Bear with me. This will end up being about historic preservation.
I am minimally tradition-bound, especially with regard to certain meals. Thanksgiving is one of those. I never liked them as a child, but they were always present on the holiday table – those little golf ball wanna bes whose principal ingredients are flour, lard, salt and water, Maryland Beaten Biscuits. Now that I am of the age when I am replacing fillings in my teeth, I find them essential to my holiday entertaining.
So I set off for my local independent grocer which has long carried them, frozen unfortunately, but these are hardy creatures which hold up under harsh conditions. At first, I couldn’t get the clerk to understand what I was requesting, until an eavesdropping fellow shopper explained they were no ordinary commercially made product. Alas, the grocer declared he was sold out, and in fact got no answer to his phone calls to the world headquarters of the product – Orrell’s in Wye Mills. Translation: No MBB for my family this Thanksgiving. The course of action was clear.
Later that day, I drove into the driveway at the Orrell’s manufacturing facility which looked like most of the other early 20th century houses that line the road in the village of Wye Mills and spied the sign on the door – “Temporarily CLOSED.” Fearing the capital letters were the core of the message, I slumped in my seat. Just then, a truck from a local heating company drove in. The driver told me that he was responding to a message that there was no heat in the building, and that the owner was en route.
The moment he arrived, I inquired of the status of my beloved biscuits and was told that his father — the most recent operator of the business — had recently died and settling the estate had led to pausing production indefinitely. I managed to express my condolences for the loss of his father before blurting out, “Do you have any biscuits? “ With that he led me and the repairman inside, on a tour of what is a simple home, modified only slightly to accommodate the seven or so women who gathered there for decades to make the biscuits.
I gawked, unable to believe my good fortune at meeting the new principal of the company, but also at seeing the inside of the “bakery.” He opened the small upright freezer and pulled out several bags, telling me to take all I wanted since they were passed their salable date. The furnace repairman was equally intrigued and accepted a few samples, but I could tell he had no real sense of the magnitude of the moment. This might just be the last of Orrells’s Maryland Beaten Biscuits…made at the same location for 77 years by a business started by my benefactor’s grandmother. Though not profitable for years, he explained his deceased father had pledged to keep the business going as long as he could, and he did.
As I drove out, I was overcome with a sense of victory tempered by extreme loss: had I witnessed the death knell of a Maryland tradition? Was the last of what has been made in Maryland since colonial times, in the plastic bag on the seat beside me? Could I really serve something that should be in a museum? We can all only hope that Mr. Orrell will follow through on his thoughts of re-opening the business. And, I will let you know the outcome of my moral dilemma: to devour history or not. Happy Thanksgiving.
N. B. Orrell’s is a stone’s throw from the site of the Wye Oak and Old Wye Church, icons of Maryland’s history, and the Wye Mill and Miler’s House, two of Preservation Maryland’s longtime projects.
Preservation Agenda set for 2014 General Assembly Session
Governor O’Malley working on budget for FY2015
November 19, 2013
Wednesday, January 8th will mark the opening of the 434th Session of the Maryland General Assembly. Preservation Maryland, working with a coalition of statewide heritage interests and organizations, has developed a preservation agenda to guide legislative and budget advocacy efforts in Annapolis during the upcoming session.
Working together in this effort are representatives from: Archaeological Society of Maryland, Council for Maryland Archaeology, Greater Baltimore History Alliance, Main Street Maryland, Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions, Maryland Association of History Museums, Maryland Coalition of Heritage Areas, Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture, Maryland Higher Education Commission, Maryland Historical Society, Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland Humanities Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The following Budget and Legislative items have been identified for the 2014 Session:
Increase funding for the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program to $20 million.
Level funding for the African American Heritage Preservation Grant Program at $1 million.
Level funding for the Maryland Heritage Area Authority at $3 million
Increase funding for the Maryland Humanities Council to $107,000
Governor O’Malley is currently working on the budget he will submit to the General Assembly in January. As always, we will be relying on your assistance to make sure that the final budget reflects the preservation priorities that protect and support our state’s unique heritage sites.
During this legislative session we must push for the reauthorization of the SCRTC, which is set to expire on June 30, 2014. There is nearly a fivefold return on every dollar Maryland invests into rehabilitation projects through the SCRTC. The credits have transformed older neighborhoods into vital places to live, work and play, while creating jobs, investment and tax revenue for Maryland.
1) Contact the Governor’s Office to register your support for the budget figures listed above and the reauthorization of the SCRTC. If you have received a grant or other assistance from the programs above, be sure to emphasize how important those programs are to the success of your project or organization. You do not need to weigh in on every item, but be sure to let the Governor know what program(s) are most important to you.
The Hon. Martin O’Malley
Governor of Maryland
State House, 100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
2) Copy the Secretary of Budget and Management, T. Eloise Foster, on any communication to the Governor or write her directly.
Mailing Address and Email:
45 Calvert Street
Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1907
3) Familiarize yourself with the issues through the links to the websites for the programs above. Use these to help craft your message to the Governor and Legislators.
4) Use the end of the year to communicate what you do and why it’s important to your legislators. If your organization is releasing an Annual Report or mailing a Holiday card, be sure to include your elected officials on the mailing list.
5) Take time to familiarize yourself with the Legislative and Budget process by visiting the Maryland General Assembly Homepage. If the language of the legislative process makes your head spin, you can use this guide to “Legislative Lingo” to help get your bearings.
6) Make sure you know your representatives on a state and federal level by clicking here.
We are interested in knowing about the actions you take in support of preservation funding. Please take a moment to let us know if you contact the Governor or your Legislators or send a copy of your communications. We look forward to working with you during the upcoming session. Thank you for your support.
Last week, I had the opportunity to gather with preservationists from around the country in Indianapolis, Indiana at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Annual Conference. Preservation At The Crossroads promised to be a week of educational sessions, tours and special events that would spotlight the city and send attendees back home with renewed energy and dedication to the historic places we treasure and strive to protect. For me, the conference delivered on its promise. Following are some of the highlights of my trip.
The Indianapolis Overview tour was a great opportunity to see the city through the eyes of a resident. We covered a lot of territory in a half day with thoughtful commentary from our tour guide, a local architect. The neighborhoods surrounding downtown are vibrant and occupied and a study in redevelopment and sensitive infill. Indianapolis is a beautiful city and a study in historic preservation.
The Diversity Scholarship Program Opening was a great opportunity to meet with recipients, program alumni, mentors and others interested in the preservation of heritage and culture of specific interests. It’s enlightening to see the conversation has broadened to include not just African American places, but those related to other ethnicities, women, the LGBT community and vernacular architecture. Let’s hope the trend continues.
A session on Rosenwald Schools in Kentucky proved to be visually appealing and heart-warming. The stories of the students, teachers, and communities associated with these schools brought the buildings to life for those of us who came long after they continued to be used for the education of African American children in the South.
Winning the War on Historic Windows – New Research, New Results gave those in attendance new ammunition for the battle against replacement windows. It never gets old; the struggle is never over. As long as the replacement window companies continue to employ successful marketing tactics, we must continue to dispute their claims. Just the facts, ma’am.
Thanks to the staff and volunteers of the National Trust and Indiana Landmarks for their hard work in the planning and execution of the conference. I left Indianapolis inspired and invigorated; convinced of the importance of what we do. It is worthy.
Preservation Services Director
Last Sunday we hosted our third field trip of the year. This time we set our sights on Western Maryland and the towns of Cumberland, Lonaconing, Frostburg and LaVale. When planning a trip this late in the year, weather is always a concern. People told me over and over again to not be surprised if we ran into snow. Well, all my worrying was for naught because we had perfect fall weather – sunny and crisp.
We had no problem collecting all our field trip participants because no matter where you parked at Canal Place you could see our trolley. The trolley is made available by the Allegany County Tourism Office for a nominal fee for special events that promote the great resources within the county. After boarding the trolley, we set off for the Lonaconing Silk Mill.
Mr. Herb Crawford, the owner of the Lonaconing Silk Mill, provided us with a short history of the building and then let the group wander through the two story building to take pictures. This site is so intriguing to people because it is a time capsule – things are exactly as the workers left them in the summer of 1957 when the mill shut down. A calendar still hangs on the wall, the workers shoes are still in their lockers and all the machinery is just how they left it.
Our next stop was at Old Main (c1903), the oldest building on the campus of Frostburg State University. Professor Lynn Bowman from Allegany College of Maryland talked to the group about the African-American community of Brownsville which was located just behind Old Main and was razed so the campus could expand. We continued this conversation and many others over a hot lunch at the Offbeat Bistro in downtown Frostburg.
On the National Road between Frostburg and Cumberland is the town of LaVale which is home to the oldest toll gate house on the road. Al Feldstein, our informative and engaging tour guide for the day, opened up this interesting little seven-sided building for us and told the group about what is was like for the toll master and his family on this busy road to the west.
On the way back to Cumberland, the photographers in the group were able to get some great shots of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad steam locomotive as it headed back into the station. Our field trip ended with a drive down Washington Street which has a great collection of well-preserved Victorian homes. By the end of the day, everyone on the bus had a new appreciation for the rich heritage in Western Maryland, and it was clear to me that we need to plan another field trip out this way very soon.
Below is a round-up of news articles on preservation and heritage issues in Maryland and beyond.
Historic preservation ordinance offers options – Cumberland Times-News 10-9-13
Anne Arundel County
Annapolis approves new City Dock plan – Baltimore Sun 10-29-13
Lady Baltimore moves into its new home – Baltimore Sun 10-5-13
Senator Theatre To Reopen This Week – WBAL 10-8-13
Baltimore Mayor Unveils Fix for Preservation Tax Credit Inequity – Afro.com 10-10-13
No need to raze church on shopping center site, residents say – Baltimore Sun 10-15-13
Lewis museum woes: Sad but not surprising – Baltimore Sun 10-15-13
Roland Park Place trying to sell vacant church next door – Baltimore Sun 10-16-13
Washington Monument set to undergo $5 million in repairs – Baltimore Sun 10-18-13
10 Light Street is on its way to becoming apartment building – Baltimore Sun 10-18-13
Arabbers get new stable, submit to microchip tracking rule – Baltimore Sun 10-24-13
Getting chills in spooky Westminster catacombs – Baltimore Sun 10-25-13
Back Story: Bohemia Manor Farm founded by cartographer – Baltimore Sun 10-3-13
Foundation Formed To Map Future For Fritchie House – CBS Baltimore 10-13-13
Maryland helps local groups mark the War of 1812. And living without snark — or trying to Washington Post 10-21-13
Rosie the Riveter legacy lives on in Maryland – WJLA 10-28-13
Historic Ellicott City improvements start to take shape – Baltimore Sun 10-16-13
History buffs will enjoy Maryland town where ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ scribe lived – The Columbus Dispatch 10-27-13
Preservation commission throws wrench into plans for new Wheaton recreation center – Washington Post 10-16-13
Planning Agency refuses to recognize existence of historic road after granting landowners addresses – wusa 10-24-13
Prince George’s County
Bladensburg’s oldest building gets bicentennial face-lift – Gazette.net 10-1-13
Queen Anne’s County
Wye River Upper School Students See Both The Past And The Future Through Photographic Lenses – The Chestertown Spy 10-4-13
The Hill: Ordinary is extraordinary – StarDem 10-17-13
Cemetery behind Sharpsburg chapel being restored – The Republic 10-5-13
Congratulations to the following for winning items in the raffle at our October 16 Annual Meeting and Awards program. Thanks to those who purchased raffle tickets and to the donors of the items.
1861 and 1862 original Harpers Weekly Civil War prints
Donated by Preservation Maryland
“Baltimore Bowl” knife-edge needlepoint pillow
Donated by Marsha Barnes
Case of Knob Hall Le Reve Rouge Wine
Donated by Bill Beard
Dinner for four at the Helmand Restaurant, Mt. Vernon, Baltimore
Donated by Helmand Karzai
Original oil painting
Donated by David Sutphen
Overnight stay for two with breakfast at the Tidewater Inn, Easton
Donated by Tidewater Inn
Three nights in Santa Barbara CA ocean front condo
Donated by Kathy Washburn.
Two tickets to “A Salute to the Chesapeake”
Donated by Preservation Maryland’s Eastern Shore Advisory Council
Two tickets to Lafayette in America lecture
Donated by Theresa Michel
Two-hour Rolls Royce drive
Donated by John Petro
Workshop: Introduction to Genealogical Research
Donated by Sylvia Cooke Martin
As you plan your autumn weekend trips, don’t miss the chance to join Preservation Maryland on two exciting field trips.
On Sunday, November 3, jump aboard a trolley in Cumberland bound for the Lonaconing Silk Mill, a 2007 Endangered Maryland site. From Lonaconing we will make our way to the site of Brownsville, an African-American neighborhood with a history that is closely linked to the development of Frostburg State University. We will learn about the history of transportation in Western Maryland at the La Vale Toll House, and the day will conclude with a tour of Washington Street in Cumberland conducted by a local historian. For more information and to register for this glimpse into Western Maryland history, click here.
If historic homes pique your interest, join us on Saturday, November 9, in St. Mary’s County, as we visit some of the most historic private properties in Southern Maryland. The group will be welcomed into four meticulously cared for homes and an early Jesuit mission site. Cremona (1819), one of the largest surviving Federal houses in the area, is our first stop, and then we arrive at De la Brook (c1835) with its transitional Greek Revival woodwork. We will enjoy lunch at St. Francis Xavier Church (1766) which is adjacent to Newtown Manor (late 1700s), a 2010 Endangered Maryland site. The homes on the Potomac River we will visit include River Springs, a Federal style building that has been in the same family since it was constructed in the first half of the 1800s, and Ocean Hall (c1670) which underwent extensive interior changes in 1725 but retains its unique cruck roof framing. For more information and to register for this exclusive field trip around St. Mary’s County, click here.