Bethesda Historical Society

January 23, 2023 - Bethesda's 152nd birthday!

the historical society of Bethesda, Maryland



Bethesda Historical Society recipient of 2023 Miller History Fund award

The Maryland Center for History and Culture has presented the Bethesda Historical Society with a 2023 Miller History Fund award to help our Society preserve historical artifacts and ephemera from Bethesda’s past.

The $20,000 award is named for the late Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, who loved Maryland history and all his life would recite names, places, and events from Maryland history. In every Maryland crisis, he could find lessons from the past.

The Miller History Fund’s core objective is to build the capacity of history organizations and is the only Maryland grant program with a special focus on historical collections.

“Historical collections are the foundation of heritage tourism, new research, social studies education, and countless opportunities for creativity and discovery. These are irreplaceable resources that take investment to share and preserve,” said Katie Caljean, President and CEO of the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

Past Fund recipients from Montgomery County are the Chevy Chase Historical Society, the Germantown Historical Society, Historic Takoma, The Menare Foundation, Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation, and the Sandy Spring Museum.

Bethesda Historical Society mourns the passing of our dear friend Bill Offutt

William McEnery Offutt

April 28, 1931- December 31, 2022

Bill Offutt died in the early morning of December 31, 2022 at the age of 91. He was born on April 28, 1931 to William McEnery Offutt and Lillian Gloyd Offutt and grew up in Montgomery County. He lost his father to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever when he was seven, and was raised by a single mother in Bethesda, through the end of the Depression and World War II.

He attended Our Lady of Lourdes parish school and then graduated from St. John’s College High School in 1949. He worked himself through Montgomery Junior College and the University of Maryland, graduating in 1954. He met his wife-to-be Eda Barthel Schrader of Bethesda in 1948, and they married on September 5, 1953, a marriage which continued for more than 69 years until death did they part. They lived in the same Bethesda house since 1957 where they raised their three children.

In 1955, he became a teacher in History/Social Studies and English for Montgomery County Public Schools. He loved teaching in junior high and high schools throughout the county, some of which no longer exist—Leland, Argyle, Northwood, retiring from Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in 1989. Over his more than 34 year career, which also included six years developing curriculum, he taught thousands of Montgomery County’s children.

He also coached Catholic Youth Organization sports for two decades at Our Lady of Lourdes, affecting the lives of hundreds more. He loved sports, and followed Washington’s baseball and football teams, often to heartbreaking results but occasionally to championships. He worked for Lourdes, reaching more through religious education, and as a lector, eucharistic minister, and usher until recent months.

In his retirement, he researched and wrote Bethesda: A Social History. He did more than 200 oral history interviews over six years to complete his letter of love to his hometown. Unable to find a publisher for the original manuscript of more than 1000 pages, he self-published the work in 1995, and sold more than 7,000 copies in what became three editions. It has become the primary resource for the history of Bethesda.

This achievement led to a speaking career through Montgomery History (formerly Montgomery County Historical Society) on local history topics. He gave more than 200 talks to various groups as well as to school children, including his grandkids. In 2020, he received the Montgomery County Award for Historic Preservation, for his lifetime achievement for chronicling and teaching the history of Bethesda and Chevy Chase for almost 70 years.

He also wrote poems, historical novels, short stories, and semi-autobiographical memoirs of growing up during World War II. On a single teacher’s salary, he put his three kids through college without debt, and watched his four grandchildren grow up.

He was funny, he was cranky, he read much and knew more, and he lived mostly in good health until his death.

He loved his three children and four grandchildren, but most of all, he loved his wife and the life they built together in Bethesda over seven decades. He was a good and decent man, and he will be greatly missed.

He was the beloved husband of Eda Schrader Offutt of 69 years; loving father of William M. Offutt Jr. (Nancy Reagin) of Montclair, NJ, Katherine Offutt (Michael Morton) of Vienna, VA and Caroline Offutt (Andrew Gallagher) of Reston, VA; cherished grandfather of Mary Offutt-Reagin (Roman Khrakun), Seth Offutt-Reagin, Shannon Gallagher and Willow Gallagher.

A funeral mass will be held on January 9, 2023 at 10 am with visitation beginning at 9 am at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 7500 Pearl St, Bethesda, MD 20814. Interment at Rock Creek Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make memorial contributions to or a charity of your choice.

In memory of Bill Offutt

Bethesda History with Bill Offutt

Bill Offutt, local historian and author of “Bethesda: A Social History” remembers Bethesda from the 1940s to the present day.

A 19-minute video from Montgomery Municipal Cable.

Award to Bethesda's Bill Offutt

Play Video

Congratulations to Bethesda historian and lifelong resident Bill Offutt who was presented Montgomery Preservation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
A 13-minute video. 

Thank you Fred Berner for another delightful tour of the historic Edgemoor neighborhood!

Fred showed us Edgemoor’s third “Show House,” built in 1916 and for the past 60 years “The Manor House” of the Sidwell Friends Lower School. Next, we visited the 1923 Italian Renaissance home for 60 years of James Fieser, chief of Red Cross disaster relief in the Great Depression. Then we saw the “Four Winds,” a Second Empire mansion also built in 1923 where Edgemoor icons Harrison and Marjorie Hathaway and their three daughters lived for 45 years. And finally, we visited the site of Bethesda’s first public library, the site of the Bethesda School, built in 1903, and “The Church That Named Bethesda.”

Fred Berner is author of “Old Edgemoor – The Heart of Bethesda.”


Montgomery History's Most Popular Talk of 2022!

Watch Bethesda Historical Society's Hank Levine talk about "The Roots of Modern Bethesda"

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 us 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.

We’ll hear (and see) stories of early churches, stores, and real estate moguls; the decades Bethesda was bypassed and almost died; the experimental animal farm that struck many as less than heaven scent; and the founding of the town’s first neighborhoods.

Hank Levine’s talk is courtesy of Montgomery History.
Click here to watch. 

Dairy Industry in the Bethesda Area in the First Half of the 20th Century with 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.

History of Bethesda Schools with Ralph Buglass

This richly-illustrated talk, in partnership with the Bethesda Historical Society, details the ways that Bethesda schools set the pace for education in Montgomery County public schools beginning in the early 1900s.
A 1-hour video from October 5, 2021.

Award to Bethesda's Bill Offutt

Congratulations to Bethesda historian and lifelong resident Bill Offutt who was presented Montgomery Preservation’s Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
An 8-minute video.

Upcoming Events 

Bethesda Historical Society Monthly Meeting 

Next meeting date TBA

Contact us for more information