James and Anne Robinson Nature Center
The Nature Center was built on 18.3 of 22 acres of a 31-acre parcel that had been split from the Simpsonville Mill property by William and Rebecca Simpson and sold to Sophia Stern in 1891; subsequent sales were to Isaac Goldstein and Louis Abram in 1894, Eli Goldstein and family (Russian immigrants) in 1897, David and Agnes Johnson in 1902, Charles and Alice Baldwin in 1911, John Clifford and Martha Wall in 1914 (then 23.75 acres), and Harry and Rachel Saumenig in 1921. The property was purchased by James and Anne Robinson in 1957; it is adjacent to the modern Middle Patuxent Environmental Area and the core properties on Cedar Lane that were assembled to start the Rouse development of Columbia, Maryland. After decades of offers to sell the property for dense development, Anne Robinson approached the county in 2002 about passing the land to them for operation of a nature center. The purchase was settled on February 18, 2005, with funding from $1.7 million in county development excise taxes and $300,000 of Program Open Space money. The Robinson Foundation, which Anne and her accountant created in 2003 to hold the property, returned $1 million of the proceeds of the sale as a contribution toward construction of the facility. The Robinson's mid-to-late 19th century frame house adjacent to the Simpsonville Mill, in which Anne had lived until 2004, was immediately demolished. Anne Robinson died days later at age 89; her husband James had died in 1977. (In 2014, the Robinson Estate also sold a 640-acre farm in Goldsboro, Maryland for $2.25 million that had been placed into agricultural preservation.)
In 2009, capital project funding of $1,010,000 was transferred from Meadowbrook Park, $250,000 from Rockburn Branch Park, $600,000 from Western Regional Park, $300,000 from Patapsco Female Institute, $600,000 from Cedar Lane School, $320,000 from Cedar Lane Athletic Improvements and Park Headquarters to build Robinson Nature Center. A total of $962,000 was budgeted for onsite road construction.
The center had its groundbreaking in 2009, although Robinson family members expressed concern about the project's growth to an $18 million facility. One of the center's features is its proximity to the historic Simpsonville Mill site, which was subdivided for a housing development in 2013. The Nature Center, built by Forrester Construction Co and KCI Technologies, opened on September 10, 2011.
The 18-acre (7.3 ha) park features a 23,000 sq ft (2,100 m2) LEED Platinum certified nature center building, built at a cost of $11 million. Constructed of reinforced concrete, with wood and stone above grade, the three-story building contains a 150-seat auditorium, planetarium, solar panels, geothermal heating and parking for 178 vehicles. A goal of the architect was to allow visitors to connect with nature at the site without being outside.
- Suffness, Rita (March 12, 1993). "HO-636 Robinson House" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. pp. 2–3. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
- John Milner Associates (1994). "Simpsonville Data Recovery Investigations" (PDF). Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- Larry Carson (March 4, 2005). "Landowner's last wish fulfilled Preserve: A highly valued property is acquired by Howard County for a nature center". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- "Family Farm Expands to Caroline County" (Press release). Sperry Van Ness. May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
The property was previously owned by the estate of Frances Robinson. It sold for $2,250,000.
- Howard County Department of Public Works (October 7, 2009). Testimony for Transfer of Appropriation Ordinance Meadowbrook Park (Capital Project N-3105).
- Howard County Department of Public Works (January 28, 2009). Testimony and Fiscal Note Testimony Appropriation Ordinance 2-2009.
- Larry Carson (August 30, 2009). "Family That Gave Land For Nature Center Isn't Happy". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- Laura Neuman (January 2, 2013). "In Howard County, We’ve Turned the Corner". The Business Monthly.
- Andrew Metcalf (September 21, 2012). "Robinson Nature Center Celebrates 1st Anniversary". Columbia Patch (Patch Media). Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- "Robinson Nature Center". Howard County, Maryland. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- "Robinson Nature Center, Columbia, Md.". Engineering News-Record (McGraw Hill Financial). November 3, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2013.