By Al Northrop

Nestled on the western shore of the Patuxent Priver in St. Mary’s County you’ll find a unique piece of history and a Maryland treasure, Sotterley Plantation.

Named after Sotterley Hall in England, its ownership provides a worthwhile tale. Sotterly Hall was the family home of the Satterlee family. They lost Sotterley in the War of the Roses to the Platers.

George Plater, II, married Rebecca Bowles in June of 1729. The Bowles family owned the large plantation on which the Sotterley Plantation is now found. While they had their home in Annapolis, their principle residence came to be the St. Mary’s County property owned by Rebecca. After she died, George, already a significant landowner, began buying up more and more Bowles property including what became Sotterley.

George II and Rebecca had three children, among them George III who was born at Sotterley. It is most likely that it was George III who first began calling their St. Mary’s tidewater plantation “Sotterley” after their ancestral home, Sotterley Hall, in Suffolk, England.

The decline of tobacco crops at Sotterley eventually led George Plater V to sell the property in 1822.The property changed hands a number of times after that and by the early 20th century, hard times had fallen on Sotterley and it was in substantial disrepair. Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee, the “father” of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and a descendant of the Satterlee family that had owned Sotterley Hall in England, visited Sotterley Plantation and noted its disrepair. (Sotterley and Satterlee were virtually interchangeable). He also knew of the history and connection to Sotterley Hall. Bishop Satterlee mentioned Sotterley to his second cousin, an attorney in New York. His second cousin was Herbert Satterlee. Herbert’s wife was Louisa Pierpont Satterlee, daughter of J. P. Morgan. Herbert and Louisa visited Sotterley, found it to be a charming contrast to New York and asked to be notified if it was ever put up for sale. The deal was done in 1910. Now Sotterley Plantation was owned by the Satterlee family just as Sotterley Hall had been.

Herbert and Louisa had two daughters, Mabel and Eleanor. Mabel was the last resident owner of Sotterley, though her “residence” was part time. expired domain names . Showing great foresight, however, Mabel created a nonprofit foundation to assure the continuation of the historic value of the plantation. Further, in 1972 the National Park Service placed Sotterley on the National Register of Historic Places. Ownership today is in Historic Sotterley, Inc., the successor to the foundation created by Mabel. Mabel died in 1993.

Today Sotterley offers many cultural and educational programs on a wide variety of issues. Among the topics are such things as the environment, archaeology, horticulture, history and slavery. Tours of the home and grounds are always available. Among other things there is a Garden Fair in May, an Independence Day concert and ghost tours in October.

My favorite events are the annual wine festival and Christmas programs. At the latter, an evening tour is accompanied by local actors who relate the holiday events of the mansion during a specific year in Sotterley’s history.

Take the time for a day trip back in time and visit Sotterley. Afterward you will tell your friends and you will return again. (And probably again and again for the wine-tasting event!) Then you might consider joining the members program.

Al, whose mother was a Satterlee, can be reached at [email protected]


Visitor Information:
301 373-2280 or 800 681-0850
Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on
Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Closed holidays.
May 14 and 15 — Garden Fair
June 18 — Gala in the Garden
July 3 — Independence Day Concert
July 11 through 27 — Summer mini-camps
October 1 and 2 — Riverside WineFest
October 13, 14, 15, 21 and 22 — Ghosts Tours
December 3 — Family Plantation Christmas

December 8
Members’ Night of the Holiday Candlelight Tours
Tours begin at 6 p.m.
A historical dramatization plays out within the 1703 Plantation House.
New script every year! Live seasonal music! Refreshments! A special party for our members – another advantage of membership!
Reservations required.
By phone only: 301 373-2280
December 9-10
Holiday Candlelight Tours
Tours begin at 6 p.m.
An historical dramatization plays out within the 1703 Plantation House.
New script every year! Live seasonal music! Refreshments!
Reservations required.


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