The Sandy Spring Museum was founded in 1980 to preserve the rich history of this 100 square miles in eastern Montgomery County. Quakers came to Sandy Spring in the early 1700s. Since then, this small area has been remarkably progressive and innovative in education, social reforms, inventions, and cultural achievement. Quakers freed all their slaves between 1780 to 1820 so there was a strong free African American community. Tobacco farming declined and wheat, timber, orchards, and dairy farming flourished. Sandy Spring became a bread basket for Washington, DC. Quakers were also progressive in educating women and African Americans. Some of the notable characters you will meet through related memorabilia in the museum are:
- Benjamin Hallowell (1799-1897), founder of the University of Maryland.
- Edward Stabler (1794-1883), who imported guano (bird and bat dung to be used as a fertilizer), leading to the formation of Baltimore as a major port. Stabler also designed the seals for the Senate and Supreme Court.
- Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (1793-1858), author of Domestic Cookery.
- Dr. Jacob Wheeler Bird (1885-1959), who founded Montgomery County Hospital, the first rural hospital in the county.
- John Needles Bentley (1895-1969), who played for the Washington Senators, New York Giants, and Baltimore Orioles between 1915 and 1931 as well as Russell Awkard, a star in the Negro Leagues.
Children from toddlers to elementary school age will be drawn to the cozy hands-on room, full of old-time toys like tops and Jacob’s Ladders, books, blocks and paper doll pictures to color. My nine year-old enjoyed writing on slate. There is a four-room period dollhouse. Kids can try their hand at weaving on a full-size loom. Thomas Moore’s refrigerator for keeping butter cold is a highlight of the room. It’s an icebox made from a cedar tub, insulated with rabbit fur. Moore coined the term “refrigerator”and patented his invention in 1803. A printed scavenger hunt helps children explore the rest of the museum.
Other features of the main museum that children will especially like:
- the general store display with cash registers and an old-fashioned phone (no push buttons!)
- the schoolroom display.
- the hearth room with butter churners and toasters and other kitchen implements.
- the 1912 Ford in the center of the room.
The following rooms, which can only be accessed by request, also have kid appeal:
- the farm implements room with saws, plow, corn mill, and corn sheller (takes corn out of husks for animal feed).
- simulated log cabin with a spinning wheel, wash tub and bathtub.
- carriage museum with 1900 mail carrier.
The different areas of the museum are connected by trellises, which add to the charm of the museum. The gardens are courtesy of the Sandy Spring Museum Garden Club. A lovely gift shop highlights the crafts of area artisans including placemats, jewelry, scarves, forged objects, books, etc. There is also a nice selection of old-time wooden games and toys and craft kits for children. The octagonal library is just for researching local and family histories with no children’s books at all.
While individuals are welcomed by docents who are happy to give them a personal tour, you might be better served by being part of a school group or coming to the museum for special events when the resident blacksmith and spinner are present and more of the museum is easily accessible.
Parents will appreciate the quarterly art exhibitions, bimonthly concert series and quarterly historical lecture series. School groups of all ages can have special tours of the museum with an emphasis on hands-on learning. A holiday display of trains and dolls is on view for a week and a half every December, call for exact dates.
Family events include a Family Fun Day in February and a hands-on history camp in July for children. Mark your calendars for June 5, 2010 when the museum holds its annual Strawberry Festival. It sounds like a delightful event with crafts, live farm animals, and strawberries and shortcakes for sale. My five-year-old can’t wait to go. Admission is $1.
The facility is also available to rent for events.
Food, Restrooms, Hours & Admission
The museum is a picnicker’s paradise with many tables in the front of the building and in the courtyard. There are restrooms, but no diaper changing facilities. The museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 9am to 4pm and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm. Adults: $5, Students and Senior Citizens: $3, 11 and under: free