Scotland, Montgomery County, Maryland

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Scotland is an African American community in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, located along Seven Locks Road. Consisting of 100 townhomes, Scotland community's roots date back to the late 19th century, when former slaves bought land in Potomac.[1]


Beginning in the late 1870s and through the 1880s, former slaves began to take ownership of what would become the Scotland property. Two principal early families were the Masons and Doves, with descendants still living in the community. This was one of about 40 communities former slaves formed in Montgomery County. Today, these historic African American enclaves include Lincoln Park in Rockville, Ken-Gar in Kensington, Tobytown in Potomac, Stewartown and Emory Grove in Gaithersburg, and Lyttonsville in Silver Spring.

Known as "Snakes Den" until the 1920s, Scotland's approximately 50 families provided a pool of inexpensive labor for nearby farmers.[1] With declining agriculture, many of the men of the community were laborers, drivers, trash collectors and golf caddies for wealthy whites, while women such as Geneva Mason were seamstresses, cooks, maids and baby sitters for white families in the area.[2] In 1927, the community was strengthened with the addition of a Rosenwald School. The community continued to suffer due to segregation and discrimination even as surrounding areas began a transition from farming communities into housing and other developments. While surrounding (almost entirely) white communities were built, Scotland remained without water, electricity, and had unpaved roads into the 1960s.[3]

In the mid-1960s, community efforts led to a 100 townhouse (75 rented, 25 privately owned) development and the institution of community self-governance which continues to this date. In 2 014, the community center was renovated and in 2018 the 75 rental properties underwent a major renovation and upgrade.

Save Our Scotland[edit]

As Scotland's infrastructure remained undeveloped and the housing stock deteriorated, by the early 1960s, housing and other development activities were pressuring the Scotland community.[4] Speculators sought to buy land for potential housing developments[5] and Montgomery County sought land to create and expand Cabin John Park.[6] Once stretching miles along Seven Locks Road, by 1964 the community had just 48 acres with 35 homes described as "shacks", with 23 condemned. In fall 1964, Scotland's future "looked bleak" as the Inverness North townhouse development would pave over the stream that was the community's primary water source.[1]

Geneva Mason (L) and Joyce Siegel (R) with Scotland zoning sign (Photo: Alan R. Siegel, courtesy of Montgomery History)

In 1964, Joyce B. Siegel -- "a young, white Bethesda woman"—became engaged with the Scotland community.[1]

It look like Scotland would quietly disappear until a seemingly unimportant event occurred just before Christmas of 1964. Onto the scene came Mrs. Joyce Siegel, a housewife from nearby Bethesda, who drove up to deliver a load of toys for Scotland's children. It was Siegel's first look at the community, and she was horrified by what se saw and heard.[7]

Siegel soon began to mobilize support across the broader Montgomery County communities to "Save Our Scotland" with a formal committee structure created in February 1965 (with Scotland residents (such as Geneva Mason), ministers, and Mrs. Siegel on its board of directors). Save Our Scotland built heavily on faith communities.[1][8]

"We just feel that it is basically morally wrong for affluent people, real-estate operators, and others, to drive these people out of houses just because they do not have enough money and because their skin is not white." Rev. Carl Pritchett, Pastor, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, President, Save Our Scotland, 1966[6]

The group leveraged the human resources of the Washington, DC, area: many current or former Federal employees volunteered their time bringing critical expertise to navigate emergent challenges in what was a rather complex set of processes over time.

To secure government grants, Scotland Community Develop, Inc, formed. A $78,400 grant funded legal and other support for designing a plan for adequate housing in Scotland. The resulting plan required numerous land actions, Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing, and razing the existing homes. As an indication of the complexity of the process, 26 citizens' associations were convinced to support the necessary rezoning.

After many years of extended struggle, negotiation, and planning, the Scotland Development Corporation took control of land and built 100 townhouses (25 owned and 75 rental) on ten acres in the late 1960s and early 1970s to replace the deteriorating existing housing stock.  

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Robert Weaver visits Scotland (for groundbreaking?) (Photo by Alan R. Siegel, Courtesy of Montgomery History)

'Scotland community is an example of how a number of people and institutions - many of them incompatible only a few years ago - can involve themselves in the problems of a community and work together to solve these problems,' [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Robert C.] Weaver told the gathering. The new Scotland's main road will be named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [who had been assassinated on April 4, just 18 days before], with others dedicated to the late David Scull, former County Council president, and Joyce Siegel, the young Bethesda housewife who organized the original Save Our Scotland Committee three years ago." [1968 article quoted in [9]]

The Scotland project received national attention, both for the processes that enabled the community to retain control even as the housing stock was revitalized, and for the architecture. For example, the Architectural Forum magazine devoted a five-page spread to Scotland.[7]

The Scotland Community Development had impacts beyond Scotland, itself. Members testified in front of the U.S. Senate committee for a rent-supplement program that had been created to help the Scotland community. Members also testified to the Maryland General Assembly for tax exemptions for housing non-profits. These still existed decades later.[1]

The Scotland community, which includes a community center (2013-14 renovated LEED Gold Recreation Center[10]), is self-governed by the Scotland Community Civic Association. In 2018, the 75 rental units underwent a $14 million renovation program.[11]

Not just about housing stock[edit]

The Save Our Scotland effort and the resulting external engagement sought to support the Scotland community. For example, a study hall began in the community's church basement. By 1966, this was open three nights a week and half the community's school children attended each session. When this started, this was almost solely assistance from outside the community but the outside volunteers supported Scotland parents as they took over supervising the tutoring.[6]

Plans to Prosper You exhibit[edit]

In June 2019, the American University Museum opened the Plans to Prosper You summer exhibit focused on three African American communities (Tobytown, Mesopotamia, and Scotland) in Montgomery County.[12] This exhibit includes oral histories of Scotland residents, memorabilia from the Scotland Eagles from the regional Negro baseball league, and photos/background related to the Save Our Scotland activity.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Levine, Harvey (May 2000). "The Resurrection of "Scotland"" (PDF). The Montgomery County Story (quarterly Publication of the Montgomery County Historical Association). v 43, #2: 125–135.
  2. ^ Nikki Hauspurg, "Save Our Scotland: An oral history with Joyce B. Siegel," Dreyfuss Library, St. Andrew's Episcopal School; OH HAU, 2004
  3. ^ "Rich History, Development Define Scotland Community". Potomac, MD Patch. 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2019-06-22.
  4. ^ Kendrick, Thomas (March 2, 1965). "Neighbors Help Shantytown Become a Pocket of Hope". Washington Post, Times Herald. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  5. ^ Rathner, Janet (June 18, 2005). "Generations Of Residents Settle Down In Scotland". Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Barnes, Andrew (March 22, 1966). "A Poor Community Repels Invaders: New Community Planned Cleanup Campaign Rezoning Needed Improved Study Facilities". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  7. ^ a b "Scotland, Maryland" (PDF). Architectual Forum. V 131, N 1: 81–85. July–August 1969.
  8. ^ Douglas, Walter (August 19, 1965). "Hope Growing in Scotland Community: Condemnation Threatened Federal Loans Sought". Washington Post, Times Herald. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  9. ^ Goldstein, Wayne (January 24, 2008). "Civil rights and wrongs in Montgomery County in 2008" (PDF). The Montgomery County Sentinel. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  10. ^ "Promise Delivered: Scotland's New Center". Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  11. ^ "Affordable MD Townhomes Undergoing $14M Rehab". Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  12. ^ Plans to Prosper You (PDF). Washington, DC: The American University Museum. 2019. ISBN 978-1-7321553-6-7.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°02′26″N 77°09′33″W / 39.04056°N 77.15917°W / 39.04056; -77.15917

  1. ^ MoCoCouncilMD (2016-03-22), Paths to the Present #45 - Scotland AME Church and Community, retrieved 2019-06-22