Archive for category Eastern Shore Report
Last weekend, the National Trust ‘Council’ (a group of high level donors) spent a day on the Eastern Shore touring some of our great historic resources. As one of the guides for the day, I had the opportunity to engage some of the participants in conversations about today’s preservation movement and the challenges of reaching beyond our ‘borders’ to a broader audience. The conversation drew a lot of interest and got me thinking more broadly about the question of why people don’t seem to embrace preservation the way we often think they should?
My most basic observation here is this, preservation is a movement, so that means we have to move, forward. It doesn’t mean standing still, going in reverse or even worse, stagnating. It means that we need to reinvent, reinterpret (ourselves) and reassess where we are all the time so that we remain relevant and therefore, effective in our mission. By definition, the word movement speaks to the collective advancement of a shared idea, to progressive development, to change and repositioning. For a movement whose mission is perceived to mean freezing time, we have to remember to message that it’s really about managing change.
Preservationist often look to the conservation movement with an eye towards their success in being embraced by the general public. One advantage is that the more progressive conservation organizations routinely revisit the question of what’s needed and what’s relevant, what’s working and what isn’t. They’re great at reassessing their position and figuring out how to make their cause personal, which results in be able to engage people on a grass roots level, despite the fact that environmental regulations have decidedly become stricter. Conservation is regulated by the government, not by its citizens, unlike the most public aspect of preservation – historical commissions. This makes our job considerably more difficult. To gain ground, we have to ensure that those who serve on our front lines are well trained and well informed so that the message they deliver is not only right, but right on target. Unfortunately this is not where we always allocate our resources, why I don’t know. As a movement we have gone from volunteer based to one that has complicated levels of regulation and policy that stretch from Washington to your own back yard. Sandwiched between the bureaucrats and the public is the volunteer who is often times struggling with how to answer the questions, interpret the standards and define the criteria while coming away without feeling fairly perplexed and embattled. It’s clearly a top down problem and one that we seriously need to address.
That being said, it is even more important for us as preservationists to adapt and reinvent as history and conversations change around us. Today building preservation and revitalization is directly related to an improved environment, certainly a cause the younger generation relates to. In addition we have the ever evolving voice of African American history to explore and the surge of heritage tourism as Maryland lays down a myriad of historic trails that delve into everything from the voyage of John Smith to the War of 1812 and beyond. History in Maryland is fast becoming the currency of choice for many counties that are realizing its economic and social value. As preservationists we innately like the road less traveled, but we have to remember not only to fill in the pot holes along the way but to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so others can easily find us.
- Elizabeth Beckley
Last Saturday, April 13, we hosted our first field trip of the year and it was a great success. Participants came to Chesapeake College in Wye Mills from as far away as St. Mary’s City and Frederick County to learn about the history of milling in the area and visit houses that are not generally open to the public. The weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect – sunny and in the upper 60’s with just a slight breeze.
After enjoying coffee and donuts, the whole group piled into two large vans and we were off. Robert Wilson, the owner of Providence Farm, along with Rebecca Marquardt, president of the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society, gave the group an overview of the history of this 1746 house built by a local miller. I was particularly wowed by the detailed woodwork in the house and the amount of restoration work Mr. Wilson has completed.
Our busy schedule did not allow for time to stop and walk around in Centreville, but we did detour up and down through town. Elizabeth Beckley and Michael Bourne, our tour guides for the day, pointed out some of the oldest buildings in town including Wright’s Chance and Tucker House.
Next we headed back to Wye Mills to visit Cloverfields, an early 18th century house and the home of the Great Tobacco Merchant, William Hemsley. While some members of the group chatted with Mrs. Pippin, the current owner of the house, others admired the detailed exterior brick work and visited the Hemsley cemetery.
By noon everyone was getting ready for lunch, so we headed off to the Old Wye Church and enjoyed our lunch in the parish house. The Reverend Charlie Osberger joined us for lunch and gave the group an informative and funny introduction the history of the church and the congregation.
Our next stop was just up the road at the Old Wye Mill, where the Friends of Old Wye Mill, were kind enough to open the mill up before their regular summer hours started. Jim Casey, George Hoffman and John Nizer showed us around this colonial era grist mill which is the oldest in continuous operation in the state. If you are ever looking for a rhythmic noise that will lull you right to sleep, the beat of the water going into the steal wheel is exactly what you want to hear.
Just a few hundred yards south of the mill sits the Miller’s House which was built around 1750. Many of the participants on the trip were excited to see inside the house because it is one of the least altered early structures on the Eastern Shore. Those who did not want to get dirty in the house visited the cemetery on the grounds and I got a kick out of watching a bald eagle soar high above us.
I think our first field trip was a glowing success and a lot of fun. If you could not join us this time, I hope you will come along on a future trip. Keep your eyes peeled next month for information on our next field trip which will be Saturday, June 1 at the National Park Seminary in Silver Spring.
Margaret De Arcangelis
On March 27th, I joined preservation colleagues at the dedication of the Harriet Tubman National Monument at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County – two days after President Obama employed the Antiquities Act to create what is often the next step before becoming a national park – a national monument. For years now, Maryland’s U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin have been staunch advocates for the creation of a national park honoring Tubman’s in Maryland and in New York State. Supporting this effort have been Tubman family members, who never gave up as the property’s proposed designation as a national park stalled time and time again. A national monument is essentially afforded the same resources as a national park.
When I walked into the room the first thing I noticed were the two rows of reserved seats. I knew without question who these were for — Tubman and Ross family members. How remarkable not only to be able to witness such an event, but to do so alongside descendants of she who we honor. It felt like Harriet was among us and that her lessons were being passed on to the present generation. Tubman’s grandniece told me a story about Harriet being hit in the head by a metal weight intended for another target — hit so hard it nearly killed her. She said, “When Harriet was hit, God put her to sleep so she could heal, and when she was well, he touched her again, and she awoke, ready to do the great work he had intended for her.”
The room was filled by people who had spent years of their lives working to ensure that the Harriet Tubman story and landscape were brought to life. There were young people who had come to witness, preservationists, scholars, elected officials and those who had banded together to advocate on Capitol Hill for the Tubman National Park, time and again. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is now home to the only national monument dedicated to an African American woman, a small woman capable of great deeds of selflessness who planted the seeds of freedom and justice that have been rooted ever since.
Retiring Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that this dedication was a seminal moment in his career. Retired National Park Service Dr. Robert Stanton, the only African American ever to hold this post, concluded his moving speech with the words of Tubman, “Keep going. Keep going.” To me, but the most important message of the day is that good does happen in the world, that it’s worth fighting for and that with belief, vision, faith and perseverance, we can achieve our dreams. Harriet Tubman, the Moses of her people, has led us all to a better place. To read the official White House announcement for the Harriet Tubman National Monument, please follow this link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/25/presidential-proclamation-harriet-tubman-underground-railroad-national-m
It’s still not too late to sign up for two great events happening this week on the Eastern Shore. On Wednesday, December 16th, the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Area will be hosting their Annual Meeting and Luncheon, with keynote speaker Tony Cohen who will be speaking on the Underground Railroad. They will be honoring five recipients with heritage awards, and will be giving a special lifetime heritage award to Lorraine Henry for her efforts regarding Henry’s Beach. Tickets are $25.00 with advanced reservation and $30.00 at the door. The meeting is at the Fountains of Salisbury, on Route 50. The silent auction opens at 10:30 and the program begins at 11:00. Please call (410) 677-4704 to make reservations or click here for more information.
On Thursday, December 17th, The Historical Society of Talbot County and Historic Easton will be offering a buffet luncheon and presentation at 12:00 pm called Food for Thought: “Uncovering an Historic African American Neighborhood” with featured speakers Dr. Mark P. Leone, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park and Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. The presentation will focus on an area of Easton known as “The Hill”. In the late 1700′s, a large population of free African Americans known as “hirelings” resided on “The Hill”, an anomaly in an era when slavery was widespread in Talbot County. This area of Easton has long been an African-American neighborhood, but only recently has its incredible significance and history begun to be understood. The event will be hosted by the Inn at 202 Dover and Peacock Restaurant and a buffet lunch will be served. The cost for Historical Society and Historic Easton members is $30 and $35 for non-members. For more information, please call the Historical Society of Talbot County at 410-822-0773. Hope to see you there!
On December 16th a four alarm fire broke out at 507 Race Street in Cambridge due to suspected arson. The masonry building (c.1920) is a contributing structure that features prominently in Cambridge’s downtown historic district and served as mixed use space housing a clothing store and eight residential apartments. The building is owned by Easy Rentals, LLC, a corporation for which Cleveland L. Rippons, a former Cambridge mayor is listed as a principal. On December 17th an application for demolition was filed with the Cambridge Historic Preservation Commission which agreed to hear the case at their regularly scheduled meeting on December 20th. Testimony was provided by Mr. Rippons, Rescue Fire Co. Chief Robert Phillips and Elizabeth Beckley of Preservation Maryland.
The building suffered a great deal of internal damage from the fire and the parapet on the front elevation was removed by the fire company to prevent any threat to public safety from its possible collapse. The Commission determined that a continuance would be necessary because no factual evidence was provided by a licensed civil engineer with experience in archaic building structures and materials as to the structural condition of the building. In addition the Commission asked to see proposals for shoring and stabilizing the building and requested that the brick salvaged from the parapet wall be saved for future reconstruction efforts. The next meeting will be held on January 17th to review new information provided at that time.
I’ve been driving down the back country roads of the Eastern Shore for some time now and in my mental filing cabinet I keep a list of a few very special unpreserved houses that I go out of my way to keep an eye on. Over time I’ve watched their condition degrade, mostly, but harbor in my heart the desire to be able to do something to save them. I ask myself, “Will it still be there?” and “What will it’s condition be now?” I always feel a little pang of nervousness wondering what I’ll find when I make my approach. I’m curious about who owns them and if they realize, even for an instant, how very special these places are.
There is one such house on the upper Eastern Shore that I’ve been mentally ‘safe guarding’ for several years now. I can’t reveal to you which one it is as it still sits vulnerable in a field, but hopefully not for long! I was first made aware of this building by a friend who took me there to see it. I’ve been back many times since and watched the elements have its way with the open building. An early house, built in the 1820’s, it’s a fine example of Federal architecture with resplendent finishes remaining. The staircase has collapsed through the side hall floor and now resides in a pile in the basement. Never the less, I was in love with this building and have held out hope for its preservation ever since.
The house was part of a large working farm and the owner cared nothing for it. I tried every measure to reach out to them without being disrespectful, but to no avail. I heard sadly that it had been vandalized but not much damage was done. Then last year I learned the family members were selling. Ah, an opportunity! How would it go? Would they see the house as a deterrent to sale and tear it down? Would the new owner understand what they had there? I made my inquiries, I watched and I waited.
Then out of the blue I received a message with the name and number of the new owners and a recommendation to call. I introduced myself and offered my assistance should they be wondering what to do with the house. The woman explained that they weren’t sure, but would speak with her husband (a busy farmer) and if they were interested would call me about coming out to meet with them. Well, I did receive that call and last week I had the great pleasure of meeting them out at the site. What I found were two people who wanted to understand the building and explore their options as to what was possible. They had great questions for me and even better a keen sense of curiosity and interest as we poked through every nook and cranny. It was a good day and at the end of our time together the owner turned to me and said, “Well, I think it’s just the right thing to do, to try and preserve this place. Would you be interested in helping us with that? How would you feel about a metal roof?” My heart soared.
There are untold numbers of properties like this on the Eastern Shore and it’s a thrill to discover them and even better to try and assist them. If you know of one please don’t hesitate to call me! You never know what can happen until you try.
- Elizabeth Beckley
It’s been a very busy month all across the Eastern Shore as organizations are working hard to preserve historic buildings and neighborhoods!
To begin with the Advisory Council for the PM Eastern Shore Field Office celebrated its one year anniversary this November. The Council’s role is to serve as a brain trust for the ESFO by providing expertise and counsel to our efforts here across the nine counties of the Shore. At our meeting this month we were proud to welcome two new members to our team: Mr. Richard C. Tilghman of Easton and Ms. Gay Carter Lees of Kent Island. Other Council members include Gail Owings, Dr. John Seidel, Russell Dashiell, William Boyd, Robert Hammond, Dale Glenwood Green and Ms. Audrey Scott (Chair).
The Miller’s House in Talbot County has been a good patient while ongoing stabilization efforts continue to help preserve this significant early structure built by Edward Lloyd III in the 1750s. The only known remaining Miller’s House to exist with its original colonial mill (Old Wye Mill) this structure is now owned and stewarded by Historic Easton. A brick stacking party was held on site with friends and board members of Historic Easton pitching in to help inventory and store historic brick salvaged from the site and set aside for future use. Archeologist Dr. Ed Otter recently completed preliminary archeology work in the basement where two significant features were discovered, including a sub grade oyster cache by the cooking hearth. This was followed by a geotechnical study to help determine the soil structure and quality of the ground under and around the foundation. These results are now being used to help devise the next steps in stabilizing the structure.
The Asbury United Methodist Church in Kent County is close to beginning the actual work to stabilize its bell tower and make other necessary repairs to help stabilize this building and return the congregation to the sanctuary. Mr. Jerry Matyko of Expert House Movers will be taking the lead in this effort set to begin in the next few weeks.
“The Hill,” a small African American neighborhood located in the heart of historic Easton has been the focus of a number of organizations and universities who are working to research, investigate , solve and explain the recent ‘discovery’ of this incredible historical gem. Only in the past few years has it come to light that this neighborhood is not only the birthplace of African American Methodism, but could well be the oldest intact African American neighborhood in the United States (circa 1790), predating Treme in New Orleans. A debriefing session was led by Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning and Dr. Mark Leone of the University Of Maryland College Park Department Of Anthropology to discuss the ongoing historic preservation efforts to date and a discussion of the role archeology is playing in documenting this early African American settlement. In addition to these two universities, a coalition of partners has been central to supporting this initiative including: Historic Easton, the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Preservation Maryland and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A spectacular autumn evening in a stunning waterfront setting set the stage for An Evening of Entertainment at Wheatlands, the Talbot County home of War of 1812 hero General Perry Benson. Benson is credited with the ruse of hanging lanterns in the treetops of St. Michaels, providing a false target for British ships. In addition to friends of Preservation Maryland and our co-conspirators, the Historical Society of Talbot County, a detachment of Royal Marines invaded the historic waterfront property, taking hostage one of the female guests. Lest the damsel fall into distress, an authentic copper bucket was passed to secure the necessary ransom, and she was quickly returned to the gathering of colonials. The nervy Brits remained on site until the party’s conclusion, demanding to sample what they referred to as “grog.”
The magical friend-raising evening for our two organizations was made possible through the generosity of Wheatlands owners Bruce and Alice Rogers. PM board members Audrey Scott and Russell Dashiell and his wife JoAnne volunteered their services to help make everything run smoothly, as did Ward Bucher, an Eastern Shore Advisory Council member.
To see more of the event, visit the photograph album posted on our Facebook page.
Every year I look forward to July when I join my colleagues from the National Trust to spend two days traveling the Eastern Shore conducting applicant site visits for the Bartus Trew Providence Preservation Fund. This grant fund is unique in that it was created specifically to fund preservation projects on the Eastern Shore of Maryland – beginning on this side of the C& D Canal all the way to Somerset. This year brought some great applications on a variety of projects ranging from church restorations to archeology to the restoration of one of the last remaining African American Civil War veterans posts.
Being ‘in the field’ is fundamental to my work and something I truly love especially when you’re helping to provide needed funding to ready hands. At every site you find people passionately devoted to their project, the cause and their story. These places matters to them and not for reasons that bring any kind of personal gain other than knowing that they have made a difference and paid homage to a part of our heritage that’s worth safe guarding. You could say that there is a little bit of immortality in it; a personal investment that carries on when a building continues to stand tall, a discovery is made or a story continues to be told because of these efforts.
Bartus Trew grant awards range from $5000 to $25,000 and are available to public agencies, 501 (c) (3) and other nonprofit organizations. In these days of funding shortages and program cutting, this is an incredible resource for heritage resources here on the Shore. The awards have been used for a variety of important projects from the restoration of historic skipjacks, to the acquisition of threatened properties to the development of a training program for historic district commissions. I encourage you to give some thought to how these funds could assist a project that is of interest to you! Stay tuned for news of the grant award winners this year when they’re announced in August.
For more information on the Bartus Trew Providence Preservation Fund, please visit this link:
- Elizabeth Beckley
It’s been over 400 years since Captain John Smith and his crew set out in an open boat on their exploration of the Chesapeake Bay, forever transforming the future of these waters, the landscape and her culture. It was between the years of 1607 and 1609 that Smith mapped nearly 3,000 miles of the Chesapeake Bay and her rivers and provided the first documented history of the Native American communities he encountered along the way.
Smith knew then what so many of us have come to understand today; that the Chesapeake Bay is a unique and vital resource whose gifts are both plentiful and staggeringly beautiful. What Smith could never have foreseen was that well before the turn of the millennia the Chesapeake Bay would be in alarmingly acute condition, having suffered from a variety of ailments that would leave her literally gasping for air.
In recent years there has been a powerful movement to restore the Chesapeake Bay to health, conserve her shorelines and reintroduce her to the American public as one of the most historically and naturally significant resources in our country. A game changer in this effort came on December 19, 2006 when President George W. Bush signed into law the bill officially creating The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, commemorating Smith’s exploration of the Bay between 1607 and 1609 and managed by the National Park Service. Since that time a collaborative framework of multiple states, agencies and organizations has come together to further the vision and foster the first all-water National Historic trail in our nation. Their goal is not only to enhance stewardship of the Bay and its heritage, but includes such elements as increased public access and tourism opportunities to large scale landscape conservation and educational programming.
Just this week the Trail was expanded even further. In a ceremony held alongside the banks of the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, joined by Martin O’Malley and other leaders designated four water trails as new historic connecting components of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Spanning five states, the four connecting rivers which include the Susquehanna, Chester, Upper Nanticoke and Upper James add 841 miles to the existing trail and their significance speaks directly to the history, cultural heritage and exquisite natural resources that comprise this 3,000 mile long national historic trail in the Chesapeake Bay. It was a privilege and a joy to see these efforts realized and more than comforting to know that there are those whose vision still stretches out well beyond the next turn in the river.