Last week our education and outreach director, Margaret DeArcangelis, and I ventured out to Western Maryland to visit just a few of the many incredible sites Allegany and Garrett counties have to offer. Although it was raining when we left, the skies seemed to clear almost immediately as we reached the mountains, providing us with the perfect weather for our trip. Kathy Erkert, a representative of the Georges Creek Promotion Council, graciously offered to drive, allowing us to take in the amazing views and scenery along the way. Although I have grown up in Maryland, I have spent very little time west of Frederick. Our trip helped open my eyes to the culture of the area and further confirmed how unique and diverse Maryland is as a state. I guess that is why one of its nicknames is “America in Miniature.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of the trip was our visit to the Lonaconing Silk Mill. A 2007 Endangered Maryland listing, the Lonaconing Silk Mill is the last of its kind still in existence in the United States, holding both local and national significance. Opened in the early 1900s, the mill served as one of the largest employers in Allegany County until its abrupt closure in 1957. Walking inside felt like traveling back in time. Machinery, supplies, and even personal items such as shoes and umbrellas wait in anticipation for employees who will never return. Although the building is in remarkable condition considering the circumstances, it still requires the stewardship of active community members, in order to continue to exist for future generations. Threatened with the possibility of another harsh winter, the community is currently working towards replacing the roof, which will help protect the building from the elements as they progress forward with a plan to revive the space, floor by floor.
Our day concluded with a lovely drive through Garrett County, complete with leisurely stops at places like the Casselman Bridge and Spruce Forest Artisan Village. At Spruce Forest, artisans gather in restored cabins to create high quality products using traditional methods. Unfortunately we had arrived late in the day, so many of the artisans had closed shop for the night. Oh well – it is just an excuse to visit the area again soon!
If you are interested in getting back out to Western Maryland, or perhaps want to visit for the first time, Preservation Maryland plans to host a tour to the area this fall. Stay tuned to our website for more details in the weeks to come, along with information on our tour of Southern Maryland. It is an opportunity you do not want to miss.