The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard, Maryland, occupies over 500 acres along the scenic Patuxent River. Here, over 65 archeological sites document close to 12,000 years of human history. The visitor center at the park and museum houses the Discovery Room, in which children can play with colonial toys, dress up in colonial costumes, and participate in interactive educational games, such as matching birds with their nests.
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Exhibit galleries at the visitor center display artifacts in exhibits that educate guests on the history of the site, each county in Maryland, and the people who have lived there. FAQ Archeology is an interactive exhibit that highlights the site’s archeological discoveries. The Louis L. Goldstein Gallery recreates the office of Goldstein, who was the longest-serving elected state official in Maryland, having served 10 terms as state comptroller. The Pattersons exhibit traces the history of the Patterson family and their life on Point Farm through photographs, artifacts, and displays. The visitor center itself was once a show barn for Black Angus cattle, and has been renovated to host the galleries, gift shop, and a theater. Additional exhibits are housed in the Exhibit Barn. Farmers, Patriots, and Traitors displays the history of the War of 1812 from several points of view. A short film in the exhibit is accompanied by artifacts such as historical uniforms, muskets, and antique farm equipment.
A variety of hiking trails are located throughout the park. Interpretive signage lines each pathway and educates visitors on local flora and fauna as well as the history of the area. Hikes take guests alongside the Patuxent River, and past several archeological sites. The War of 1812 trail leads to the mouth of the St. Leonard Creek, where one of the war’s significant battles occurred. A free canoe and kayak launch allows guests to explore the St. Leonard Creek in their own vessels. The Village Trail is ADA accessible and takes guests to a recreation of a Woodland Indian village. The Point Trail ends at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, or MAC Lab, which is a state-of-the-art archeological conservation and research facility run in partnership with the park and museum and southern Maryland’s State Museum of Archaeology. The lab hosts several archeological exhibits.
The Patterson home and farm was donated to the state of Maryland in 1983 by Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson. The donation was the largest gift of land ever received by the state, and spans one of the most important archeological sites in the Chesapeake Bay region. Museum archeologists have explored less than one percent of the property’s potential sites. Archeological finds date back to 7500 BC and trace a timeline of occupation by Native American tribes as far back as 12,000 years ago, up through colonial times with the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s. The farm was purchased by U.S. Diplomat Jefferson Patterson in the 1930s, who named it Point Farm. He raised black Angus cattle on the farm and married journalist and filmmaker Mary Marvin Breckinridge in 1940. After Jefferson’s death in 1977, Mary had the site surveyed by archeologists when a tenant found an Indian artifact. In honor of her husband and his love for Point Farm, she decided to donate the site and assisted in the development of the MAC Lab, Exhibit Barn, and visitor center. Mary passed in 2002. Today, the site is managed by the Maryland Historical Trust and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided tours at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum are available for the grounds as well as the MAC Lab. The Patterson House, a colonial revival brick home built in 1933, is closed to tours due to renovations through 2021. Self-guided audio tours are available via cell phone for many of the hiking trails, while two themed audio tours begin at the visitor center. One explores the history of the War of 1812, the other the lives and culture of colonial residents.
Workshops focus on teaching the skills and crafts of those living in the area in the 1800s. Classes include hide tanning, basket weaving, soap and candle making, yarn dying with natural dyes, clay pot firing, and fire making without matches. Annual events include the family-friendly Discovering Archeology Day in April. June offers Children’s Day on the Farm as well as the Patuxent River Wade In. American Indian Heritage Day takes place each November.
10515 Mackall Road, St. Leonard, MD 20685, Phone: 410-586-8501