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Montgomery Parks Hopes To Buy More Land For Josiah Henson Park

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 7/28/2014, 1:45pm  ET

The Riley House Cabin at Josiah Henson Special Park (file photo)Montgomery Parks hopes to buy a neighboring piece of land to add on to its Josiah Henson Special Park in North Bethesda.

The Planning Board on Thursday approved a resolution to pay the owners of the property at 6012 Tilden Lane $875,000 for their .60-acre lot diagonal to the Josiah Henson historical site. Parks hopes to turn it into an interactive museum to focus on the life of the escaped slave whose autobiography inspired “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and examine the history of slavery in Montgomery County.

It’s unclear from the resolution what exactly the Tilden Lane property would be used for. The Riley Plantation, which Josiah Henson lived on until his escape to Canada in 1830, encompassed the Tilden Lane property and much more land than just the 11420 Old Georgetown Rd. property Parks bought in 2006 for $1 million.

A representative for Montgomery Parks couldn’t be reached for this story. Joan Murphy, who is identified as owning the Tilden Lane property with her husband Walter, said she couldn’t comment about the sale because it has not been finalized.

The resolution said the purchase will be subject to a life estate by Joan and Walter Murphy. The resolution also authorized an additional $100,000 from the Park and Planning Commission’s Legacy Open Space Program that would be dedicated to demolition and site restoration.

Details of the acquisition were presented to the Board in a closed session on July 17, a week before approval.

The Montgomery Parks foundation is looking to raise $2 million to fund the museum facility, which would include a new welcome center building, retail shop, restrooms, lunch area and 60-seat multimedia theater that could be converted to host other events. Montgomery County has approved $4.85 million in matching funds for the program. 

The current plan for the property does not include room for visitor parking. Those not dropped off at the site by tour or school buses would have to park at a yet-to-be-built parking facility at Wall Park, two blocks away.