Posts Tagged Elizabeth Beckley
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 was a day that spoke to the hearts of many and began in the heart of one. On March 9, 2013 people around the world marked the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death and a very special celebration was held here on the Eastern Shore in Church Creek, the place where Tubman’s legacy began. As the result of many years of research, planning and advocating ground was broken at the Harriet Tubman State Park for a 15,000 square-foot visitors center slated to be completed in 2015. A 10 million dollar project, many are hopeful and optimistic that this center will one day help to guide visitors to local sites found within the proposed Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Woven throughout the day’s events, highlighted by dignitaries and elected officials, were reminders of the reasons why were all gathered under the tent that special day. The New Revelations Baptist Choir sang and a presentation of colors was made by U.S. Army B Company, 54th Massachusetts Regiment who paid tribute to Harriet Tubman, who served as a nurse and cook for the regiment, spying on nearby Confederate forces during her spare time, before they joined other forces to attack Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Reverend Keith Cornish provided a moving Invocation for the ceremony and Harriet Tubman re-enactor Millicent Sparks captured everyone’s heart with her moving portrayal of Tubman herself.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis spoke at the event in support for the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Act, which has been cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski and their counterparts from New York State, where Harriet Tubman resided in Auburn for the balance of her life following the Civil War and died on March 10, 1913. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley spoke in support of Tubman’s heroic contributions to our Nation’s history and her courage and selfless dedication to helping those who remained in bondage realize their freedom. In addition, they spoke to the advantages that the visitors center and related activities surrounding Harriet Tubman would bring to many on the Eastern Shore. “It will bring the attention of the entire world to this place,” Salazar said of the proposed national park. “So Marylanders stay tuned. There’s more to come.” Very exciting indeed!
In addition to the ground breaking there was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Designated as one of the nation’s best driving tours, this 125-mile route takes visitors through Dorchester and Caroline counties and brings to life the stories and sites of Tubman and the extensive Underground Railroad operation that existed here. As a part of the Centennial Celebration organizers planned a tour of one section of the Byway with a stop at the Lincester Mill near Preston in Caroline County, where a very special dedication ceremony was held for the Byway. We should all thank the many individuals and organizations who have dedicated their efforts to bring lasting honor to Harriet Tubman’s legacy. She was one of the most important figures in American history and to be able to walk in her footsteps is a privilege everyone should experience.
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.
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.
What does it mean to be a “curator”? According to definition, a curator, derived from the Latin word curare meaning “take care” is a manager or overseer, traditionally a keeper of some form of cultural heritage, a content specialist responsible for a collection and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. Typically, the object of a traditional curator’s concern involves tangible objects of some kind, be they artwork, collections or historic items. Whether your familiar with the term or not, I can be fairly certain that many folks here in the Old Line State are unfamiliar with one very important form of curatorship and that is the Maryland Resident Curatorship Program offered by none other than the Department of Natural Resources.
Most of us don’t naturally associate the DNR with historic buildings, but interestingly enough they own a lot of them, in fact some of the best in the State on some of the most beautiful land to be found. Currently there are over 60 DNR owned properties in the hands of curators in the State of Maryland and that list is growing as more land is acquired. So why should this be interesting to you? Assuming your reading this because you have an interest in historic buildings, being a curator is a prime opportunity to be a steward of an important piece of Maryland’s history, with lifetime tenancy in exchange for restoration, maintenance and occasional visit from the public. That’s right, no mortgage, no rent, but certainly not free. If you were to purchase a historic home you might make the same personal investment in bringing the property up to grade, but you would keep paying every month on average for 30 years.
As an organization that cares deeply for Maryland’s historic and heritage resources we are joining with DNR over the coming months to introduce you to the Resident Curatorship Program , their properties and their stories. Emily Burrows, Manager of this program for DNR will be featured as our first guest blogger and will be personally introducing you to the world of resident curatorship in Maryland. We hope it will help to familiarize you with the program and spread the word about his unique opportunity to leave your mark as a keeper of an important piece of Maryland’s history.
As I was sitting at a public hearing the other night feeling frustrated by the proceedings, I thought to myself “if only I had a magic wand….” As you can imagine there are many things I would use it for, but one of them would be to reconnect people with their innate sense of intuition about the place where they live and what it means to live in harmony with their surroundings. By allowing our intuition into the room so to speak, we then have the opportunity to protect and create places that are worthy of the community where we live. It goes beyond textbook explanations or studies, beyond the modern patterns of development, convenience and utility that we’ve prioritized into our lives. It speaks directly to having a sense of belonging and origination, of responsibility to more than just the basics of ‘the plan.’ It strikes me that we are so busy moving forward that we discard our innate sense of loss in our surroundings by what we think we have achieved by progress.
Whether or not you’re a fan of historic buildings, chances are you recognize what’s missing when you visit places that suffer from a distinct lack of vision and more importantly, any appreciation for what was there before we managed to homogenize our surroundings. These often are places of utility, where we ‘get things done.’ They are places we move through but don’t look at, as if to say that they’re expendable, like the value of our experience when we’re in them. Remarkably, our modern methodologies have ensured that we spend a great deal of our lives in places such as this.
I would posit that every experience we have matters, and if the opportunity exists to enhance our environment and our daily experience in it rather than detract from it, why wouldn’t we? It isn’t that we have lost the ability to produce interesting thoughtful places, only that we seem to have lowered our standards to the point where we’ve stopped expecting our built environment to inspire us. The opportunityexists to halt the march of soul less places as nature has given us the formula herself; it’s known as the Golden Mean or the Golden Ratio (φ). Employed by builders from ancient times up until around the 1830′s when pattern dominated design took over it’s the intrinsic element in early architecture that gives it that ‘feel.’ It’s based on proportion and is found in honeycombs, sea shells, maple leaves, ancient pyramids and even Audrey Hepburn’s face. It’s the element that exists in buildings and places we love, whether simple or grand, but most of us can’t necessarily explain why, it just feels right. It speaks to our intuition, to our innate sense of rhythm; in essence it is our magic wand. The trouble is that harmony exists in our built environment only on purpose. I’m hopeful that our intuition will surface and guide us forward to the place where we begin to rebuild – with purpose.
- Elizabeth Beckley
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
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
For the past three years, part of the curriculum Steven Mallory has included for his University of Maryland preservation graduate students is a field trip led by Preservation Maryland’s Eastern Shore field director. In addition to his professorial duties, Steven is restoration manager at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. On April 20 the class came to learn about Providence Farm (circa 1746) in Centreville and the Miller’s House (circa 1750) in Wye Mills. Both are long abandoned 18th century properties that have earned their places on Preservation Maryland’s Endangered Maryland list and have been a focus of our preservation efforts on the shore.
Their first visit in 2010 took place at Providence Farm in Centreville. At that time the property, after 30 years of neglect, had just changed hands and been transferred to a preservation-minded buyer. The following year, the class came to see the Miller’s House, whose future was positive but not yet certain. This year, however, their visit was especially interesting because both properties have been saved and have promising futures.