Bethesda Historical Society

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

BHS homepage editing August 6

"Most important historic building in Bethesda" deteriorates as future remains uncertain

by Jenna Bloom on the MOCO360 news website (June 29, 2023)

Tucked away up a hill in North Bethesda sits a church building that is the namesake for the thriving urban center that surrounds it, built centuries ago and consistently in use–until recently.

The Bethesda Presbyterian Church built the Bethesda Meeting House in 1820 at what is now 9400 Rockville Pike and named it after a healing pool in Jerusalem. About 40 years later, the church’s pastor Rev. Edward Cumpston petitioned for the area to take the well-known name of the church. In 1871, it did, and Bethesda was named.

After Bethesda Presbyterian switched locations in 1925, Temple Hill Baptist Church took over the site. Its pastor Rev. Phillip Buford, who lived on and maintained the property, died in February 2022. The congregation has dwindled and no longer meets regularly since Buford’s death, according to the Bethesda Historical Society.

Now the sign that once welcomed congregants to the “Church that named Bethesda” has fallen, and the building is in disrepair. Meanwhile, the Bethesda Historical Society is looking at options to preserve it.

“We’re interested in figuring out a way to save an important part of our culture and our history in the town,” Hank Levine, the Bethesda Meeting House project lead, said. “We are literally talking about the most important historic building in Bethesda, and it is literally sitting there falling apart.” 

Read the entire article here.

Help the Bethesda Historical Society Save the Bethesda Meeting House!

“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.

Shirley Povich Field Marking 24 Years of Big Train Baseball

“Early on, I thought it would be great to play the games in or near downtown Bethesda,” writes Bruce Adams. “The ballfield at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School was within walking distance of scores of restaurants and the Bethesda METRO station.

“But quickly I realized the neighbors might not appreciate the loud music and people parking on their residential streets. So much for the restaurants and the METRO station.

“Plan B was a no brainer. The 90 foot diamond in the athletic complex at Cabin John Regional Park was conveniently located near I-270 and the Beltway and had plenty of parking, a gorgeous backdrop of evergreen trees, and no near neighbors to complain when the games went past 10 p.m.

“But fan friendly, it wasn’t. There were some aluminum bleachers and an ancient press box that disintegrated the first time our bulldozer touched it. We had a fine surface and a beautiful setting, but we had a lot of money to raise and work to do.”

Read more here about the history of Shirley Povich Field and about the Big Train local baseball team.

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.

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.

Follow us on Instagram

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.

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

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.

Read more about Bill Offutt here.

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.”

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.

Washington Post June, 1939