Old buildings tend to speak a language all their own. For those who love them there’s an undeniable sense that they are unique among us and require an going the extra mile to preserve them. One such building is the Wye Miller’s House in Wye Mills. Built in the late 1750’s by Edward Lloyd III, and later owned by William Hemsley, the Great Tobacco Merchant, it strikes a determined pose on the hill where it was originally built. Listed on the National Register in 2010, this double pile brick dwelling speaks volumes about our early colonial history in Talbot County and on the Eastern Shore. Quite possibly the last remaining miller’s house that exists along with its original mill in Maryland it remains uninhabited after forty long years.
It all started with a few words at a meeting in Centreville about two years ago; “There’s this house…” The next thing I knew I was climbing through the first floor window and within moments was convinced of the value of its preservation. I’ve been through that window many times since along with a host of others who saw the beauty, meaning and craftsmanship that exist there. It’s a foregone conclusion that the house is in a compromised condition with the biggest concern being whether the building could stand long enough for us to intervene. After many years of neglect, some critical structural problems exist that need to be addressed immediately. The good news is that despite the problems it survived the hurricane, the tropical storm, the relentless rain and the earthquake! They just don’t build them like they used to.
It has been a road of twists and turns involving multiple partners that give this project legs. The essential ingredients were there; the owner was willing and so were potential funders. When Historic Easton was approached they agreed to receive the house and commit their energy and resources as an organization to saving it. The owner’s family had a long history with the property and desired to see the building saved. Their generosity and willingness to take measurable steps towards making this work has been incredible.
Located within the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, the Maryland Heritage Area Authority last week agreed to fund the acquisition of this property. The funders who will help complete the needed match and thereby the initial stabilization includes: private donors, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Maryland. In addition, the Maryland Historical Trust has agreed to take a perpetual easement on the site, offering the kind of protection that will far supersede all of us for years to come.
Determining the future use and developing a preservation plan over the next two years will be coming up next. I’m excited to see what happens and in my heart I know that we have every chance of seeing this project come to fruition. After all, some things are just meant to be.
– Elizabeth Beckley