Used as an office, Uncle Tom's cabin offered for sale

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"Uncle Tom's Cabin" summons visions of racial brutality in another place and time. But Uncle Tom's Cabin stands today in Rockville, Md., and the property is for sale.

Its owner, Hildegarde Mallet-Prevost, died in September at 100, and her family is selling the three-bedroom colonial with the attached log cabin that was once home to Josiah Henson, the slave whose 1849 autobiography was the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

The cabin, where Henson lived during the time in which Stowe's novel takes place, served for many years as the home office for Marcel Mallet-Prevost, Hildegarde's husband and a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board who died in 2000. Their son Greg, showing a reporter around recently, pointed out the oak beams below, still covered in bark; the broad floorboards, probably original to the plantation house; the bedroom where he slept when he was home from college.

Few have been inside cabin

"My parents were history people," Greg said. "They accommodated anyone who wanted to take pictures of the outside, and people came by constantly, but my parents wanted to be left alone on the inside."

As a result, few historians have been inside the cabin. "This house basically fell between the cracks," said Judy Christensen, a historian who is preservation planner for the city of Rockville. "It's a site of national importance."

Planners for Montgomery County and Heritage Montgomery, the county's historical tourism agency, are trying to raise money to bid on the house, which is on Montgomery's list of historic sites. The cabin has not made it to the National Register of Historic Places because, as Greg Mallet-Prevost put it, "my father felt it was his right to decide if it was historic."

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