Montgomery County History Topics: Town, People and Places


River Road, Bethesda: A Short History of Black and White, 1850-1963 *NEW*

Speaker: Paige Whitley

The commercial section of River Road, Bethesda, sometimes called Westbard, was once home to a flourishing community of African Americans. This presentation outlines the history of this community and their white neighbors from before the Civil War to after Desegregation, and examines the networks of families, faith, education, and work that held the community together before intensified commercial development led to its eventual disbandment. Macedonia Baptist Church, on the corner of River Road and Clipper Lane, and the currently disputed Moses Cemetery are all that now remain of the original community.   


The History of Reed Brothers Dodge, 1915-2012 *NEW*

Speaker: Jeanne Gartner

Reed Brothers Dodge was one of the longest running automobile dealerships in Montgomery County history, operating from two locations in Rockville for 97 years. This PowerPoint presentation features historical photographs taken by the dealership’s founder, Lewis Reed, and highlights how Reed Brothers Dodge came into being, and how the company overcame the inevitable changes and challenges throughout almost a century of being in business.


Off-the-Beaten Path in Montgomery County

Speaker: Ralph Buglass

An illustrated presentation on the “Top 10”  lesser-known spots in Montgomery County with historical importance, amazing natural beauty, or superlative in some other way. Learn about some famous residents’ homes and houses designed by famous architects, spots with connections to events of national significance, oases of natural beauty, museums every bit as good as those on the Mall, still-standing relics of our past, and more. 


The Nuclear Age in Montgomery County: The Atomic Energy Commission and its Site at Germantown, Maryland 

Speaker: Eric W. Boyle

This PowerPoint slide lecture explores what life was like for persons living in Montgomery County during the 1950s. Eric W. Boyle, Chief Historian for the Department of Energy, will discuss the Atomic Energy Commission’s move to upper Montgomery County during the early days of the Cold War. After considering over 50 locations, farmland near Germantown, Maryland, was determined to be a distance far enough from Washington D.C. to survive a nuclear blast on the Nation’s Capital from the Soviet Union. Thus, the headquarters for the Atomic Energy Commission was built in Germantown, Maryland, in 1957. Today, the site is one of two administrative complexes of the US Department of Energy in the DC area. In this talk, Boyle will share archival research and new insight on the detailed criteria used to determine the Germantown headquarters’ location.


Marriotts and Motor Cars:  Made for Each Other

Speaker: Katie Dishman

A lecture and PowerPoint presentation focusing on a now a well-known hotel company, Marriott International, which actually started as an A&W Root Beer stand in Washington, D.C. in 1927.  Marriott’s corporate archivist will explore the history of the company and its integral connection with cars. Not only did the stands, named Hot Shoppes, expand because of their drive-ins, but the lodging business began as motor hotels at the advent of the Interstate Highway System.  Highlights from the history of the company and its growth, including its move to Bethesda in 1955, will be featured. 


BOOM!: How Montgomery County Developed in the 1950s

Speaker: Bob Bachman

A lecture and PowerPoint presentation summarizing the rapid development of lower Montgomery County in the 1950s as a suburb of Washington, DC.  The focus is on demographics, housing & subdivisions, shopping centers, schools, parks & recreation, & libraries.  This program was offered at the 2018 Montgomery County History Conference. 


The Home Front During World War II
Speaker: Bill Offutt
This lecture and slide presentation is an overview of life in the D.C. area during World War II, with an emphasis on rationing, volunteering, air raid and blackout drills, shortages, victory gardens, and everyday life.


Clara Barton’s Washington

Speaker: Susan Rosenvold

Join Speaker Susan Rosenvold and discover Washington D.C. through the eyes of one of it’s residents – Clara Barton.  Barton lived in Washington several times, first, to become an independent woman, second, as a humanitarian and later as s lobbyist attempting to found the American Red Cross.  Discover what Washington was like, who Clara rubbed elbows with, and her success as a humanitarian. PowerPoint presentation/guided tour/portrayal.


Woodlawn Manor of Sandy Spring:  An Intersection of Quakers, Enslaved, and Freedom Seekers

Speaker: Mark Thorne

This PowerPoint presentation features a historic look at Woodlawn Manor plantation in Sandy Springs, MD. The story traces the ownership of the property from Dr. William Palmer, the Quaker doctor that oversaw the plantation to its greatest expanse to the property becoming a public park that features the Woodlawn Museum. The museum highlights the area’s agriculture landscape, the Underground Railroad and the Quaker experience in Montgomery County, revealed through the lives of the Woodlawn’s residents -the Palmer Family and enslaved laborers.


Montgomery County: A Rich History

Speaker: William Offutt

This slide lecture provides an overview of the county’s past and its people from the era of Indian settlements to today’s urban-suburban development. The lecture is illustrated with slides which evoke the past and indicate the vast changes in the county.


Montgomery County’s Prehistory: A 12,000 Year Story

Speaker: Don Housley

After discussing the various theories for the peopling of North America, this PowerPoint presentation centers on describing the environment, social structure, and tool development of Montgomery County’s prehistory through the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Woodland time periods prior to European contact.


Thurgood Marshall: A Trail-Blazing Civil Rights Victory in Montgomery County

Speaker: Ralph Buglass

Civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall delivered an early blow to school segregation right here in Montgomery County—gaining equal pay for the county’s African American teachers in 1937. This little-known legal case is often seen as the first step in Marshall’s successful drive to have separate schools for white and black children declared unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court did 17 years later in a landmark decision. This illustrated talk details this remarkable local story and its national significance. Spoiler alert: the victory came at a tremendous cost to the teacher bringing the case.


George Atzerodt – The Other Conspirator

Speaker: Susan Soderberg 

After their ringleader, John Wilkes Booth, was killed, other conspirators in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln and other top leaders of the government were tried before a Courts Martial. Four of them were executed by hanging. Most people know of Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the United States; Davy Herald, the young man who led Booth on his escape; and Lewis Powell, the man who almost succeeded in killing Secretary of State Seward. But what of George Atzerodt, the Prussian immigrant who did not carry out his assignment of murdering Vice President Johnson and was later arrested in Germantown, Maryland? Who was he? How did he get involved in this plot? Why didn’t he assassinate the vice president? How did he escape? And why was he hanged? This PowerPoint presentation will answer these questions with illustrations from the past and the present.


The New Face of Montgomery County 

Speaker: Steve Roberts

Montgomery County today is a global community of a million people with one-third of its residents born outside the United States. The dramatic growth of immigrant populations from all regions of the world has profoundly changed the community’s social, cultural and economic dynamic. This program will discuss the modern history of immigration in Montgomery County for different communities, including countries of origins and reasons for migration, settlement patterns, professions of choice, community organizing, cultural identities, and ties with home countries. The speaker will draw on some of his Bethesda Magazine columns to tell stories that flesh out the statistical trends of this recent history.


Sugarloaf: The Singular History of a Singular Mountain 

Speaker: Ralph Buglass

Sugarloaf Mountain, a private oasis of natural beauty and scenic vistas that is open to the public, nearly became Camp David and was almost topped with a modernistic structure designed by one of America’s most famous architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, that instead ended up as a New York City landmark. This extensively illustrated talk explores these and other historical oddities of this tiny mountain that sits all by itself just over the Montgomery County line in Frederick County.


Offutt’s Crossroads: The Early History of Potomac and its Founding Family

Speaker: Ralph Buglass 

This talk and slide presentation covers the “first family” of Potomac: the Offutts for whom Potomac was originally named (Offutt’s Crossroads). The talk, by a descendant of the Offutt family, explores when and how the village came to be called Potomac, with feuding among the family, the end of slavery, a business partnership gone bad, and attempted murder all playing a part—not to mention a few ghostly appearances in later years!


A History of Maryland Through its Gardens 

Speaker: Barbara Glickman

The history and horticultural highlights of approximately 11 gardens and their homes and owners are covered in some detail, and the sites are: Historic St. Mary’s City, Historic London Town and Gardens, Sotterley Plantation, Mount Harmon Plantation, Hampton National Historic Site, William Paca House and Garden, Montpelier Mansion; Riversdale House Museum, Glenview Mansion, Evergreen Museum & Library, and Cylburn Arboretum. Other sites include: Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden, Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area,  Cranesville Swamp,  Brookside Gardens, Ladew Topiary Gardens, Antietam National Battlefield, and Monocacy National Battlefield. The presentation is about 50 minutes in length and includes approximately 90 slides that show the diversity of the gardens and parks, and accompany the historical narratives.


Capital Splendor-Gardens and Parks of Washington DC

Speaker: Barbara Glickman

This PowerPoint lecture and slide presentation includes about 80 photographs, and provides a framework of different landscape garden design styles for viewing these features at approximately 9 of the 32 gardens in the speaker’s 2012 book by the same name. These landscape design types include Italian, French, Italian, colonial, and topiary. In addition, the talk covers the highlights of those gardens and provides historical information of the gardens, houses, and landscape architects. Due to their historical significance and diverse nature, the following gardens are included in some detail in the presentation: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens; River Farm; Meridian Hill Park; Tudor Place; Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens; Dumbarton Oaks; Tregaron Conservancy; Ladew Topiary Gardens; and the US Botanic Garden. The PowerPoint includes photos of other gardens and parks that highlight the region’s diversity, such as Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Huntley Meadows, Meadowlark Gardens, and McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area. The speaker’s book may be offered for sale and signing, as appropriate


Grand Old Ditch – C&O Canal Past, Present and Future

Speaker: Judith Welles

Judith Welles, a local history author and C&O Canal volunteer, provides historic highlights and photographs of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, including the canal’s role in the Civil War, historic structures, and unique engineering marvels in the mid-19th Century.  The presentation also describes current-day challenges facing the C&O Canal National Historical Park and volunteer opportunities.  


Still Standing: One- and Two-Room Schoolhouses in Montgomery County and the Stories They Tell About the Early Days of Public Education

Speaker: Ralph Buglass

The one-room schoolhouse symbolizes the earliest days of public education. In Montgomery County a surprising number of one- and two-room schoolhouses still exist—in one form or another. With photos of them all, this presentation tells the early history of public education in the county, including the nearly century-long practice of school segregation dubbed “separate but equal” that was very unequal in practice. Can be combined with a visit to a restored one-room schoolhouse to experience what school was like more than 100 years ago.


In Search of Ghosts, Montgomery County, Maryland

Speakers: Karen Yaffe Lottes and Dorothy Pugh

This story-telling lecture explores haunted places of Montgomery County and its surrounding area through ghostly tales. Learn about the many ghosts, apparitions, and supernatural occurrences that can’t be explained logically, including: The Headless Horseman that continues to terrorize visitors to the old railroad bridge; the poltergeist that haunts the Madison House; the Tommyknocker at the Maryland Mine; and the farmer who keeps searching for his buried treasure. Take this haunted journey back in time!


Abraham Lincoln’s Montgomery County Connections

Speaker: Susan Soderberg

An historic look back at the Congressman and the President Abraham Lincoln, and his diverse connections to Montgomery County before, and associated with, the Civil War. Among the things covered are his visit to Montanverde, a Montgomery County historic house; his and Mary Todd Lincoln’s relations with the Blair family of Silver Spring; his being shot at by Confederate snipers shooting from where Walter Reed is today; and the arrest of one of the assassination conspirators in Germantown. This is a PowerPoint presentation of 30-45 minutes.


Father Divine of Montgomery County: Early 20th Century Advocate for Peace and Equality
Speaker: Judy Christensen


Laytonsville: From Crossroads to Community

Speakers: Jane Griffith Evans and Anne Burke Wolf

Located in northeastern Montgomery County, Laytonsville evolved from a Native American trail to a market crossroads known as “Cracklintown” and to the vibrant community it is today. Reflect back on 200 years with the stories of women and men who drew on their strengths and skills to build this town and the wider community. This local history is filled with universal themes. This is a lecture and PowerPoint slide presentation based on the speakers’ book by the same title. The speakers’ book may be offered for sale and signing, as appropriate.


The Ballad of Chevy Chase and How County Property Has Evolved Through the Years

Speaker: Donna Evers

A glimpse of how Montgomery County’s housing communities have evolved into the highly sought after neighborhoods they are today, with special attention to the ballad of Chevy Chase. This story details an ambitious plan to develop high-end real estate in the middle of nowhere; transforming a treeless pasture into the coveted suburb at the gateway to the nation’s capital. The program features photographs depicting the progression of housing stock over the years, to the homes that please the eye today. It lasts approximately 30 minutes.


Scandals and Mysteries of Chevy Chase

Speaker: William Offutt

Everything from where did the money come from to where did the castle go – a look at some events, both serious and otherwise.


Cabin John: Legends and Life of an Uncommon Place

Speaker: Judith Welles

A slide show about the mystery of the name Cabin John and legends of lost lovers, ghosts, pirates and buried treasure. Historic photos of the Union Arch Bridge and the Cabin John Hotel, a resort destination from 1870s to 1931 that attracted Washington socialites and U.S. Presidents. Judith Also offers a “History Walk” through a part of Cabin John to compliment this presentation.


The Road to Damascus: Churches and Houses of Worship along New Hampshire Avenue

Speaker: Patricia Andersen

New Hampshire Avenue is home to more than thirty congregations representing nearly all major world religions. Sometimes called the “Highway to Heaven,” this ten-mile stretch of road between the Capital Beltway and Sandy Spring Road boasts an impressive array of religious communities and architectural styles, including the copper-domed Muslim Community Center, a Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Cambodian Buddhist Temple, and traditional and modernist Protestant churches. The history and architecture of this remarkable section of Montgomery County will be discussed via a PowerPoint slide lecture.


The History of Gaithersburg, Maryland
Speaker: Judith Christensen


F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Rockville: Rockville in the 1920s

Speaker: Eileen McGuckian

A look at the small town America’s favorite writer knew in the 1920s, with an explanation of how F. Scott Fitzgerald came to be buried in Rockville –twice! (Slide presentation.)


The History of Rockville Pike: A 300 Year Journey

Speaker: Eileen McGuckian

Using historic and contemporary photographs, local historian Eileen McGuckian presents a tour of the Rockville Pike from its beginnings as a Native American path to the “Golden Mile”. (Slide presentation.)


Rockville, Maryland: 250 Years of History

Speaker: Eileen McGuckian

An armchair tour of historic Rockville — from colonial times to the present – with the author of Rockville: Portrait of a City, the definitive history of our county seat. Come with your questions! (Slide presentation.)


Rockville’s Victorian Heritage
Speaker: Judith Christensen


From Corn to Commuters: How the Coming of the Railroad Changed the Way of Life and the Future of Montgomery County

Speaker: Susan Soderberg

This PowerPoint presentation tells the story of how the coming of the railroad changed the face of Montgomery County forever. Featured are the railroad stations designed by Francis Baldwin, extraordinary feats of engineering such as the curving trestle over Little Seneca Creek and the Bollman Truss viaduct over the Monocacy River, and new suburban and agricultural towns spawned by this catapult into the Industrial Age. The talk explores how this branch line became the mainstay of the B & O Railroad and evolved into the current commuter and freight line. This presentation is based on Susan’s book The Met: A History of the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad, published in 1998 by the Germantown Historical Society.


The Loughborough Family of Montgomery County

Speaker: James Johnston

For 162 years, the Loughboroughs were one of the most prominent families in Washington and southern Montgomery County. Nathan Loughborough was a Quaker, working for the Treasury Department in Philadelphia, who moved here with the government in 1800. After he left government, he applied his financial expertise on the board of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank in Georgetown, the C&O Canal Company, and the Washington (Rockville) Turnpike. He owned twin townhouses in Georgetown, a 250-acre estate in northwest Washington called Grasslands, an 800-acre tobacco farm in Bethesda called Milton, and an estate in Middleburg, Virginia that later became the famous Melon farm there. Loughboro Road and Loughborough Lane are named for him. Later generations of the family fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side and aided the Confederacy. They also left memoirs of those times which can now be found in speaker James Johnston’s new book on the Loughborough family entitled, The Recollections of Margaret Cabell Brown Loughborough: A Southern Woman’s Memories of Richmond, VA and Washington, DC in the Civil War. To learn more about the book and the Loughborough family visit the speaker’s blog at


Archaeological Sites in Montgomery County, Maryland

Speaker: Don Housley

This PowerPoint presentation provides an introduction to both prehistoric and historical archaeological sites located on park land in Montgomery County and the techniques used by county archaeologists to unearth the past. A list of upcoming public archaeology programs and tours will be provided.


Mining in Montgomery County
Speaker: Jeff Nagy


The Fountain Company: Colonial Copper Mining in Montgomery County
Speaker: Jeff Nagy


Mills in Montgomery County

Speaker: Don Housley

This PowerPoint presentation focuses on the rise and fall of the milling industry in Montgomery County. The talk describes the nature and diversity of milling operations on the major stream valleys in the County, along with some archaeology done on selected mill sites.