- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Beall-Dawson House and the Stonestreet Museum of 19th Century Medicine in Rockville give visitors a glimpse of local daily life and the practice of medicine in the early to mid-1800s.

“I think kids like Stonestreet the best. It’s gore — Dr. Stonestreet used leeches for bloodletting — what’s not to like?” says Karen Yaffe Lottes, education director at the Montgomery County Historical Society.

The society runs the Beall-Dawson House and Stonestreet Museum, which are next to each other.

The Stonestreet Museum is housed in Dr. Edward Elijah Stonestreet’s original office. His parents built the one-room doctor’s office in anticipation of their son’s graduation and return home from medical school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore in the mid-1800s.

The medical office contains medical equipment such as a trephine (a surgical instrument that looks like a bottle opener, used to remove sections of bone), an old-timey stethoscope reminiscent of an egg cup and various medicines.



Some of the medicines used in those days were either poisonous or addictive, such as arsenic, which was used to treat cancer, and laudanum, which was used as a painkiller, Ms. Lottes says.

Interested visitors can touch and compare some modern medical equipment with their 19th-century counterparts, including modern and 19th-century stethoscopes and baby bottles.

The hands-on activities continue in the Beall-Dawson House. The Bealls — pronounced “bells” — were a prominent Rockville family in the 1800s. The Dawsons were distant relatives who inherited the mansion when none of Upton and Jane Beall’s daughters married or had children. Upton Beall was clerk of the court for Montgomery County in the early 1800s, Ms. Lottes says.

One of the first things visitors are shown are children’s garments that the Beall daughters might have worn.

“We show these undergarments, and kids just think they’re hilarious,” Ms. Lottes says while holding up replicas of a 19th-century corset and a pair of frilly underpants.

The museum shows replicas of garments from 1776, 1815, 1860 and 1920 to give visitors a chance to see how fabrics and fashions changed.

“The early garments were more likely to be made of linen since cotton didn’t become affordable until the cotton [gin] was invented in the early 1820s,” Ms. Lottes says.

Another interactive activity is grinding coffee using a 19th-century-style coffee grinder and kneading bread dough using a kneader from the same era.

“We try to make history come alive and be more interesting by including as many hands-on activities as possible,” Ms. Lottes says. “A historic house can be kind of dry otherwise, particularly for kids.”

Docents — guide-led tours are required — also show visitors the type of entertainment families enjoyed in the era before television. A card table is set up downstairs, as are a piano and tea set.

The upstairs features bedrooms and slave quarters. The slave quarters include an exhibit of how cotton and wool yarns and threads were made using cards and spinning wheels.

Docents often point out that the mansions of this era were more elaborately decorated in the public rooms, such as the dining room, than in the private rooms, such as bedrooms, Ms. Lottes says.

This was true for the exterior too, she says. The bricks on the front facade have a fancier bonding than those on the back, she says.

The mansion and medical museum, which frequently host school tours, are open to children of all ages and have something for everyone, Ms. Lottes says.

“I hope children will learn something about how kids lived in the 19th century — like girls making samplers, learning how to become homemakers — and some Montgomery County history,” she says.

When you go:

Location: The Beall-Dawson House and the Stonestreet Museum of 19th Century Medicine are located next to each other at 103 W. Montgomery Ave., Rockville.

Directions: From the Beltway, take the Interstate 270 spur to Interstate 270 north. Stay in the local lanes toward Montrose Road. After about two miles, take Exit 5 toward Falls Road. Make a left on Great Falls Road. Great Falls Road becomes West Montgomery Avenue. The Beall-Dawson House and Stonestreet Museum will be on the left.

Hours: Open for tours noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed for major holidays.

Parking: A small lot and street parking are available.

Admission: $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children.

Information: Phone: 301/762-1492 or www.montgomeryhistory.org.

Note: Docent-led tours are required for visits to the Beall-Dawson House and Stone-street Museum of 19th Century Medicine. Reservations are not required.

Upcoming events:

• Noon to 4 p.m. March 13, “An Afternoon of Civil War Medicine.” During this program, Dr. Edward Elijah Stonestreet (as portrayed by Clarence Hickey), a local doctor during the mid-1800s, will tell visitors what medicine was all about during the Civil War era. He will cover topics such as how bullets were removed and how medicines were made. Also present will be Civil War heroine Clara Barton (as portrayed by Mary Ann Jung), who worked as a battlefield nurse. Children can make their own smelling salts.

• Monthly: Dr. Edward Elijah Stonestreet has “regular office hours” from noon to 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month, including today, for those who want a firsthand look at 19th-century medicine and medical equipment.

• Noon to 4 p.m. June 25 and 26: The Beall-Dawson House and Stonestreet Museum will be part of Montgomery County Heritage Days, when visitors get a chance to visit more than a dozen historic locations, including museums, free of charge. For more information, visit www.heritagemontgomery.org.

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