World-renowned writer, scientist, and considered by some as the "Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement," Rachel Carson lived in Silver Spring, Maryland from 1937 until her death in 1964.* It was here, steps from the banks of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, that Carson penned her most critical work, Silent Spring.
Carson's house, where she lived from 1957-1964, is a National Historic Landmark currently preserved by the expert and loving care of Diana Post and Cliff Hall, serving as the headquarters of the Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance. While Montgomery County has named 25 miles of trail along the NW Branch and a gorgeous 650-acre park in Brookeville in Carson's honor, no local place consistently open to the public exists with the explicit intention to share Carson's story and ideas.
Our proposal is to house the Springsong Museum at a historic county Parks-owned property adjacent to the neighborhood where Carson wrote the National Book Award-winning The Sea Around Us and 2.5 miles downstream from where she lived and wrote Silent Spring. Our vision will transform this space into a museum where children and adults, locals and tourists alike, can learn about Carson's ecological philosophy and deep sense of wonder. At the same time, Springsong seeks to share the history of the land at Burnt Mills, including that of its mills and the significance of its filtration ingenuity, the nearby African American communities, and the Nacotchtank/Anacostan history and current Piscataway perspectives, many elements of which predate and align with Carson's focus on interconnection in nature.
The three stories of the building would offer space for interactive, family-focused science/nature exhibits (1st floor), exhibits on Carson and other local nature heroes (2nd floor), and independent work and community events and meetings (3rd floor). An entry atrium would be dedicated to Native history of the Anacostia watershed. Thematically, Springsong will prioritize sensory experiences and will draw from Carson's own bridging of science, nature, literature, and art. Click here for more details.
Carson started her career at the Bureau of Fisheries/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service the year that the Burnt Mills structure was built and she moved to Silver Spring the following year, in 1937. The property, accessible by public transit, is situated along the Northwest Branch Trail in an area that is itself a natural wonder. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 described the location as "a beautiful gorge, deep and narrow, with great boulders and even cliffs. Excepting Great Falls it is the most beautiful place around here." Montgomery Parks expands on Roosevelt's observations:
"...The most scenic and rugged section of the Northwest Branch. This rocky gorge marks the "Fall Line," where the tough metamorphic rocks of the Piedmont, meaning "foot of the mountain," give way to the sandy sediments of the Coastal Plain. The rapid change in gradient creates a series of waterfalls, also referred to as the "Torrent and Gorge" section of the Northwest Branch."
There could hardly be a better location that offers both accessibility and interaction with the dynamic natural beauty that Carson so loved.
*From 1943-1945 Carson lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, a stone's throw from Silver Spring. Before moving to Silver Spring, Carson lived in Baltimore, Maryland from 1929-1937.
Burnt Mills East building (10701 Columbia Pk)
Springsong Museum intends to serve the Silver Spring community and beyond in a multipurpose, multifunctional manner, providing a diverse place-based learning experience for visitors of all ages, while also serving as a community space and cultural center, offering an awe-inspired location for community meetings, book launches, music and art events, or a just quick lunch by the creek.