Archive for June, 2012
This month some of Preservation Maryland’s board members joined me on an excursion to one of the rare jewels of the Chesapeake, Smith Island. Nestled in among briny marshes and accessible only by boat, this Chesapeake Bay waterman community has survived here for over 300 years. Existing without local government or police this island ‘nation’ is guided by two things: the Chesapeake blue crab business and the Methodist church. With roughly 275 inhabitants in three villages, the islanders here live a life that few in our country ever experience.
We traveled to Ewell from Crisfield, a twelve mile boat ride that takes about an hour. There we enjoyed a tour of the new visitors center, sampled some incredible island fare (great soft shells!) at Ruke’s and toured the surrounding town, Methodist church and tabernacle. So, if you’re seeking the true essence of the Chesapeake, Smith Island should be your first stop. While you’re there be sure to pause for just a moment and take in the truly beautiful quality of this special place and these unique Marylanders whose proud heritage is evident at every turn. Oh yes, and be sure to try a slice of their signature Smith Island cake!
For more information on Smith Island please visit: www.smithisland.org online or pick up a copy of Tom Horton’s incredible book, “An Island Out of Time.”
- Elizabeth Beckley
Preservation Maryland, in partnership with the Maryland Historical Trust, recently awarded 10 grants totaling more than $ 18,000 to assist historic preservation projects across the state. The Heritage Fund grants range from $ 500 to $5,000 and supports capital and non-capital preservation projects. The next deadline for applications is October 1st. Please contact me if you have projects in need of assistance.
Applicant: Alice Ferguson Foundation, Inc.
Contact: Lori Arguelles, 301-292-5665
Grant Award: $ 1,000
The Alice Ferguson Foundation was awarded a grant of $ 1,000 to assist with the cost of chimney repair caused by the August 2011 earthquake. The Foundation operates Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, an educational site designed to promote understanding and stewardship of the Potomac River watershed and farming practices. Located across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, the log cabin and farmhouse both date from the early 20th century.
Applicant: Asbury United Methodist Church
Contact: Mary Grinnel, 443-480-2883
Grant Award: $ 2,400
Asbury United Methodist Church was awarded a grant of $2,400 to complete a structural assessment necessary to plan for the stabilization and restoration of the bell tower and adjoining roof. Built in 1879, the church is one of the oldest, continuously operating African American congregations in Kent County, Maryland.
Applicant: Greenbelt Homes, Inc.
Contact: Eldon Ralph, 301-474-4161, x148
Grant Award: $ 2,500
Greenbelt Homes was awarded a grant of $ 2,500 to assist with the cost of hiring a consultant to conduct energy audits and to formulate strategies to improve energy efficiency of homes while maintaining the historic fabric of the community, primary composed of two-story townhouse units.
Applicant: Historic Easton, Inc.
Contact: Ronald Mitchell, 410-819-8007
Grant Award: $ 1,500
Historic Easton was awarded a grant of $ 1,500 to conduct a geotechnical study to evaluate subsoil conditions in preparation for design of underpinning for the east end of the Miller’s house. The Georgian Colonial Wye Miller’s house dates from the mid 18th century and is one of the few remaining houses that exist in its original context with the mill.
Applicant: Hosier Memorial United Methodist Church
Contact: Daniel Shoemaker, III, 410-397-3555
Grant Award: $ 2,500
Hosier Memorial United Methodist Church was awarded a grant of $ 2,500 to assist with the exterior restoration of the church. Built in 1900, the church’s exterior retains a high degree of original fabric which has recently been uncovered with the removal of vinyl siding.
Applicant: Kennard Alumni Association
Contact: Clayton Washington, 443-239-2110
Grant Award: $ 1,000
Kennard High School Association was awarded a grant of $ 1,000 to assist with the cost of an oral history project focusing on alumni who until 1966 attended the segregated school for African American students. The school building is currently being restored to be used as a museum and community center.
Applicant: Main Street Middletown
Contact: Becky Reich, 301-371-6171, x 22
Grant Award: $ 2,000
Main Street Middletown was awarded a grant of $ 2,000 to assist design and formatting of a design guidelines booklet for the Middletown Historic District. The district contains a wide range of architectural styles with buildings from the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The booklet will contain explanations and descriptions of architectural styles and buildings, maintenance guidelines and other useful information to property stewards in the Main Street district.
Applicant: Olney Boys & Girls Community Sports Association, Inc.
Contact: Elisabeth Deal, 301-570-7049
Grant Award: $1,000
The Olney Boys & Girls Community Sports Association was awarded a grant of $ 1,000 to assist with the cost of restoring Falling Green, the ca. 1770 Georgian home of Quaker planter, Basil Brooke. Once restored, it will be used as the administrative offices of the Olney Boys and Girls Community Sports Association.
Applicant: Town of Ridgely
Grant Award: $ 2,000
The Town of Ridgely was awarded a grant of $ 2,000 to assist with the costs of roof repairs to the railroad station. The 1892 station is currently located in the Historic Railroad Park.
Applicant: St. Peter the Apostle Church
Contact: Fr. Mark A. Kelleher, 410-758-0143
Grant Award: $ 2,500
St. Peter the Apostle Church was awarded a grant of $ 2,500 to assist with the costs of exterior woodwork repair and painting and mortar repointing of St. Peter’s Church. The Victorian Gothic church, built in 1832, is home to one of the oldest Catholic communities in the United States.
Below is a round-up of news articles on preservation and heritage issues in Maryland and beyond.
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
Old Senate Chamber restoration effort needs your help – The Capital 06-24-12
Lighthouse Tours for Thomas Point in Md. Resuming – WJZ CBS Baltimore 06-13-2012
Archaeologists look for Filipino relics in Annapolis - The Capital 06-11-2012
MainStreets Annapolis plans for second year- The Capital 06-07-2012
Tax credit errors spur calls for audits – Baltimore Sun 06-26-12
Tax break errors cost Baltimore millions, Sun investigation finds – Baltimore Sun 06-24-12
Surveys: One-third of historic property tax credit recipients would do rehabs without subsidy - Baltimore Sun 06-22-2012
Sailabration launches War of 1812 bicentennial -Baltimore Sun 06-09-2012
Sailors, Marines make 1812 county landmark shipshape - Baltimore Sun 06-11-2012
Property’s demolition could beat ordinance -Frederick News-Post 06-08-2012
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY
‘We’ve got to protect what we have left’- The Gazette 06-21-2012
Bladensburg battles to preserve historic home – The Gazette 05-29-2012
QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY
Church Hill Town Hall to get exterior refurbishing – Star Democrat 06-28-2012
Fire damages ‘Captain’s House’ in Centreville - Star Democrat 06-24-2012
ST. MARY’S COUNTY
Archaeologists Uncover Foundation of Maryland’s First State House – The Baynet 06-21-2012
10 ways to commemorate the War of 1812 – Baltimore Sun 06-14-2012
The War of 1812: Actors, artifacts and battle re-enactments – Baltimore Sun 06-13-2012
Pictures: 11 Most Endangered U.S. Historic Sites Named – National Geographic 06-20-2012
To save a schoolhouse — and history - CNN 06-16-2012
If you have a news article on a preservation-related issue you wish to add to our monthly news round-up, please send the link to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think everyone would agree that Sailabration, the official start of the two-year celebration of America’s defeat of the British in the War of 1812, has been a great success. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents have flocked to the Inner Harbor and other sites in Baltimore to celebrate, making local businesses happy and organizers proud.
While the tall ships from around the world are spectacular and have been the main attraction, for me the highlight of past week has been watching the Blue Angels with my children from the ramparts of Fort McHenry on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and a spectacular setting for the show.
It was also a very profound experience to be in the Fort and reflect on what the soldiers had endured during the bombardment nearly two hundred years ago, which was witnessed by Francis Scott Key who wrote what would become our national anthem. And to fast forward to today and reflect on the important role of America’s armed forces and the sacrifices that are made by its members and their families as symbolized by the Blue Angels.
Of course, seeing the Blue Angels also makes you think about the incredible leaps in technology that have occurred since the ships and canons of 1812 to the jet fighters of today. It also brings to mind the important role of historic preservation as exemplified by Fort McHenry, which decrepit and abandoned was established as a national park in 1925, subsequently restored by the Works Progress Administration, and continues to serve as a touchstone to the War of 1812 and our national anthem.
It was great to see some 25,000 people in the park enjoying the air show, concerts and fireworks commemorating the defining role that Fort McHenry and Baltimore played in American history. And the celebration has just begun, because the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore isn’t until September 13, 2014!
If you’re reading this, you probably love visiting historic properties, whether they are maintained for public benefit or simply lovingly taken care of by their owners. There is something so satisfying in seeing evidence of the past and the continuity of occupation that an ancient building offers. It is easy to take for granted the resources and work that go into maintaining older buildings, an often significantly greater investment than necessary in newer buildings, especially if work is done according to the standards we preservationists impose on historic buildings. I am frequently made aware of historic properties in private hands where the owners desire their perpetual preservation but are unsure how to guarantee that absent unlimited financial resources. To those non-profit organizations which struggle to maintain and share their historic properties, attempting to remain relevant in a world of interactive, electronic learning, we owe immense gratitude. Suppose their stewards simply stopped doing what they have done for decades. Imagine if our state lost the hundreds of historic sites that are open to the public. And, yet, history sites and museums are threatened today by economic and cultural conditions as never before. Historic and cultural organizations are on the lowest rungs of philanthropy. Memberships in them are generally declining, and the cost of maintaining their property grows. There are complex reasons for these conditions which cannot possibly be covered here, but they are intractably challenging, and indications point to greater contraction among historic sites. Those which fail to innovate are most certainly doomed to continue their decline in visitation and financial resources. I know this is demoralizing, and I wish there were easy answers. To thrive, we will need to collaborate, learn from each other, share resources and market our cause.
In January I wrote a blog about Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore. Mt. Auburn is a 34-acre cemetery, located in South Baltimore, overlooking the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. One of the oldest African American burial grounds in the country, it was established in 1872 by the Sharpe Street Memorial United Methodist Church as The City of the Dead for Colored People. It is the burial site of many prominent Baltimore residents, including John H. Murphy, founder of the Afro-American Newspapers; Lillie Carroll Jackson, NAACP president and civil rights activist; and Joe Gans (Gant), the world lightweight boxing champion from 1902-1904 and 1906-1908.
I wrote about the work that was in progress, specifically the perimeter fence that was being installed. That work is now complete and the graveyard is attractively surrounded by a new fence, rebuilt stone wall and new entrance gate. In my previous blog, I also noted that it was apparent an enormous amount of work had been done to remove the overgrowth of sticker bushes, weeds, and trash that at one point covered many of the headstones located in the cemetery. That work has obviously continued. The “Riverview” section I referred to in January as wilderness has been cleared and is now indistinguishable from the other portions of the graveyard.
A tremendous effort is being made to honor the estimated 55,000 interred on this site. A sign on the entrance gate speaks of a collaborate effort between The City of Baltimore, Mount Auburn Cemetery Board of Directors, The Abell Foundation and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose inmates are responsible for much of the work completed. All should be commended for the work done so far.
However, this is not the end of the story. The weeds and brush overgrowth will reappear. There must be a long term commitment to the continual maintenance of this treasured site. Preservation Maryland has reached out to the Board of Directors of Mt. Auburn to offer our assistance and we look forward to becoming a part of the collaborative effort to ensure the perpetual maintenance of the site.
Volunteers are still needed and encouraged to meet at the cemetery for cleanup every Saturday morning in July and every 1st and 3rd Saturday thereafter. Check the Sharp Street Church’s website at http://www.sharpstreet.org/mtauburn.html for details.
Few things are more satisfying to an event organizer than the day after a successful special event which took months to plan and produce. Preservation Maryland’s June 5 reception honoring the 37 founding members of our Heritage Society is the source of my satisfaction today. The owner-guided tours of Whitehall, the circa 1760 site of the event, were enthralling. Predicted showers held off. Abundant food and libations were enjoyed along with convivial conversation among old friends and new. And, as if on cue, the occasional yacht with sunlit sails, crossed the party’s Whitehall Bay vista.
Thanks to the Brandywine Foundation for making available this remarkable National Historic Landmark with its association to colonial Maryland and the American Revolution for our inaugural Heritage Society event. Special thanks to Heritage Society members who supply generous support for both specific programs and for general operating expenses.
Access to privately owned historic properties is one benefit of joining Preservation Maryland’s Heritage Society. This special category of membership includes those who have given $2500 annually. For more information on the Heritage Society, contact me at email@example.com.
On Hooper’s Island in Dorchester County is a small cemetery that contains the remains of at least 150 people who lived, loved, worked and played in this remote region of the Eastern Shore. Located directly on the Chesapeake Bay, their final resting place is severely threatened by shoreline erosion. However, local citizen Donnie Willey continues his almost decade-long battle to stem the tide of the bay.
Family names in the Anchor of Hope (AOH) cemetery are familiar to the area: Travers, Ruark,Meekins, and Cox. Most of the people buried there are descendents of the Travers family, who owned the nearby plantation. Tombstones date back to 1805 with many graves unmarked. It is believed these are the slaves of the Travers family. Veterans from several wars including the War of 1812 are also buried here.
Over the years, Willey has been successful in recruiting volunteers for periodic cleanups of the graveyard and in 2011 Department of Correction’s inmates from Salisbury were involved in a massive overgrowth clear out. He is untiring in his campaign to bring awareness to the plight of those interred there and continues to solicit funds, manpower and equipment to place rip-rap along the shoreline to protect against erosion.
He has partnered with the South Dorchester Folk Museum (SDFM) and the Bucktown Village Foundation to continue the non-ending battle against the bay. Volunteers are always welcomed to help with clean-up of the cemetery. The SDFM has an ongoing War of 1812 Commemoration Project that will include the soldiers in the AOH cemetery. Check their website, www.sdfmuseum.net, for periodic updates and schedule of events. There is also a Facebook page – Friends of Anchor of Hope Graveyard. Donations can be made to the Bucktown Village Foundation, 4303 Bucktown Road, Cambridge, MD, 21613. Donnie Willey can be contacted at 410-397-3433.
In 2011, Preservation Maryland listed the Anchor of Hope Cemetery as one of its most endangered sites.