Even the word “community” can mean different things to different people, and the word is thrown around frequently, but one definition from Merriam-Webster fits here, a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. So the task is to find that common characteristic. What is that common characteristic, and how do we define the Sotterley Community? There are some people that will give up countless hours of their own time to see that Sotterley is preserved and thrives, some support with their money, some travel here from far away just to see the place, some come here to see where history happened, or to see the natural beauty, or see a really old house. Some have a family connection. Some have come for the educational opportunities, they came here as child, or their parents worked or lived here back in the day. Some people come for a walk, to have a picnic, see the butterflies, the farmer’s market, or to enjoy a special event on site with family or friends. Some come to remember or to honor someone or something, and these memories can be happy, sad, or even tragic, but they still come.
The common characteristic is the sense of place, which defined by the Geography dictionary means, either the intrinsic character of a place, or the meaning people give to it, but, more often, a mixture of both. People in the Sotterley community see the intrinsic value of this place and they give it meaning. This is the commonness.
At Sotterley, you might see a family enjoying a tour of the manor house, a bride getting ready for her wedding the next day, a family pouring libations down by the slave cabin in honor of their enslaved ancestors, school children on a field trip, someone walking through the gardens….
This is the Sotterley Community, and you are welcome to join us.
Evolution From Private Ownership To Public Charity
Sotterley is different from many other historical houses in America – we do not step back in time to one famous person. We interpret history’s continuity through five families and over almost 4 centuries, with special stories to tell. For most of its history, Sotterley has existed as a private residence.
By 1953, the last private owner, Mabel Satterlee Ingalls, had opened the site to the public in partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities. In 1961, she recognized the public’s interest in the Manor House, deeded the property to Sotterley Mansion Foundation, and created a Board of Trustees to help direct policy and management. This was a new direction for Sotterley – to share this beautiful place and all of its history with the public and use it for children’s education. Mrs. Ingalls continued working on development to accommodate the public and education for the rest of her life. Her death in 1993 presented a major challenge to the continuance of the Foundation which had no established endowment, limited revenue and mounting restoration needs.
In 1996, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated Sotterley as One of America’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. Research confirmed the significance of this resource and in February 2000 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, Historic Sotterley, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity, continues its vision to preserve the historic and natural environment and to bring the stories of Sotterley to life, connecting relevance to our lives today.
These gates have been welcoming the family, friends and visitors to Sotterley for over 100 years.