July 2, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin Is In Bethesda, MD

When I was growing up in suburban Maryland, there were rumors that the real-life inspiration for the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was located in the woods just off the Old Georgetown Road exit of I-270.  As it turns out, the rumors are not only true but now there a plans for an Uncle Tom's Cabin interactive museum on the site located in the middle of the burbs of North Bethesda (11420 Old Georgetown Road to be exact).

In 2006, the Montgomery County government purchased the property, officially know as the Josiah Henson Site.  Henson was a slave who lived there for nearly 40 years in the early half of the 19th century before escaping to write his autobiography.  It was this book that inspired abolitionist/author Harriet Beecher Stowe to write her international blockbuster, "Uncle Tom's Cabin".  Stowe's novel was so widely read and influential that many historians list it as one of the causes of the Civil War.

It's remarkable that this little piece of history has survived all the development around it since the suburban explosion of the 1960's.  Currently the site is open for limited visitors to tour the original plantation house and a small wood-cabin kitchen.  The Montgomery Gazette reports that planning is underway for a full museum to open on the site in 2012.