This brief history includes a context for the vision and actions of the current board.
The RCHA was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1975. Its purpose continues to be to preserve the birthplace and early home of Rachel Carson, who gained worldwide recognition as the founder of the modern environmental movement.
The importance of this very humble home, is that Rachel Carson, a child who grew up under very modest circumstances, changed the world in the sense that she enlightened our view of man’s relation to the earth.
Rachel’s parents, Maria and Robert were married and had two children, Marion and Robert, before they purchased an old farm home and 64 acres in Springdale, near Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1901. Their intent was to sell off lots and build a modern home for their family. In 1907, Marion was 10 and Robert 8, when Rachel was born to Maria, now 38. Racheel grew up in this house and found her recreation in the surrounding fields and woods. The Carson family remained in the house through Rachel’s college years. The Carsons sold off lots, but with several economic downturns, they were not able to acquire the funds to build their modern home. Robert and Maria paid a mortgage for over thirty years, as the house they intended to be a temporary residence remained without indoor plumbing and no central heat. Only in their last years at the home did electric lines reach the house, and they installed first-floor lighting.
Soon after Rachel completed undergraduate college studies, the house was sold to Angeline Sober, a teacher at neighboring Springdale High School. As Rachel became famous, first as an author and then with the landmark Silent Spring, Angeline wished to preserve the home as a tribute to Rachel Carson. The teacher recruited a small group of like-minded individuals to help raise funds for the homestead preservation project. The group then successfully petitioned the Borough of Springdale to purchase the home and designate the Carson home as an historic asset for educational purposes.
The RCHA leased the property in 1975. From that point on, the group maintained and furnished the house and grounds, promoted the legacy of Rachel Carson, and provided environmental education programs for adults and children.
In June, 2009, the RCHA obtained title to the property with the restriction of fulfilling its nonprofit educational mission. The Homestead was closed while renovations were made into 2012. From time-to-time over recent decades, the RCHA employed staff to direct and execute operational and administrative tasks. Multiple transitions brought us to where we are today.
The current board recognized a need to stabilize the administration and finances. The driving view of the mission and vision includes balancing the operations of the historic home and the environmental educational programs. In addition to governing and oversight, the current board responsibilities include administration, program delivery, hosting visitors, outreach, and fund-raising. This requires Board members who are both dedicated to a common vision centered on Rachel Carson’s legacy and who simultaneously understand the historical significance of the home and site. Without Rachel Carson’s pivotal role in environmental ethics and public awareness, the house would be of no importance. Without the house, the story and inspiration of Rachel’s life would lose its depth. Like the Lincoln log cabin, stepping inside the house and feeling its humble dimensions, walking the stairs Rachel walked daily, speaks volumes. Many visitors seek this destination, some as if it were a shrine where one can sense a young, sensitive, intelligent and talented girl’s life and imagine the passion and courage that drove her.
The Rachel Carson Homestead is a Pittsburgh Historical Landmark and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. As a destination, visitors arrive from the neighborhood, from across the United States, and from other countries. Many people have served as stewards through the RCHA Board or as volunteers. Today, a group of dedicated individuals continue to share the legacy, stabilize the structure, tend the grounds, and develop programs and outreach. The current RCHA Board of Directors is committed to promoting Rachel’s legacy and to developing the Homestead into a structurally and financially sustainable resource.