Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2015

Rachel Carson Made History Here in Silver Spring

By Ed Levy

Biologist Rachel Carson proved that one person can change the world with the 1962 publication of her classic Silent Spring, which she wrote while living in Silver Spring.  Carson’s core message was that all life on Earth is interconnected.  She warned against the dangers of unrestricted pesticide use and spearheaded creation of the modern environmental movement.

Rachel Carson in the outdoors she loved and championed.

Carson’s house, located at 11701 Berwick Road in the White Oak section of Silver Spring, is open to the public one spring weekend each year, this year on the first weekend of May (see sidebar).  You will find enthusiastic representatives of the Rachel Carson Council [] eager to answer questions about living without pesticides, guest speakers, organic refreshments, and information about Ms. Carson’s groundbreaking work.

Recent Council publications state that the threat from unwise pesticide use is greater than ever.  They state that 40 percent of lawn care pesticides are classified as human carcinogens by EPA, and estimate that seven million wild birds are killed by pesticides each year in the United States.

Carson designed the one-story house herself to accommodate her aging mother and an orphaned great-nephew.  She left half of the property untouched in its natural wooded state, a decision honored by subsequent owners.  The house was completed in 1957, and Carson lived there until her death in 1964 from a heart attack brought on by her battle against cancer.

Carson’s Silent Spring is considered so important that the U.S. Department of Interior designated the house at 11701 Berwick Road in the White Oak area of Silver Spring, where she lived while writing it, a National Historic Landmark.  The home is the only Maryland residence owned by Carson during the 30+ years she resided in the state.  The house was custom built to her specifications in 1957 and is currently the headquarters of Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance.

Carson earned a Master’s degree in Zoology from Johns Hopkins and, in 1936, became only the second professional woman ever hired by the Bureau of Fisheries (now the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service).  Her first three books — the most well-known of which was 1951’s The Sea Around Us — all dealt with the oceans and gained her some renown.  Her fourth book, 1962’s Silent Spring, not only made her well-known but also made her a target of agribusiness and the chemical industry, which ridiculed her concerns about pesticide use.

Late in the 1950s, Rachel Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially some environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides.  The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.  The book spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

Her house is a few short blocks from the Northwest Branch section of the Rachel Carson Greenway Trail, which will, ultimately, stretch 25 miles from the Adelphi Mill in Prince George’s County to Patuxent River State Park, which straddles the Montgomery/Howard County line.

Currently, the Trail is open in three sections.  The southernmost section runs along the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, with 2.7 miles paved south of the Beltway to Adelphi Mill and 10.2 natural surface miles north of the Beltway to Wheaton Regional Park.  Ample parking is available at the Burnt Mills Dam (10700 Colesville Road, just south of Trader Joe’s).  It’s a great accessible place to hike and feel like you are many miles away from the city and the suburbs.  Deer, beaver, and frogs are regularly sighted and heard, along with numerous birds.

Further north is the Underground Railroad Experience Trail section in Sandy Spring, entered via Woodlawn Manor Park (16501 Norwood Road near the intersection with Ednor Road, a continuation of Layhill Road).  Not only are there beautiful hiking trails, but also free guided Underground Railroad hikes [www.Underground].

Finally, the less-used but equally beautiful northernmost section of the Trail is accessible at 22201 Zion Road, off Md.  Route 97 just south of the Howard County line.  The six miles of natural surface trails are frequented by various wildlife and include riverside and rock outcropping vistas.  All three existing trail sections are a fitting tribute to Rachel Carson and the world she envisioned in harmony with — rather than opposed to — nature.   ■

The following are NFCCA Board Member Fiona Morrissey’s opinions of the Open House held 2 May 2015 at the Rachel Carson House.
When I attended the open house, I enjoyed several excellent speakers, including the writer William Souder.  He talked about his book On a Farther Shore:  The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson.  His book sounds a fascinating read and I thought it was a pity Mr. Souder brought no copies with him for purchase.
The other speaker I heard was poet Meredith Davies Hadaway, who read from her new collection At the Narrows.  [These were] gorgeous, easily understandable poems lamenting the loss of real darkness at night due to light pollution and the declining number of bats, whose services to mankind include eating harmful insects in prodigious amounts.
I also enjoyed helping myself to chocolate-dipped strawberries and generous wedges of organic carrot cake!

   © 2015 NFCCA  [Source:]