A Fresh Take: Woodlawn History Center at SERC

June 12, 2023

By Riley Hoaglin

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Anne Arundel County is a treasure trove of remarkable attractions and hidden gems, but there is one site in particular that has captured my heart and become my new favorite spot. Nestled within the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) (website: serc.si.edu) in Edgewater, the Woodlawn History Center includes captivating details of local history and houses an impressive collection of engaging artifacts.

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Since its opening in July, the Woodlawn History Center has been a place to go to learn about enthralling stories that originate right in our own backyard. Dating back to 1735, the house itself is a testament to the rich heritage of the county and holds the distinction of being the oldest Smithsonian location still standing on its original grounds. With its three sections constructed in 1735, 1841, and 1970, each wing showcases a unique array of artifacts discovered on the property or in the nearby surrounding environs.

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During my visit, I enjoyed delving into the intriguing evolution of tobacco pipes throughout the years—an unexpected revelation! Witnessing the transformation of bore diameter, I learned how pipe stems evolved from short with wide holes to more slender designs over time, reflecting the changing preferences and craftsmanship of the era.

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Adding to the allure of the objects in the cases, the Woodlawn History Center goes beyond mere historical artifacts and tells the stories of the lives of the individuals who called this house their home over the years, including both property owners and enslaved individuals. The third section of the house serves as a testament to the lives of the enslaved who resided there, offering a glimpse into their stories through preserved records including a “Firsthand Account of Slavery” on that land, as told by Dennis Simms.

In summary, a visit to the Woodlawn History Center is an absolute must. It is astonishing to realize the wealth of history that lies in our very own backyards. The Center welcomes visitors on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, with free admission that allows everyone to explore and appreciate our local heritage. The SERC campus as a whole offers the public much more to see and do, so while you’re there, pick up a map and schedule of events and plan other ways to explore this amazing place! Find out more here.