- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I remember vividly a picture from my fifth-grade Maryland history book with a text that stated, in part, that Sotterley was the oldest continuously working plantation in the state.
That was many, many years ago and Sotterley is no longer a working plantation. What it is is a house, starting from its modest two-room conception more than 300 years ago to the stately country manor house we know today. It has withstood wars, hard times and many, many storms. It has become a member of the National Historic Trust. It had been lived in and cared for by four different families until the 1990s. At that time, it became a private foundation.
Sotterley is supported by private donations, memberships, corporate sponsors and funding from the St. Mary’s County government. We receive no state and federal funding except if we apply for grants.
Further income comes from fundraising events held throughout the year — the annual October wine fest and ghost tours, a family plantation Christmas and candlelight tours and the Fourth of July celebration. The site is also available for rental for special events such as weddings and conferences.
It is an important part of the education program for St. Mary’s County students, including an award-winning “slavery to freedom” program for eighth-grade students. Because of its positive impact, it is being adapted for high school and college students. Sotterley also hosts a lecture series, open to the public, with guest speakers well-versed in interesting topics of history.
Sotterley is run by a small staff and many dedicated volunteers who recognize the value and beauty of this historic site and want to see it continue to be a viable part of the St. Mary’s County history and community. Our annual income is not large and Sotterley operates on a bare-bones, very frugal budget.
It provides economic support to the county through the numerous tourists who visit the site and in turn visit the restaurants, hotels and other historic venues while they are here.
Sotterley is a St. Mary’s County historic site. The fact that our county commissioners have decreased our funding this year and have thoughts to continue doing so next year or discontinuing funding altogether is a disturbing one. This should not happen.
I was born in St. Mary’s County and have been a Sotterley volunteer for 24 years. I would hate to see such a valuable part of our county history close or fall into decay because we lack funding. Please encourage our county commissioners to continue funding Sotterley at least at its present level, or better still to return to its former level of support.
Janet B. Rowland, Leonardtown