Historic St. Mary’s City utilized the unique duplex structure of the ca. 1840 Brome Slave Cabin to interpret the experience of enslaved people before and after the Civil War. Preservation Maryland is pleased to recognize this project and exhibit with a Community Choice Award at our annual Best of Maryland Awards in May.



This project, undertaken by Historic St. Mary’s City, sought to preserve and interpret a rare, surviving frame duplex slave quarters to tell the story of enslavement, emancipation, and the struggle for freedom by African Americans in Southern Maryland. The exhibit incorporates a 1840s duplex quarter showing domestic conditions under slavery, modifications after emancipation, and continued occupation into the twentieth century. The entire exhibit effort was bolstered by a PhD dissertation in anthropology undertaken by Terry Brock utilizing archaeological information collected by Historic St. Mary’s City. Brock’s dissertation, “All Of Us Would Walk Together”: The Transition From Slavery To Freedom At St. Mary’s City, Maryland” was completed at Michigan State University in 2014.

Celebrate the Best with the Best: You are invited to recognize the Slave Brome Cabin Project and all of the remarkable awardees at the Preservation Maryland Best of Maryland Awards on Thursday, May 16, 2019 under the vintage neon lights of Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County! Tickets start at just $20 and include a spin on the historic Dentzel Carousel.


The slavery period is illustrated by restoring half of the structure to the conditions that prevailed from construction ca. 1840 up to the Civil War. These include earthen floors and unglazed windows. The story of the structure and its occupants are told by period furnishings and illustrated text panels. The period following emancipation is illustrated with the structural improvements to the quarter as documented by the archaeology. These include the addition of wooden floors and the adding of glass windows. Other improvements in material life are demonstrated with period furnishings and details about this actual building.

The last phase of the building use focuses on the Milburn family that was in residence at the quarters in the early- and mid-20th century. Solomon Milburn, scion of the last family to occupy the building added a shed to the back of the building to accommodate his family. In addition to a wealth of historical data on the Milburns, the exhibit incorporates oral histories recorded with Emma Hall, the only daughter of Solomon. Her amazing memories of life in this space and how African American families survived in the Jim Crow-era in Maryland are the crucial part of the story that must be told.

The structure itself, which had been moved to its current site in 1992, underwent a complete stabilization program with structural issues ameliorated and finishes appropriate for the times under consideration applied. Interior features, including a storage pit adjacent to the fireplace, were recreated based on data recorded by the archaeologists before the building move. The outside yards at the building were recreated including evidence of a swept yard. All of these site enhancements were undertaken with an eye towards site accessibility and incorporates alternative sensory methods for conveying the exhibit.


This project demonstrates the commitment of Historic St. Mary’s City to properly steward and preserve all the time periods represented in the St. Mary’s City Historic Landmark. The slave quarter, the Brome House, and all its associated outbuildings were moved to this location in the 1990s as part of an effort to simplify the interpretation of the 17th century capital on Maryland by removing later buildings. The entire complex was moved approximately ¼ mile south along the St. Mary’s River. The Brome House was initially leased to a private vendor who used the building as a bed and breakfast. The museum regained complete control over the property approximately ten years ago and set about preserving and interpreting the site as it continues to generate funds for the museum.

In addition to the general public, this exhibit serves as a touchstone to members of the Milburn family in particular, and the African American community, in general, by preserving an actual place from their history. Members of the descendant population have visited the exhibit at the opening and continue to revisit.

Project principals include Henry Miller, Donald Winter, Kyle Jensen, Joe Kangas, Terry Brock, Amy Bonnevier, and Regina Faden. This project was undertaken with grant support from the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture which was administered by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Visit the Brome Slave Cabin

Celerate at the BEst of Maryland Awards