THE BUTTON FARM STORY
The Button Farm, first established on a 270 acre land grant patented in 1767, is now nestled on 35 acres inside of the 6,300 acre Seneca Creek State Park. Dubbed “Barren Hills” this tract has seen more than two centuries of ownership. Purchased by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in the early 1970s, the farm was placed under DNR’s curatorship program, and now serves as the home of The Menare Foundation. In 2011 historian Eileen McGuckian chronicled a History of Button Farm funded through the generous support of The Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission.
The Button Farm Living History Center interprets the period when slave labor shaped the landscape and modern agricultural technology had not yet been developed. To bring this compelling story to life we recreate sensory experiences of the past, integrating the tastes, touch, smell, sights and sounds of the 1850s into the daily operations of the farm. Through our Heritage Breeds & Heirloom Crops program we preserve authentic 19th century local livestock types, while our Log Cabin project will help to depict an ante-bellum slave quarters and homestead. Unlike most living history centers where visitors are passive observers, our guests are invited to help create the experience by cultivating crops, learning a trade, or helping out with plantation-era chores.
While Button Farm itself was not a station on the Underground Railroad, we chose this site, and its surviving 19th century landscape, as the setting for our Underground Railroad Immersion Experience (URIE). Designed by Menare president Anthony Cohen in 1997 to prepare Oprah Winfrey for her role in Beloved, the URIE guides participants through a true-to-life experience of the journey from slavery to freedom. Our 17-acre back field will be transformed into our 1850s Farm, providing a glimpse into the daily life of a working Maryland plantation. Each aspect of local plantation life from the food, clothing and tools of the times, will be grown, stitched and forged onsite in an authentic period-interpretation of the era.