Bethesda Historical Society

January 23, 2024 - Bethesda's 153rd birthday!

Contact us at bethesdahistory@gmail.com

Come see our big exhibit at the Connie Morella Library in Bethesda

 

Four big display cases of fascinating Bethesda artifacts!
Connie Morella Library is at 7400 Arlington Rd in Bethesda.

Past, Present and Future of Bethesda Meeting House

Watch Hank Levine, president of the Bethesda Meeting House Foundation, present an illustrated tour of this iconic building’s history, architecture and significance.

Click here to watch it on Youtube
Hank’s presentation begins at the 3:10 mark.

We bought the Bethesda Meeting House!

Bethesda Meeting House Bought by Local Historic Preservation Group

Bethesda, MD January 8, 2024–The Bethesda Historical Society today announced the purchase of the historic Bethesda Meeting House, “the church that named Bethesda.”

A new entity, the Bethesda Meeting House Foundation (BMHF), was formed to take ownership of the property and oversee the restoration and future use of the church and adjacent parsonage that occupy it.

The Meeting House and parsonage sit on a hill overlooking Rockville Pike just north of the National Institutes of Health campus. The first Meeting House on the site was built in 1820 by the Bethesda Presbyterian Church and named after a healing pool in Jerusalem. After fire destroyed the building in 1849, the present Meeting House was constructed, and the parsonage added.

Hank Levine, President of BMHF, noted that “the Meeting House is by far the most important historic building near downtown Bethesda and literally embodies the history of the community.”  It served as the town’s first post office in 1852 and was occupied by Confederate cavalry during a July 1864 Civil War skirmish in what is now downtown Bethesda. According to legend, the Church’s bell is linked to Paul Revere and Abraham Lincoln is said to have worshipped or spoken there. The building is notable for its rare “slave gallery,” where enslaved persons were permitted to worship. The Meeting House and parsonage are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and were among the original sites on the 1979 Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation.

Wendy Kaufman, Secretary-Treasurer of BMHF, noted that “in 1871, the Church’s pastor persuaded a newly appointed local postmaster to petition the Post Office Department to rename the area Bethesda (it was then known as Darcy’s Store). The petition was granted, and the rest is – literally — history.”

The last congregation to occupy the Meeting House, Temple Hill Baptist Church, ceased worshipping there several years ago. The buildings have not been maintained, and extensive restoration work will be necessary. Leading members of the local real estate, legal, and historic preservation communities have volunteered their time and expertise to help BMHF complete the acquisition and plan the buildings’ restoration.

The Foundation is exploring the possibility of partnering with a local nonprofit organization to use the site. “It’s a community treasure,” added BMHF Vice President David Schardt, “and it deserves to be a civic asset.”

“The story of Wisconsin Avenue begins about 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age,” she reports.

Click here for her TikTok video history.

Anyone else have a Bethesda video history or reminiscence? Let us know at bethesdahistory@gmail.com.

Ever wondered how (and why) Bethesda came to be where and what it is today?

Bethesda Historical Society Secretary and Tour Chair Hank Levine will take you through how, between 1750 and 1920, a fall line, a ridge line, a turnpike, a trolley line, rail lines, the coming of the automobile, and Chevy Chase set the stage for the development of Bethesda into the affluent suburb and urban center it is today.

A 1-hour video courtesy of Montgomery History.

Click here to watch Part One.

Hank returns to tell the story of how in the century after the end of World War I Bethesda became the affluent suburb and urban center we know and (mostly) love today.

Join us as we explore how the rise of the automobile brought new neighborhoods and a growing central business district; how the zoning and planning ‘wars’ of the 1960’s to 1990’s shaped our community; and how Metro jump-started the growth of a town into a city.

A 1-hour video courtesy of Montgomery History.

Click here to watch Part Two.

History of dairy industry in Bethesda with the MOOseum's Richard Rowe

Dairy farms and creameries in the Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring area were pretty much gone by the 1940s. The early Bethesda area dairy farms and creameries are identified and located on a map and some are discussed in detail.
This presentation was developed in cooperation with the Bethesda Historical Society to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Bethesda.

An 80-minute video from Montgomery History April 27, 2022.

We're always interested in Bethesda memorabilia

Do you have a copy of a history or reminiscences about your Bethesda neighborhood or your street?

Do you collect historical artifacts of Bethesda life that you’d like to share with  the community? Do you have videos of past Bethesda?

Are you interested in recording an oral history of your memories of Bethesda?

The Bethesda Historical Society would like to talk with you!

Email us at bethesdahistory@gmail.com

Connie Morella: a Conversation with the Bethesda Historical Society

The Bethesda Historical Society recently had the opportunity to speak with former U.S. Representative Connie Morella at the Bethesda Library named after her. In this short, she speaks of the importance of women having opportunities in life and in their careers.

A 4-minute video from Montgomery Municipal Cable.

Bethesda Memories

Harry Truman dedicates Bethesda’s Madonna statue in 1929


Future President Harry Truman dedicated the 12th and final Madonna of the Trail statue in Bethesda in 1929. The statues, organized by the Daughters of the American Revolution, were erected to mark the network of old trails across the country and honor pioneer women. Truman, 45, a Kansas City, Missouri, county commissioner (called a “Judge” there), was President of The National Old Trails Road Association.

“It was the grand old pioneer mother who made the settlement of the original thirteen colonies possible,” he declared at the dedication before a downtown Bethesda crowd of 5,000 on April 19, 1929. “She made this country what it is by being the hearty mother she was and producing sons and daughters to make it great.”

Locations of the 12 statues at madonnatrailbethesda.org.

Read more about Bethesda’s Madonna of the Trail here.
See previous Bethesda Memories here.

Washington Post June, 1939