that needed to be cleared.[2] Despite these challenges, African Americans developed small enclaves of houses and farms that grew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These communities also built churches, schools, and fraternal organization lodges.[3]

Some of these important places have been documented in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) – our repository of places with known or potential value to the history of the State of Maryland. We have provided some highlights below and encourage you to share in comments if you know of other communities near you!

Rossville, Prince George’s County

Located north of Beltsville in Prince George’s County, Rossville’s origins date to 1868, when six African American men purchased a third of an acre of land to construct Queen’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to the purchase, local African Americans had already created a cemetery on the property. The first church was a small log structure that burned in the late 1890s, but Queen’s Chapel continues to exist today in a 1956 brick building across Old Muirkirk Road from the cemetery and original site.

Queen’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, Prince George’s County (PG:62-21). Photo source: MIHP

In the 1880s, more land in the Rossville area became available after the death of a local white farmer. African Americans, many of them employed at the nearby Muirkirk Iron Furnace, purchased 12 surveyed lots and soon built residences. A fraternal organization called the Benevolent Sons and Daughters of Abraham also purchased a lot and constructed a lodge in 1889. This organization served a very important role in the community by providing social services and financial assistance to members in a time when many white institutions refused to work with African Americans. This building – a two-story, front-gabled frame structure – still exists and now is home to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Black History Program.

Abraham Hall, Prince George’s County (PG:62-7). Photo source: MHT staff

The lodge building also served as a school for the first two decades of the twentieth century. However, Rossville residents pressured the County Board of School Commissioners for the construction of a dedicated school in the community. A building committee of local community members supervised the construction of a new school in 1922, which was partially funded by the Julius Rosenwald Fund’s School Building Program. (Philanthropist and former president of Sears, Roebuck and Company Julius Rosenwald created this special program to provide communities and local boards of education with financial and technical assistance for the construction of new, state-of-the art school buildings in 15 states in the rural south.) The school had two rooms with a capacity of 48 students. Today, the former schoolhouse serves as the American Legion Post 235.

Bacontown, Anne Arundel County

In 1860, the locally prominent Dorsey family freed an enslaved woman named Maria Bacon and gave her 30 acres of property. Sources indicate that Bacon was already living on this land prior to her manumission. Bacon, her three children, and several other manumitted African Americans formed the community known as Bacontown in northwestern Anne Arundel County near the Howard County line. The oldest building in the area is the late nineteenth-century Mary Elizabeth Henson House, the home of founder Maria Bacon’s daughter.

Mary Elizabeth Henson House, Anne Arundel County (AA-893). Photo source: MIHP

Like Rossville, Bacontown also had a fraternal organization lodge built by the Benevolent Sons and Daughters of Abraham, a cemetery, and a church. The Bacontown community constructed the existing Mt. Zion Church building in 1913, which replaced an earlier log church that previously stood nearby. The stucco-covered Mt. Zion Church with a center steeple and entry reflects Gothic Revival architecture, a style that was common in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century church buildings.

Mt. Zion Church, Anne Arundel County (AA-892). Photo source: MIHP

Unionville, Talbot County

On the Miles River Neck, a cape northeast of Easton, eighteen African American Union soldiers returned from Civil War service and founded the town of Unionville. A local white man named Ezekiel Cowgill sold and leased lots to them with the intent of creating a new community. (Cowgill was a Quaker, a religion with many adherents who were abolitionists in the years before the Civil War.) The name that the founders chose for the town sent a significant and courageous statement in an area where many white residents supported the Confederacy.

In 1892, in the center of town, local community trustees constructed St. Stephen’s A.M.E. Church, detailed with Gothic Revival features including a pointed arch door and window openings and a three-story, pyramidal roofed tower. To the rear of the church is a cemetery where all 18 of the founding Civil War veterans are buried: John Blackwell, Ennels Clayton, Isaac Copper, John Copper, Benjamin Demby, Charles Demby, William Duane, William Doran, Horace Gibson, Zachary Glasgow, Joseph Gooby, Joseph H. Johnson, Peter Johnson, Edward Jones, Enolds Money, Edward Pipes, Henry Roberts, and Matthew Roberts.

St. Stephens A.M.E. Church, Talbot County (T-789). Photo source: MIHP

To serve as a school building for Unionville, the Talbot County School Board relocated an existing school from McDaniel, a small town northwest of St. Michaels, during the Great Depression in 1932. As described in a reminiscing newspaper article, movers hauled the circa 1910 school building across the land and the structure traversed the Miles River on a purpose-built scow (a wide, flat-bottomed boat). The building, built with frame construction, lapped wood siding, and a steeply pitched clipped gable roof, ceased operations as a school in 1957.

Unionville School, Talbot County (T-794). Photo source: MIHP

Freedmen’s communities tell important stories in the history of Maryland. Some of them have been destroyed, and others are threatened by development and systemic economic disinvestment. Documenting these places in the MIHP is one way to help preserve their legacy. You can search the MIHP via MHT’s cultural resource information system, known as Medusa, on our website: https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/.


[1] “A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland,” Maryland State Archives and University of Maryland College Park, February 2008, https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/intromsa/pdf/slavery_pamphlet.pdf.

[2] George W. McDaniel, Hearth and Home: Preserving a People’s Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982), 188-190.

[3] Michael Bourne, Orland Ridout V, Paul Touart, and Donna Ware, Architecture and Change in the Chesapeake (Crownsville, MD: MHT Press, 1998), 10.

Maryland Heritage Areas Funding Helps Share the Story of Frederick Douglass

By Ennis Barbery Smith, Assistant Administrator, Maryland Heritage Areas Program  

Public domain image of Frederick Douglass from the Met, Rubel Collection, via Wikimedia Commons

Frederick Douglass – the widely recognized abolitionist, human rights activist, orator, writer, and son of Maryland’s Eastern Shore – is one of the original pillars of Black History Month. Although documentation indicates he was born in February 1818, he did not know the exact date. After fleeing Maryland to self-emancipate, he chose to celebrate his birthday on February 14, and celebrations of February 14 as “Douglass Day” popped up shortly after his death in 1895. Eventually, Carter G. Woodson laid the foundations of Black History Month in February – in part – because Black communities were already celebrating Douglass’s life and contributions around this time.  

While the exact date was uncertain, Douglass knew the location. In the first chapter of one of his autobiographies, he says, “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland.”  

The entrance to Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe
Photo by Mark Sandlin, provided courtesy of Talbot County Tourism

The new Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe is taking shape as a place where visitors can come to reflect on Douglass’s time in Maryland, not just during Black History Month, but in any season – even during a pandemic, when many indoor history museums have limited capacity.   

Talbot County acquired the 107 acres of shoreline and wetlands for the park in 2006 using Program Open Space funding. Cassandra Vanhooser, Talbot County’s Director of Economic Development and Tourism, said that it was clear to her immediately when she learned about this land, in close proximity to Frederick Douglass’s privately owned birthplace, that the new park was well positioned to honor Douglass’s legacy and to share the story of his life with visitors.

The County pulled together a team of historians, local leaders, and Frederick Douglass descendants to guide the development of the new park. In 2018, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) awarded a matching grant to Talbot County for the creation of two plans:  a master plan to map out the park’s infrastructure and an interpretive plan to explore the stories that the park will evoke for visitors. After a series of public meetings and many hours of behind-the-scenes work, the County hopes to share these plans with the public in March of 2021. 

A view of the landscape at Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe
Photo by Mark Sandlin, provided courtesy of Talbot County Tourism

Ms. Vanhooser described the park’s unspoiled wetlands and viewshed, saying, “This is the landscape into which Douglass was born, the world that shaped his youth.” She went on to say “What Douglass was able to accomplish in his life is extraordinary by any measure. His words transcend time and place. They are as inspiring today as they ever were, and that is why we are telling Frederick Douglass’s story here.” 

When visitors make their way to the park today, they will find serene, undeveloped views of the Tuckahoe River, evocative of what Douglass would have seen in his lifetime. Four new interpretive signs located at the park describe Douglass’s life on the Tuckahoe, his journey away from Maryland to freedom, and his important roles as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and as an internationally recognized voice for the abolition of slavery.  

Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford unveils one of the new interpretive signs on September 1, 2020.
Photo by Melissa Grimes-Guy, provided courtesy of Talbot County Tourism

The park is also one stop on a series of four driving tours, shared here, that guide visitors through the landscapes and the places that Douglass experienced in Talbot County. The new interpretive signs and the website showcasing the driving tours were funded in part by the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area (SCHA), with funds from MHAA.   

Gail Owings, Executive Director of SCHA, spoke of the importance of the new park. She said the local heritage area is thrilled to be able to support the County’s efforts. She added “the views of the landscape and water – they set the stage for Douglass’s life,” emphasizing how closely tied the park’s viewsheds are with what Douglass would have seen in his youth, an important time that he reflects on in his writings.  

Visitors can also explore Douglass’s connections to other regions of Maryland by following this state-wide driving tour developed by Maryland Office of Tourism

Announcing FY2021 African American Historic Preservation Program Grant Recipients!

By Charlotte Lake, Ph.D., Capital Grant and Loan Programs Administrator

We are pleased to announce this year’s African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) grant recipients! This is the tenth year of grants since the program’s launch, marking $10 million total in funding awarded to 128 grant projects. The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Maryland Historical Trust jointly administer this program to promote the preservation of Maryland’s African American heritage sites. Grants fund construction projects at important sites throughout the state. This year’s projects include museums, cemeteries, an interpretive memorial, a historic lodge, community centers, and a historic school. Read more about our newly funded AAHPP grant projects below.

Project: Laurel Cemetery – Baltimore City ($88,000) | Sponsor: Laurel Cemetery Memorial Project, Inc.

Incorporated in 1852 as Baltimore’s first nondenominational cemetery for African Americans, Laurel Cemetery became known as one of the most beautiful and prominent African American cemeteries in the city. Descendants attempted to purchase the cemetery, but the owner prevailed against their legal challenges and leveled the cemetery for development in 1958. As a result, much of the cemetery currently lies beneath the parking lot of the Belair-Edison Crossing Shopping Center. Grant funds will support repairs to the retaining wall and construction of a pathway with interpretive signage in the unpaved portion of the cemetery, where recent archaeological investigations have identified undisturbed burials.

Project: Historic Oliver Community Firehouse – Baltimore City ($100,000) | Sponsor: African American Fire Fighters Historical Society, Inc.

Baltimore’s African American Fire Fighters Historical Society will use grant funds to acquire the historic firehouse, Truck House #5, through the City’s Vacants to Value program. The overall project will rehabilitate the building and convert it into the International Black Fire Fighters Museum & Safety Education Center.

Project: African American Heritage Center – Frederick, Frederick County ($100,000) | Sponsor: The African American Resources-Cultural and Heritage Society Incorporated

Grant funds will support the creation of a new center for African American heritage within a commercial space inside a modern parking garage. The project will reconfigure the commercial space and add accessibility improvements so that it can be used for exhibits, collections, and public programs to share Frederick County’s African American heritage and present this history within a broader regional and national context.

Carver School, photo courtesy of City of Cumberland

Project: Carver School – Cumberland, Allegany County ($100,000) | Sponsor: Mayor and City Council of Cumberland

Built in 1921 to accommodate the growing African American population of Cumberland, Carver School (previously known as Cumberland High School and the Frederick Street School) soon attracted students from outside Allegany County, including attendees from nearby areas of West Virginia. The school was renamed in 1941, when Principal Bracey held an election and students voted to name the school after Dr. George Washington Carver, who consented by letter to having the school named after him. The grant will fund necessary repairs to the building so that it can be rehabilitated for community use.

Project: Diggs-Johnson Museum – Granite, Baltimore County ($100,000) | Sponsor: Friends of Historical Cherry Hill A.U.M.P., Inc.

The Cherry Hill African United Methodist Church, now known as the Diggs-Johnson Museum, was built in the late 19th century, and functioned as a church through the 1970s before its conversion to a museum in the 1990s. The museum documents the history of the African American community of Baltimore County, and in particular the enslaved and free African Americans of Granite, many of whom worked the area’s granite quarries. The grant project will fund repairs to the church’s foundation and grave markers in its burial yard.

Kennedy Farmhouse, photo courtesy of John Brown Historical Foundation

Project: Kennedy Farm / John Brown Raid Headquarters – Sharpsburg, Washington County ($99,000) | Sponsor: John Brown Historical Foundation, Inc.

This grant will fund repairs to the timber and chinking of the Kennedy Farmhouse, a log building used as the headquarters by John Brown and his band in planning their famous raid on Harper’s Ferry. While the raid was planned, the farmhouse also served as living quarters for the five African American members of the band:  Dangerfield Newby; Lewis Leary; Shields Green; John Copeland, Jr; and Osborn Anderson. The raid on Harper’s Ferry is considered a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the American Civil War.

Project: Galesville Community Center – Galesville, Anne Arundel County ($45,000) | Sponsor: Galesville Community Center Organization, Inc.

Of the fifteen schools in Anne Arundel County built using money provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which supported the establishment of African American schools throughout the southern United States, only six survive today. The grant project will fund repairs to the roof, siding, and windows of the Galesville Rosenwald School, built in 1929, which now serves as a vibrant community center.

Howard House, photo courtesy of Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Project: Howard House – Brookeville, Montgomery County ($100,000) | Sponsor: Department of Natural Resources – Maryland Park Service

The Howard House, currently in ruins, is the last intact building associated with Enoch George Howard. Born enslaved, George Howard purchased his freedom and eventually became a prosperous landowner, donating land to establish Howard Chapel and a community school. The grant project will restore the stone house’s exterior to its original appearance for interpretive use.

Project: Bazzel Church – Cambridge, Dorchester County ($100,000) | Sponsor: Good Shepherd Association

In 1911, the Bazzel Church was either built on or moved to its current site, where the original 1876 chapel stood before it burned down. The church, located in Bucktown, is best known for its association with Harriet Tubman, whose family members reportedly worshipped at the original church building. Initial stabilization of the church was completed in the summer of 2020, and the grant will fund the next phase of repairs, eventually leading to the rehabilitation of the building for use as an interpretive center.

Project: Mt. Zoar AME Church – Conowingo, Cecil County ($32,000) | Sponsor: Mount Zoar African Methodist Episcopal Church

Mt. Zoar African Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1881 and the earliest known burial in the adjacent cemetery dates to 1848. Over 30 veterans are buried in the cemetery, including soldiers whose graves are marked with Grand Army of the Republic flag holders. The grant project will fund repairs to the cemetery and grave markers.

Prince Georges African-American Museum & Cultural Center, photo courtesy of Prince George’s African-American Museum & Cultural Center at North Brentwood, Inc.

Project: Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center – North Brentwood, Prince George’s County ($20,000) | Sponsor: Prince George’s African-American Museum and Cultural Center at North Brentwood, Inc.

Through exhibitions and educational programs, the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center shares the county’s untold stories of African Americans. The grant-funded pre-development project will involve the design of facility renovations and an addition to provide support space and affordable housing space for African American artists.

Project: Millard Tydings Memorial Park – Havre de Grace, Harford County ($25,000) | Sponsor: The Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton Memorial Fund, Inc.

Established as Bayside Park in the late 1800s, Millard Tydings Memorial Park includes recreational amenities as well as memorials to those who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Grant funds will help construct a new monument dedicated to Sergeant Alfred B. Hilton, Harford County’s only recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. The monument will include permanent interpretive material about Sgt. Hilton and the role of his U.S. Colored Troops regiment in the Civil War.

Project: Union of Brothers and Sisters of Fords Asbury Lodge No. 1 – White Marsh, Baltimore County ($91,000) | Sponsor: The Union of Brothers and Sisters of Fords Asbury, Inc.

In 1874, Dr. Walter T. Allender constructed and donated this building to the Baltimore County School Commissioners for use as an African American School, initially known as Colored School 2, District 11. The Union of Brothers and Sisters of Ford’s Asbury Lodge No. 1, an African American benevolent society, held monthly meetings on the second floor of the school building until 1922, when Baltimore County Public Schools donated it to the lodge. The grant project will fund repairs and accessibility improvements that allow the building to be used by the public again.

If you are planning to apply for funding for an AAHPP project, the FY2022 grant round will begin in the spring of 2021, with workshops in April and applications due July 1. For more information about AAHPP, please visit our website or contact Charlotte Lake, Capital Grant and Loan Programs Administrator, at charlotte.lake@maryland.gov.

Announcing the FY 2021 Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Awards

By Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research and Survey, and Allison Luthern, Architectural Survey Administrator

We are pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Historic Preservation Non-Capital grants! With funding from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority Financing Fund, these grants support and encourage research, survey, planning, and educational activities involving architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources.  This year, the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) awarded eight grants totaling $300,000 to Maryland nonprofit organizations and local jurisdictions.

MHT identified several special funding priorities for the FY 2021 grant cycle, including:  comprehensive archaeological or architectural surveys; assessment and documentation of threatened areas of the state due to impacts of natural disasters; and projects undertaking in-depth architectural or archaeological study of a specific topic, time period, or theme. This year’s grant awards, listed below, ranged from $18,000 to $64,000, benefitting projects across the state.

Geophysical Survey of the Mill Field Surrounds – St. Mary’s County

($18,000 awarded)

 In 2018, with funding from the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program, Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) undertook a geophysical survey, which identified the remains of an early 17th-century site. HSMC will feature the excavation and interpretation of the site prominently in its master planning efforts, currently underway. To inform the effort, HSMC will utilize this grant to carry out a rapid, high-resolution, ground-penetrating radar survey on the full 12 acres surrounding and encompassing the resource.

Tim Horsley collects GPR data with the Jesuit Church at St. Mary’s in the background. The FY 2021 non-capital work will include a GPR survey of the full 12 acres surrounding and encompassing an early 17th-century site. Photo courtesy of Historic St. Mary’s City.

Documenting Early Women Architects in Maryland – Statewide Project

($40,000 awarded)

Baltimore Architecture Foundation, Inc., will research and document properties designed by the state’s first licensed women architects in Maryland. Funds will be used to hire a consultant to develop a National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form focused on women architects practicing in Maryland from 1920 to 1970.

Recovering Identity: Northern Frederick County Cultural Resource Survey – Frederick County

($50,000 awarded)

The African American Resources, Cultural Heritage Society (AARCH), Frederick County Division of Planning and Permitting, and the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. (CFHS) will combine efforts to complete a comprehensive historic context statement and a survey of northern Frederick County, with an emphasis on previously undocumented African American resources. The project will prepare new or updated architectural survey forms for a sampling of building types, focusing on vernacular structures, for inclusion in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP).

Maryland Slave Dwelling Survey – Statewide Project

($36,000 awarded)

The Maryland Slave Dwelling Survey, led by Texas A&M University, proposes to investigate, document, and digitally visualize a statewide cross-section of buildings associated with enslaved African Americans. These resources are at risk from myriad forces including development, environmental change, and neglect. The project will produce investigative reports, digital photographs, measured drawings, and 3D digital models for a pilot dataset that can grow to include more sites across the state

Woodlawn Slave Quarters, Howard County (HO-411). The Maryland Slave Dwelling Survey will include the documentation of a selection of extant quarters across the state. Photo courtesy of Ken Short, Howard County Department of Planning & Zoning.

Investigating Jesuit Plantation Landscapes in Maryland: Archaeological and Geophysical Survey – Cecil and St. Mary’s Counties

($64,000 awarded)

This project, launched by the Catholic University of America (CUA), will examine archaeological evidence of built landscapes on former Jesuit plantations on the Eastern Shore and in southern Maryland. Archaeological investigations on these properties have identified few concrete architectural features such as slave quarters, tenant dwellings, or outbuildings. A combination of geophysical survey, surface survey, shovel testing, and test unit excavation will be used to examine the interrelationship between free and enslaved landscapes, resulting in a detailed summary report and new MIHP data. CUA will collaborate with landowners and stakeholders to develop public educational materials to interpret the findings.

Documenting Maryland’s Education History: A Context Study of School Architecture – Statewide Project

($46,000 awarded)

For this project, Preservation Maryland will hire a consultant to prepare a historic context report on Maryland school construction from early education efforts to the 1970s. The goal is to identify trends and patterns in school architecture, identify major styles and architectural features, and develop a framework for evaluating architectural and historical significance

Galesville Rosenwald School, Anne Arundel County (AA-914). Preservation Maryland received a grant to hire a consultant to prepare a statewide historic context on school architecture from the earliest education efforts to the 1970s. MHT staff photo.

Asian American Historical and Cultural Context of Montgomery County

($24,000 awarded)

MNCPPC-Montgomery County Historic Preservation will hire a consultant to conduct a historical and cultural resource survey associated with Asian American history, covering the period from the founding of Montgomery County in 1776 to the present, with a principal focus on the late 19th to early 21st centuries when the Asian American community grew in Montgomery County. The project will produce a series of oral histories and a research report identifying trends and themes related to Asian American history for future property designations.

U-1105 Historical and Archeological Survey, Inc.

($22,000 awarded)

The Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group will conduct archival research and documentation using direct measurements and imagery that will produce a report, update records, and disseminate results to the public.  U-1105 is a German U-boat equipped with a snorkel that extended its submerged operation, an advanced hydrophone array to detect vessels, an anechoic coating to evade opponents, and an advanced communication system.  It is believed to be the only German submarine equipped with this suite of innovations to conduct an operational patrol during WWII. U-1105 marks a significant milestone in the evolution from submersible to true submarine capable of indefinite submerged operation, and the changing tactics of undersea warfare between WWII and the Cold War.

Historic photograph of a U-1105 submarine. This grant, awarded to the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group, will fund diving and direct measurements, photography, and videography of the U-1105 submerged in Maryland waters. Photo courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

Availability of FY2022 funds through the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program will be announced in the spring of 2021 on MHT’s website (https://mht.maryland.gov/grants_noncap.shtml). Application deadlines and workshop dates will also be found on this page at that time. 

For more information about the grant program, please contact Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research and Survey at MHT, at 410-697-9536 or heather.barrett@maryland.gov.  For information about organizations receiving grants, please contact the institutions directly. 

Updates to the National Register of Historic Places Listings in Maryland

By Peter Kurtze, Evaluation and Registration Administrator

Charles F. Wagner, Jr. house (1946-51) at the Moyaone Reserve. Photo by Daniel Sams

The National Register of Historic Places is a program of the National Park Service, administered in Maryland by MHT.  Listing in the National Register confers recognition for a property’s historic character, and provides access to financial incentives for preservation, as well as a measure of protection from harm by federal- or state-funded projects. Among the properties that received National Register recognition in 2020 were two communities whose architecture and landscape are uncommonly intertwined. The Moyaone Association nominated the Moyaone Reserve Historic District and the Town of Washington Grove requested an expansion of the boundaries of the Washington Grove Historic District on historic and architectural merit. In both communities, the natural landscape plays an especially important role in defining their character. The National Park Service approved these additions to the National Register in Fall 2020. 

Map of the Moyaone Reserve Historic District
Moyaone Reserve Historic District 

Located in Accokeek, approximately 10 miles south of the Capital Beltway, the Moyaone Reserve Historic District encompasses a residential landscape of roughly 1,320 acres that spans parts of Prince George’s and Charles counties. The historic district, comprised primarily of single-family houses situated on large, wooded lots, is located entirely within Piscataway Park, a unit of the National Park System established in 1961 to preserve the historic viewshed across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. The district holds 189 single-family houses, most built after 1945; around fifty undeveloped parcels, including a 29-acre tract of protected marshland owned by the Alice Ferguson Foundation; and the Wagner Community Center, which was built in two phases in 1957 and 1960. 

The wooded landscape of the Moyaone Reserve.

The houses within the Moyaone Reserve Historic District reflect a range of late twentieth-century residential forms and styles. Many demonstrate key tenets of Modernist design and embrace the architectural theory that buildings should be visually and environmentally compatible with their natural surroundings. The residential character of the Moyaone Reserve was highly influenced by architect Charles F. Wagner, Jr., who designed over a dozen houses in the community – starting with his own home, which was begun in 1946 and expanded in 1947-51. While some Moyaone Reserve residents commissioned architect-designed houses, others purchased plans through trade magazines or catalogs, and worked with contractors or built kit houses using prefabricated elements. Five-acre house lots, with covenants and scenic easements restricting development, help preserve the nationally significant viewshed of Mount Vernon, protect the local ecosystem, and safeguard the rustic character, historic identity, and environmental values of the Moyaone Reserve. A dense tree canopy, natural terrain, meandering roads, and scenic views characterize the internal setting of the historic district and reinforce the unspoiled, rural quality of the community. 

Its role in the protection of the Mount Vernon viewshed, its distinctive land planning qualities, and the character of its innovative, site-sensitive buildings all confer significance in the areas of Conservation, Community Planning and Development, and Architecture spanning the period 1945-1976. The nomination effort was supported in part by a grant from the Certified Local Government Program

Washington Grove Historic District 
Carpenter Gothic cottage at 15 The Circle in Washington Grove.

The 225-acre Washington Grove Historic District encompasses nearly all the land within the municipal boundary of the Town of Washington Grove in central Montgomery County. The district includes 216 single-family houses, three commercial buildings, two municipal buildings, a community clubhouse, and a church – all set within a secluded, wooded landscape that vividly reflects the town’s origin as a nineteenth-century Methodist camp meeting.  

McCathran Hall at Washington Grove.

The Washington Grove Historic District was listed in the National Register in 1980. Documentation standards at that time were less exacting than they are now. This amended nomination provides additional information that present a fuller picture of the community’s history and also offers a firm basis for planning decisions. It identifies and describes the architectural resources, landscape features, and viewsheds that reflect the district’s physical evolution during the period 1873-1969. Lastly, it expands the boundaries to more completely encompass the area historically associated with Washington Grove’s development. 

A map of the Washington Grove Historic District.

The buildings within the Washington Grove Historic District represent a range of late 19th- and 20th-century architectural styles and forms. For example, a grouping of architecturally distinctive Carpenter Gothic cottages complement the forest – the “sacred grove” – that was the setting of the outdoor religious revival upon which the community was founded.  The informal, rustic style remained prevalent as the town grew through the 20th century.  The revised nomination thoroughly documents the role of the landscape in defining the character of Washington Grove.  Its towering oaks, broad pedestrian avenues, public parks, recreational pond, and woodlands create a sylvan suburban experience.

A bungalow at 109 Maple Avenue in Washington Grove.
The Circle at Washington Grove.

Exploring Heritage Outdoors: Safe and Exciting Ways to Enjoy Maryland History

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

As the weather cools down and the leaves start to change, turn to your local heritage area for exciting, educational, and socially distanced outdoor activities. From beautiful trails and exhilarating hikes to historic tours and scavenger hunts, Maryland’s heritage areas are sure to have something for you. All thirteen of Maryland’s heritage areas have resources that can bring their residents closer to the nature, history, and culture that makes our state unique.  

From the marshes and wetlands of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area to the cliffs and bluffs of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, each area offers an authentic and local experience in nature. Trails like Port Tobacco and Indian Head in Southern Maryland can bring hikers face-to-face with herons, turkey, and even bald eagles.  

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

For the more adventurous, the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area, Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, and Patapsco Heritage Greenway all offer miles of trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding. State parks like Deep CreekSusquehanna, and Patapsco deliver breathtaking views and exhilarating journeys for hikers and bikers of all skill levels.   

Maryland’s heritage areas also offer a plethora of outdoor resources to get in touch with local culture and heritage. Residents on the Eastern Shore can enjoy self-guided tours through historic Cambridge in the Heart of Chesapeake County Heritage Area and Salisbury in the Beach to Bay Heritage Area. From the local families that built these towns to the role of waterways in developing local economies, these tours explore the trends of Maryland’s residents along the bay and coast.  Nearby residents can also enjoy the diverse cultural sites contained within the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area , including the well-know Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Residents of central Maryland have easy access to just as many great outdoor resources. The Baltimore National Heritage Area contains dozens of historic neighborhoods, from the colonial streets of Fells Point to the 19th century remnants of Little Italy. Those looking for an outdoor escape in Baltimore City can enjoy a variety of spectacular green spaces, such as Patterson Park. Located on the sight of the Battle of Hampstead Hill, the park boasts ample outdoor amenities and colorful heritage resources like the Patterson Park Observatory and the Pulaski Memorial.  

Image Courtesy of Patapsco Heritage Greenway

For those closer to Washington, DC, Heritage Montgomery offers great outdoor cultural sites like Glen Echo Park. While many of the park’s indoor classes and exhibits are on hold, the site is still celebrating the unique heritage and art of Marylanders. Nearby, at Maryland Milestones, guests can enjoy a walking tour of downtown Hyattsville, visiting a number of sites included on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Maryland’s western heritage areas also offer outstanding resources. From Heart of the Civil War to Canal Place, these heritage areas boast sites that can help visitors experience the storied past of our state. South Mountain, Antietam, and Monocacy are all open to visitors and offer exceptional self-guided tours. Canal Place’s C&O Canal offers miles of beautiful hiking along the former water highway that connected our nation to the West. Both of these sites are great opportunities to walk in the footsteps of Marylanders past and learn about our shared history. 

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

Of course Maryland’s capital offers equally great ties to the past. Guests to the Four Rivers Heritage Area can explore the early history of our state by taking walking tours of downtown. While many of Annapolis’s museums, restaurants, and stores may be closed, the culture of our state’s capital lives on in the city’s architecture and parks. Guests can explore historic streets that remain largely untouched since their creation. 

Some of our most popular museums may be closed, but so much of Maryland’s heritage exists outside of the museum. From our natural environment to the cityscapes around us, our state is full of unique and fulfilling opportunities. To learn more about what’s available near you, check out your local heritage area or visit: https://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml For those looking for more outdoor walking activities, check out the Maryland Department of Transportation’s outdoor initiative, Walktober: http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/walktober