Historic House Built by Freed Slaves in Montgomery County Will Be Displayed in National Museum of African American History and Culture

August 18, 2016

Log house was moved from freedman settlement near Poolesville, Maryland, and reassembled in the Smithsonian’s newest museum on the National Mall, due to open on September 24

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, initiated an effort to have an 1870s house built by former slaves near Poolesville, MD featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, will open to the public on Saturday, September 24, 2016.

In 1979, the Reconstruction-era home was identified in the County’s Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites, which lists potentially historic sites and districts in Montgomery County.

The original log house was constructed circa 1874 by former slave Richard Jones, who with his brother Erasmus, founded the freedman settlement known as Jonesville. Over time, other family members settled in Jonesville, building houses of their own. Most of the original Jonesville residences have been demolished or relocated. The Jones House is one of the few surviving examples of a Reconstruction-era home built by freed slaves in the country.

In 2008, new owners of the house. who wanted to tear down the old structure and build a new home on the property, took their case to the County’s Historic Preservation Commission. Recognizing the Jones House was too dilapidated to save, the Commission approved its demolition but suggested the owners support the documentation of the original house’s history through archaeology, photographs and oral histories from the surviving members of the Jones family. Learn more about the Historic Preservation Commission.

Acting on the Commission’s recommendation, Scott Whipple, Supervisor of the Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Office, then called Smithsonian museum curator Paul Gardullo to find out if he would be interested in participating in the Jones House documentation effort. Gardullo seized this opportunity to acquire a rare, post-slavery artifact, disassemble it and store it so it could eventually be featured in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was being developed at the time.

The curator and his team have since reconstructed the original log building without its subsequent additions. The two-story house will be one of the largest exhibits in the new museum.

“County residents should be proud that the museum included this house from Jonesville to help tell the post-slavery story,” says Whipple. “It’s very exciting to realize that something this historically important, which otherwise would have been lost forever, is instead being added to the national museum whose purpose is recount the African American experience in this country. I’m so pleased the museum took on the Jones House project and really hope our residents will visit the museum to see it.”

For more about black heritage in Montgomery County, consult the digital map of historic African American communities and sites that was launched earlier this year.