This month my road trip will take us to one of my favorite destinations, St. Mary’s County, MD. Bordered by the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers, St. Mary’s County is a place of beauty, history and activities year round, but particularly active in the fall.
A little over an hour south of Old Town stands a historic site majestically overlooking the Patuxent River – Historic Sotterley Plantation. Known for her genteel charm and southern hospitality, this National Historic Landmark is the only Tidewater Plantation in Maryland open to the public that offers a full range of visitor activities, special events, and educational programs.
Having received the designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2000, Sotterley is one of the oldest museums of its kind in the United States as its history dates back to the turn of the 18th century. Many people have called Sotterley home over the years. Some came here to prosper; others worked the land, either for wages or under bondage. Today Sotterley consists of almost 100 acres of breathtaking beauty including nature trails, Colonial Revival Gardens, and over 20 historic buildings. The Plantation house had its beginnings in 1703 and has undergone many changes and additions over time. Sotterley’s only surviving original Slave Cabin illustrates the life conditions of many St. Mary’s County people from the mid-1800’s into the early 20th century.
“Over the years, Sotterley has transformed from being a frontier farm, to a significant port, to becoming a landmark worthy of notice and attention and a place that brings history to life,” stated Nancy Easterling, Executive Director of Historic Sotterley, Inc. “The versatility of this amazing site extends a welcoming hand to all, whether they are here to experience our history, our special events, or in search of a beautiful site rental opportunity.
Sotterley underwent a significant re-interpretation in 2009 to be able to better tell the fact-based story of the plantation during the best and worst of times. With the support of grants and private funding sources, Sotterley’s history is now presented through the lens of the Colonial Revival period in American History – a tie when renewed patriotism was at the forefront. From this perspective, the over 300 years of history is told through Guided Tours, Self-Guided Tours and Group Tours. Off-shooting from this, several specialized Education Programs have emerged, including: Tidewater Plantation Life, Slavery to Freedom, Living on the Patuxent, Archaeology Rocks, to Live Enslaved and Loyalist to Patriot.
Throughout year, Historic Sotterley offers many special events, including speaker programs, children’s programs, a weekly farmer’s market, and social events such as the Gala in the Garden and the Sotterley Barn Bash. Coming up in October, people come from near and far to enjoy the Riverside Winefest at Sotterley and the Ghosts of Sotterley, followed in December by Sotterley Christmas Traditions and Family Plantation Christmas. “Sotterley offers something for everyone. We are thrilled when people visit us for the first time and then return again and again to experience Sotterley in new ways. Every program, every tour, and every event is a unique dimension of Sotterley!” stated Eileen Miller, Sotterley Marketing Manager.
Written by: Bob Tagert