Bethesda Historical Society

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

Homepage revision June 19 2023

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.

"We're celebrating the great diversity of Montgomery County," says Bruce Adams

“There were 20 of the Black neighborhoods across Montgomery County that formed right after the Civil War that had baseball teams,” says Bruce Adams, President & Founder of Big Train Baseball. “We’re giving a mock jersey from the Scotland Eagles on Juneteenth. We’ve got a Mariachi band for Latino Heritage night, we have Jewish Heritage Night, Military Appreciation Night…

“This is fabulous baseball at affordable prices with great food, all kinds of entertainment, close to home with free parking. Fun is good, people!”

Watch a new 2 minute 30 second video “Big Train Baseball: Celebrate the diversity of Montgomery County at a game” on NBC4 Washington (June 15, 2023).

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.

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.

Bethesda Memories

President Franklin Roosevelt Designs the new Naval Hospital in Bethesda

In December 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sketched out on White House stationery his vision for a new naval hospital to be built in the Washington area. He based his design on the new Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln (below) that had impressed him when he dedicated it during his 1936 reelection campaign. Roosevelt called it a “wonderful structure” that Americans “ought to come here and see.”

Roosevelt, one of two presidents to design buildings (the other was Thomas Jefferson), had overseen construction of buildings in his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and various government structures in Washington D.C.

On a automobile ride into Maryland in July 1938, Roosevelt found the perfect location for the hospital, opposite the site of the future National Institute of Health in Bethesda. “We will build it here,” he said tapping the ground with his cane. Four years later in 1942, FDR dedicated the National Naval Medical Center. 

See “A Tower in Nebraska: How FDR Found Inspiration for the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland” by Raymond P. Schmidt (2009)

See past Bethesda Memories here.

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.

"The Roots of Modern Bethesda"

Montgomery History's Most Popular Talk of 2022!

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.

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

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.”


We're always interested in Bethesda memorabilia

Have a copy of a history or reminiscences of your Bethesda neighborhood or your street?

Collect historical artifacts of Bethesda life that you’d like to share with  the community?

Interested in recording an oral history of your life, your family, your memories of Bethesda?

The Bethesda Historical Society would like to talk with you!

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