Woodend Sanctuary & Mansion – Chevy Chase, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

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Woodend Sanctuary & Mansion

The headquarters of the Audubon Naturalist Society is a small slice of heaven for nature lovers. 


Tucked away just inside of I-495 is a 40-acre nature lover’s paradise, anchored by a beautiful Georgian Revival-style mansion.

Famed architect John Russell Pope was commissioned by Captain Chester and Marion Wells to design the home. Pope was the master architect behind some of Washington D.C.’s most iconic buildings—DAR Constitution Hall, the Jefferson Memorial, and the National Gallery of Art. Traces of these magnificent buildings can be seen in Woodend, which was constructed between 1927-1928.

Mrs. Wells wanted to ensure the property was built to her exacting specifications, so she requested the construction of a garage building before she would give permission to start on the house. The garage, now known as the Teale Center, serves as office space for staff and home of the ANS Nature Preschool.

In 1969, the Wells Family donated Woodend to the Audubon Society as a nature preserve and it has served as their headquarters ever since.

The nature sanctuary features several areas worth exploring. Hemlock Grove was originally part of Mrs. Wells’s personal garden and is now used to host weddings and other events. The stone steps in the woods pre-date the mansion and hold untold stories of people who lived on the property prior to the Wells Family.

An old well that was used to collect water from a natural spring that is no longer active is another nod to the past of this property. The ruins of a spring house dating back to the 18th or 19th-century can be found near the stream that runs through Woodend. There is also a pet cemetery to the east of the mansion that serves as the final resting place for several of the family’s dogs, and reportedly, an alligator.

Know Before You Go

Woodend's trails are open daily from dawn to dusk but the venue hosts weddings and other events, so it's best to call ahead if you want to ensure the mansion is open. There is a sanctuary shop onsite that sells sport optics for bird watchers. Recent updates expanded the handicapped accessibility of trails at Woodend 

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