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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
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Rockwood Special Park

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This park sits adjacent to Great Falls National Park, and features The Rockwood Manor Retreats and Events , serves as a lovely and unique retreat ideal for weddings, meetings, and small conferences. The park also features a variety of overnight accommodations, including dormitories for youth groups.

From 1939 to 1979, it was the site of the Girl Scout National Center; Mrs. Carolyn Caughey willed it to the Girl Scouts in 1936. In 1983, M-NCPPC began operating the park as a conference and education center.

History: When Girl Scouts Sued

A black and white photo showing several teenage girls and young women standing on steps. Many raise their right fists in the air and have their mouths open.
Girl Scouts rally on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville, Maryland, after filing a class-action lawsuit to block the sale of Rockwood National Girl Scout Center, January 29, 1979 Courtesy Silver Spring Historical Society

This manor house, its cabins, and surrounding grounds are a park today because of a 1979 class-action lawsuit brought by local Girl Scouts against the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Originally the home of Carolyn Caughey (1864-1936), this place was a beloved National Girl Scout Camp from 1946 to 1978. Every year 15,000 to 20,000 girls came with their troops to hike, visit Washington attractions, and develop self-sufficiency.

Because Caughey gifted the property to the national organization, the camp was integrated during a time when Washington-area Girl Scout councils were not. Rockwood was popular with Black troops from segregated states who were often barred from their own council’s camps.  

When the Girl Scouts of the USA made plans to sell Rockwood to a residential developer, local Girl Scouts took action. They organized as the Rescue Rockwood Committee and filed a class-action suit against the national group. The Maryland state attorney general joined the suit because state policy is that “charitable trusts will be…faithful to the intention of the creators of that trust.”

Three girls in Girl Scout uniforms stand in front of a sign reading "Rockwood." Two are holding hands and have their right hands raised as if to take a pledge.
Three Senior Girl Scouts stand before Rockwood’s entrance sign Courtesy Marler Studio

Though the site is no longer a Girl Scout camp, the settlement required that The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission use the site in a manner in keeping with Caughey’s intentions. Since 1983, these renovated structures have served as part of a conference center where visitors can enjoy the natural setting that inspired Carolyn Caughey to name the property “Rockwood.”

For more on Rockwood’s Girl Scout days, visit the independent history site, The Girl Scout History Project.