Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Civil War Living History - A Definite Success!

Much thanks to the Maryland Historical Society for bringing last Saturday's Civil War Living History event to Sotterley Plantation. Because of their generosity, and that of the Maryland Humanities Council, this performance was free to the public.

Performing artists, Britt Olsen-Ecker and Roderick Howard II, brought to life the stories of two historic Maryland heroes ... and wow-ed the audience! Clara Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” and was founder of the American Red Cross; her courage and generosity commanded the respect of every soldier. Christian Fleetwood, a Baltimore-born free black man who as a Union soldier willingly risked his life during the Civil War, became one of the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor for bravery.
And much thanks to all who attended!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Standing Ovation for the Sotterley Garden Guild!

On Tuesday, May 22nd, the Sotterley Garden Guild was awarded a proclamation from the Historic Preservation Commission for preserving and maintaining the Colonial Revival Garden at Sotterley Plantation. Mr. Rob Gibbs nominated the Sotterley Garden Guild for this prestigious award, which was presented by the Board of County Commissioners.

Congratulations to the Sotterley Garden Guild! Sotterley's gardens are, without a doubt, magnificent and one of the main attractions here on site! All connected with Sotterley applaud you and are most grateful for each and every one of you!

The Colonial Revival Gardens - Past & Present

The land along the Patuxent which we know as Sotterley has been cultivated for centuries. However, the gardens we know today date from the early 20th century. When wealthy New Yorkers Herbert Satterlee and wife Louisa, daughter of J. P. Morgan, purchased a faded plantation in 1910, they found few clues about the personal gardens of colonial or antebellum predecessors except a few tool inventories and a blush noisette rose.

With the help of a landscape architect, the Satterlees divided the area of land just north of the manor house into geometric plots and developed what is known as a Colonial Revival garden for their pleasure and the pleasure of their guests. They established perennial beds, a cutting garden, a vegetable plot, and an herb garden. They installed boxwood, rambling roses, and the large peony hedge that continues to thrive along the north border of the garden.

Mabel Satterlee Ingalls took possession of Sotterley Plantation at mid-century. With attention to even the smallest detail, she devoted herself to the further development of these gardens. She added coral bells, more roses, Persian lilacs, and bulbs imported from the Netherlands. She entertained frequently, and her guests were treated to plantation-grown produce and a bounty of flowers from the cutting garden.

Lacking Mrs. Ingalls’ attention and resources after her death, Sotterley Plantation was placed on the list of Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These gardens, however, have remained a constant, thanks to volunteers who banded together to maintain Sotterley’s Colonial Revival heritage.

The gardens you see today at Sotterley depend on volunteers who are committed to the upkeep and improvement of the gardens. These volunteers work not only directly to maintain the flower beds and other plantings but have also been instrumental in repairing Sotterley’s sundial, restoring a long-missing flagpole, a manor-shaped bird house, and planting several pear trees and a direct descendant of the English oaks grown at Sotterley Hall in England.

Sotterley’s gardens still beckon, from venerable peonies and roses to cosmos and flowering sage, and remain a mecca for visitors of all kinds:

for artists,

for families,

and for solitary wanderers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Great Way to Enjoy Sotterley!

Did you know that in addition to our Guided Tours of the 1703 Plantation House and Self-Guided Grounds Tours, we now offer Audio Tours of both? This is also a great way to tour Sotterley Plantation and learn about our over 300 years of history. Check in at our Visitor Center and join us!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Our Upcoming Civil War Living History Event

Partnership with Maryland Historical Society

Civil War Living History Event
May 26th at 1:00 p.m.

When the Maryland Historical Society contacted Sotterley Plantation to be a partner site for their Civil War living history project, we quickly agreed. The Maryland Historical Society was applying for a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, and the living history they would create with this project would then go on the road and be held at different sites all over the state of Maryland. Sotterley is always excited to find new ways in which we can help make history come alive for our site’s visitors, and we were thrilled when the Historical Society received their grant and we could take part in this project.

On Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm meet two historic Marylander Civil War heroes portrayed by the Maryland Historical Society Players who bring history alive and make it relevant for today’s audiences. Clara Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” and was founder of the American Red Cross. Learn how one woman’s courage and generosity commanded the respect of every soldier. Also meet Christian Fleetwood, a Baltimore-born free black man who as a Union soldier willingly risked his life during the Civil War and became one of the first African-American’s to receive the Medal of Honor for bravery. Both performing artists, Britt Olsen-Ecker and Roderick Howard II, will bring to life the stories of these extraordinary individuals. They will also present a short talk highlighting Civil War era objects that appear in the Maryland Historical Society’s exhibit Divided Voices: Civil War in Maryland and will lead a discussion with the audience. The exhibit is open through 2015.

This free program is made possible by the Maryland Historical Society through the Maryland Humanities Council’s generous grant program. Call 301-373-2280 to reserve your seat, as space is limited!


Britt Olsen-Ecker as Clara Barton. Photo courtesy of KEN STANEK

This program was made possible with a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council.

Paul Jennings Came Alive for Us

Last Friday night, our annual Speaker Series kicked-off with an amazing presentation by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, author of the New York Times Bestseller, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons. We are grateful that Elizabeth accepted our invitation ... and to all who attended!

Paul Jennings came alive for us. 

A three year labor of love, requiring much commitment and research (right down to the details of the weather on specific days in history), Dowling Taylor introduced us to:

~ Paul Jennings, the longtime slave of the Madisons

~ Paul Jennings as a man pursuing his freedom - once having freedom at his fingertips then taken away, resulting in more years of slavery.

~ Paul Jennings as the free man trying to help enslaved people to freedom

~ Paul Jennings the author - having written the first autobiography by a person who had lived in the White House

Dowling Taylor also shared about meeting a descendant of Paul Jennings and learning more intimate details about this man's life, death, and burial. Her journey with Jennings has taken her far and wide, honoring the life and legacy of this courageous and determined man - to the White House under the current administration and most recently, to Sotterley Plantation.

We have a limited number of signed copies of A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons available for purchase at the Sotterley Museum Shop.

Because of the ongoing generosity of The Boeing Company, dedicated to promoting education and the arts within the Southern Maryland community, the Speaker Series at Sotterley is free to the public. Please visit for complete information about our upcoming Speaker Series events for 2012!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"The Choice" - War of 1812 Living History

Sotterley Plantation’s War of 1812 Living History “The Choice” will be part of the three year national bicentennial commemoration of this war in our region. “The Choice” will take place on June 9th, July 14th, and August 11th, with showings of the performance at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on each event date.

The war with the British brought hardship to the plantation but a chance at freedom for the enslaved. At the living history presentations you will meet the people who lived and labored at Sotterley during the summer of 1814. Come to one of our events and be a part of the drama as slaves must make a difficult and daring choice. What will you decide?
In FY2011, Sotterley was awarded grants from the Maryland Heritage Area Authority, the Maryland Humanities Council, and the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium to create a living history script from Sotterley’s unique story of the War of 1812, as well as the costuming and props needed for the production. Now that the script and costuming had been completed it was time to begin production, and Old Line Bank stepped forward to generously sponsor the production phase of this project. Due to the support from these three organizations, Sotterley will now be able to share a unique story with a perspective rarely told about the War of 1812.

This event is FREE to the public, but space is limited. Advanced reservations can be made by calling the Sotterley office at 301-373-2280.

Loud Applause for the Garden Guild!

The Sotterley Garden Guild held the 14th Annual Plant Sale and Free Plant Exchange this past weekend and it was a tremendous success! Much thanks to the Garden Guild for making this happen, and to each and every one of the visitors who attended the event and purchased plants.

The Garden Guild does an incredible amount of work for this site.

Anyone who has visited and walked through the Colonial Revival Garden, has experienced the fruits of their dedication. Nurturers of nature, they lovingly put forth much effort, sweat, and care in making Sotterley an exquisitely beautiful place. If the reader has not yet had this experience, we welcome you to come and visit soon. It's a lovely time of year in the garden :)

The Garden Guild also plays a major part in Sotterley's two December events: Family Plantation Christmas and Sotterley Holiday Candlelight. For months in advance, they use items from the garden to create gorgeous wreaths, swags, kissing balls, ornaments, birdhouses, and more ... for purchase. The proceeds not only cover the costs of maintaining the garden, but are also used for special projects around the plantation.

Interested  is becoming part of the Sotterley Garden Guild?
Whether you are an experienced gardener or someone who would like to learn more about gardening, we welcome your help. We meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays ~ rain or shine ~ from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Volunteers may participate as their schedules permit. Gardening tools are provided. For information about the Garden Guild and our activities, please contact Kim Tune, Sotterley Membership/Volunteer Coordinator by email: or phone: 301-373-2280.