The Josiah Henson Special Park in North Bethesda, once the site of a plantation where the Rev. Josiah Henson lived and worked as a slave, is one step closer to
Henson, who eventually escaped slavery, is credited as being the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The Montgomery County Parks Department began the process of developing a museum at the site by leading a master planning process to lay the conceptual groundwork for the facility. The master plan was approved last December. Thursday, the department announced the process has moved into the facility planning phase. Two consultant teams -- LSC Design and Experience Design – have been hired to help work out designs for the museum. During facility planning, the consultants will develop architectural and engineering designs as well as concepts for museum exhibits and themes, drawing on the public input collected during the master plan process, according to a Parks Department news release.
The designs will be presented during community meetings during the summer and fall, but for now, the Parks Department is asking the public to weigh in with their input by taking an online survey.
The plan to develop a museum at the site has not been without controversy, however. A local historian has after it was learned that Henson never actually lived in the log cabin known as the “Riley House” on the site. While Henson did live on the plantation, the cabin was built more than a decade after he left, which was discovered after the property was purchased in 2006.
Next steps include the demolition of the 1961 Rozier house, a non-historic, vacant home on the property, sometime in early June. The Riley House is in the final stages of approval for historic designation with the National Register of Historic Places, according to the news release.
Residents will have a chance to meet the interpretive program design consultant during Heritage Days at the park, from noon to 4p.m. Saturday, June 26.
The parks department has received a $100,000 grants from the National Park Services’ Save America’s Treasures grant program, and the final facility plan is expected in early 2012.