Archive for category Preservation Stories
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.
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
The other day I came across a tweet and could not help but smile. It said “It’s funny what makes you happy as a home owner. I have baseboards. Yeah!!! J” As someone who has always enjoyed visiting old houses and loves learning about architecture, I have always thought baseboard were great. It was not until this summer when my husband and I bought our first house did I come to truly appreciate things such as baseboard and having them where they belong. This is largely due to the fact that some of our baseboards, plaster, banisters and light fixtures are missing, and I dream about the day when they will all be in place.
Christopher and I did not buy a move-in ready starter house like so many other people from our generation do. Instead Chris has lovingly followed me into what may be my most harebrained and wonderful idea yet. We bought a fixer upper – an 1886 brownstone in Bolton Hill that needs more repair work than I have space to list in this short post. Like so many of the houses in that neighborhood, it was subdivided into apartments, and so on each floor there are vestiges of long abandoned kitchens and bathrooms and numerous walls that were damaged when temporary walls were built. Unlike other houses in Bolton Hill though, our house was in the same family into the 1950s (thank you MD Land Records for providing that fun fact), and so for as much damage as the tenants caused during their tenure, much of the original detail remains. The parquet floors which have a different pattern in each room need to be refinished, but they are largely intact. Much of wood work including our 45 wood windows is covered with only one or two coats of paint, and although a few pieces of glass are missing from the stained glass transoms, they are in place and can be repaired.
After searching for the right house for ten months, I knew this was the perfect house for us the first time I saw it. There are so many beautiful details throughout the house that would be impossible or at least cost prohibitive for us to have in any other house. Some days the house does present challenges. The first few times it rained we found a new leak each time. We discovered that the duct tape on one of the sewer lines in the basement was not covering up a small crack in the pipe, but instead was put there to cover the ten inch by two inch gouge in the pipe. We learned that sometimes the scope of a project changes midway through due to unforeseen circumstances, which may mean you need to remove a 100 year old piece of Lincrusta from the wall so the plumbers can run new waterlines. No matter what the new issue is with our house, all of those feelings of frustration go away each time I go to unlock the front door and am reminded how lucky I am to own such a beautiful old house.
Margaret and Christopher De Arcangelis at home.
Margaret De Arcangelis
I am proud to say that Preservation Maryland is a non-profit that is never without a multi-year strategic plan. We also prepare an annual work plan to accompany each year’s annual budget, and, at the end of the fiscal year, we assess our progress at meeting those goals in a year-end report. As a matter of fact, as one who is perhaps too familiar with the operation of non-profit organizations, I give Preservation Maryland high marks in the category of planning. Several years ago we earned accreditation from the Maryland Nonprofits through its Standards of Excellence program, and no doubt our multi-year and annual planning was one of the important foundations for this achievement.
Our current strategic plan expires at the end of this month. Last spring, we sought guidance from a small consulting firm that specializes in non-profit historical and preservation organizations. With encouragement from our consultant, we decided to think bigger than we have in our last few strategic planning efforts and — to use a hackneyed phrase — take our organization to the next level.
What has resulted — after months of meetings of the strategic planning committee, a two-day retreat of the entire board focused on developing the plan, drafting, re-drafting, fine tuning and pricing the cost of this big thinking — is an ambitious, well-reasoned document that will make us a deeper and broader organization, more attuned to serving the needs of constituents and potential constituents. On September 25, our board will meet to review the latest and most likely final draft of the plan. We call it, “Extending Our Reach – Increasing Our Value.” In the coming weeks, blog readers can learn about some of the detail in that plan and what it will mean to Marylanders.
Jenna Dublin is Preservation Maryland’s newest intern. She is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in Historic Preservation and Urban Planning at the University of Maryland, College Park. She comes to the preservation field with a background in the visual arts, public history, and community outreach. She looks forward to working with Preservation Maryland through the 2013-2014 academic year!
This year brought a slate of very compelling and wide ranging applications to the National Trust’s Bartus Trew Providence Preservation grant program. Uniquely dedicated to funding preservation projects on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it is one of the most valuable resources we have to support preservation efforts in this rural region. Awards range from $5000 to $25,000 and are available to local governments and non-profit organizations. The matching requirement is very reasonable and in kind service is allowed as part of the match.
Over the years 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 training programs for historic district commissions. The grant deadline is always in June of every year and awards are announced in August. I would like to congratulate this year’s award winners and take the opportunity to recognize their efforts and the fine projects they are dedicated to:
Historic Cambridge, $20,000 award to fund the stabilization of 507 Race Street (Skinner Grocery Building)
Coastal Heritage Alliance, $15,000 award to fund the restoration of the Skipjack Kathryn keel
Wye River Upper School, $13,600 award to fund the restoration of the Centreville Armory
Town of Snow Hill, $10,000 award to fund the restoration of the historic Snow Hill Train Station
Wicomico Historic Properties, $10,000 award to fund the Phase I restoration of 501 Poplar Avenue in Salisbury
Friends of Mount Harmon, $5,000 award to fund enhancement of site interpretation and educational programming
Town of Federalsburg – $5,000 award to fund development of design guidelines for newly planned historic district
St. Stephens Episcopal Church – $5,000 award to fund the restoration of the alter window
For more information on the National Trust’s Bartus Trew Providence Preservation grant program please follow this link:
- Elizabeth Beckley
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.