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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg, 08/23/2003
Rachel Carson House
Inventory No.: M: 33-13
Date Listed: 12/4/1991
Location: 11701 Berwick Road, Silver Spring, Montgomery County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1956
Architect/Builder: Designer: Rachel Carson
NHL Date: 12/4/1991
Description: The Rachel Carson House is a simple, post-World War II ranch style structure, designed by Rachel Carson and constructed in 1956. It is an asymmetrical one-story brick house with a low-pitched asphalt shingle roof with a wide eave overhang. The walls are brick except in the attic gables. The front of the building has two large single-paned windows, with smaller sash windows on either side. Other fenestration consists of double sash windows with brick sills. On the interior, a stone fireplace in the living room dominates one wall, with custom-designed bookcases on the opposite wall. The walls are paneled with birch wood, and a large picture window looks onto the front yard. Carson's study is in a corner room with windows on three sides and also a stone fireplace and paneled walls. Mirrored shelves located over the kitchen sink were installed by Carson, probably to hold a collection of shells. Rachel Carson, concerned with the outdoors, took special care in the landscape design of her home, and much of the original landscaping is intact. The front yard contains a group of three evergreens; spruce, hemlock, and white pine trees; and daffodils and pink and white azaleas. Only a small part of the front yard has a cultivated lawn, for the majority of the yard retains the native trees and shrubs. She consciously worked to keep a "woody section" and to create a natural garden. A few of the trees Carson planted have died--specifically several birch which were believed to have been brought by Carson from Maine. However, the front yard retains the wooded area and much of the same appearance that it had when Carson lived there. Significance: The Rachel Carson House is significant as the place in which American biologist, naturalist, writer, and poet, Rachel Carson, wrote the highly acclaimed "Silent Spring", which made her, more than any other person, the acknowledged advocate of the ecology movement. Though Carson was already a famous writer before completing "Silent Spring," this book is widely acknowledged, by friends and foes, to have changed the way Americans think about their natural environment, and is responsible for beginning the modern environmental movement. "Silent Spring" drew popular attention to the poisoning of the earth and the endangerment of public safety by the indiscriminate use of modern chemical pesticides and herbicides. In 1990, a panel of more than 150 American scholars, including former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, Frank Talbot, Director of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and Harvard historian of science Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz, named Rachel Carson to "Life" Magazine's list of "The 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century." Likewise, "The Mother Earth News," a respected and popular environmental journal, included Carson in its "Environmental Hall of Fame," ranking her with John James Audubon, John Muir, and Theodore Roosevelt as great Americans who have significantly contributed to the preservation of the environment. Several children's books published on her life present her as a role model for children.


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