13 Grants-Related Things that Frighten Us and How MHT is Trying to Make the Process a Little Less Scary

By Ennis Barbery Smith, Maryland Heritage Areas Program Assistant Administrator

It’s October, and many of us working in the historic preservation and heritage tourism fields are offering our annual retellings of the spooky stories associated with the buildings we help steward. Some of us are leading ghost tours and hanging fake cobwebs from eaves. However, the “scary” thing that I’m writing about today is the grants process. It’s not “spooky” scary. It doesn’t go bump in the night, but it is frightening in other ways. Grants can keep us up at night, and by us, I mean both grant recipients and grants managers.

Here at MHT, we have some good news to share about how we’re trying to make the grant reporting process a little less frightening for everyone involved. But, before I get to that, if you’re unfamiliar with grants, you may be wondering “what could be frightening about grants?” I asked some of our grantees and grants managers to share their fears, and here’s a listing of some of their answers:

13 Grants-Related Things that Frighten Us:

  1. Grant Applicant / Recipients’ Fears:
    Writing an entire application thinking you understand the priorities of the funding organization, only to get a rejection letter detailing how you completely missed the mark

  2. Looking through a grant application to see how much time you need to complete it, allotting that time, then realizing later that the final step is five letters of support and the grant is due by close of business

  3. Forgetting your password for the grant portal on the day the grant is due

  4. Manipulating your project budget to fit into the form that has been provided in the grant application, and inadvertently leaving out an important expense in the process

  5. Answering what seems to be the same question on a grant application five times and struggling to make the answer sound different each time

  6. Finding out the grant is reimbursable when you were counting on money up front and your operating budget is tight

  7. Doing the math and finding out that the total money (i.e. staff time) you’ve spent writing grant reports and providing financial documentation is greater than your total grant award

  8. Finding out there are more strings attached to the grant award than you realized, such as being required to purchase a ticket to the funding organization’s event


  9. Grant Managers’ Fears:
    Finding out, in your grantee’s final report, that the entire project has changed without them telling you, and they’ve spent the grant money on expenses that your grant program can’t cover

  10. Finding out that the project contact has literally disappeared from the grantee organization and not told anyone else at the organization about the grant’s existence

  11. Realizing that a grantee who was awarded a historic preservation grant has inadvertently used the money to dismantle historic elements of the building

  12. Seeing that a grantee has not taken the time to fact check their interpretive sign at a historic site, but they have taken the time to include your organization’s logo prominently

  13. Realizing that – out of the hundreds of pages of financial documentation you’ve reviewed – only a few pages relate directly to the grant project

In summary, the grants process is fraught with things that frighten us. While MHT can’t control all of the scary circumstances listed here, we at MHT are making changes to some of the processes within our control: our financial documentation and grant amendment policies.

Those of you who have received grant funding from one of our programs in the past will probably recall scanning and uploading stacks of cancelled checks and invoices each time you requested a disbursement of your grant funding. Over the years, long before compiling this list, our grantees have been giving us feedback about how they sometimes felt they were spending more time documenting their grant spending than actually doing the important work directly related to their projects. During the series of public meetings that MHT held as part of the process of updating the Statewide Preservation Plan, PreserveMaryland II, our past and present grantees echoed these concerns.

We have listened to this feedback, and now we’re making changes:

  1. Less paper to scan and submit: Under our old policies, MHT required grantees to submit both “proof of expenditure” (invoices, receipts, etc.) and corresponding “proof of payment” (cancelled checks, credit card statements, etc.) for all expenses associated with their grant projects. Across all of our programs, we will no longer be requiring grantees to submit “proof of payment.”

  2. Streamlined amendments and extensions: We will now be processing most grant extensions and amendments via email. Grant extensions and amendments, when approved, allow grantees to make changes to the timetables, scopes of work, and budgets associated with their projects.

  3. For MHAA grants, a “spot-check” process: While all Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grantees must still retain financial documentation of grant-related expenses, only a portion of MHAA grantees will be required to scan and upload their financial documentation as part of their grant reporting. You can think of this as similar to the IRS’s tax-filing system in which the IRS only requires that a portion of audited tax-payers submit documentation for their tax claims.
The Maryland Heritage Areas Program orientations discussed the new policies in September.
Photo courtesy of Lucille Walker and the Southern Maryland Heritage Area

We hope that these changes—and other changes that are more program-specific—will mean that our grantees can complete their reporting requirements in less time and have more time to spend on their projects. The rollout of this new financial documentation policy looks different for each of our grant programs. Please contact the MHT staff person you’ve been working with if you have questions about how this might apply to your grant.

To our grantees, MHT thanks you for all the important projects you’re working on to steward Maryland’s heritage. This Halloween-season, may these changes lighten your workload a little, so you can focus on the important things, like getting that fog-machine in working order or curating the perfect collection of gourds, if you’re sticking with a more restrained autumnal style.

Thank you to the grantees and grants managers who contributed to the list of grant-related fears! If you enjoyed this Halloween-themed blog and you’ve worked in the non-profit world, you might also be interested in this description of a visit to a non-profit-themed haunted house – it’s truly terrifying.

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

By Stephanie Soder, 2019 Summer Intern in Maryland Archeology

Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Maritime Studies (Archeology), I was excited when I was chosen as the Maryland Historical Trust’s summer intern. I grew up just over the Mason-Dixon border in Pennsylvania and spent about half of my life in Maryland, so I was happy to be back in the state I considered “home”. The MHT Archeology staff wasted no time in throwing me into the chaos of gearing up for the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session that was taking place at Billingsley House in Prince George’s County.

The Author examining a prehistoric pit feature exposed during the 2019 Field Session
(Drone imagery courtesy of Ryan Craun, M-NCPPC).

Though the Billingsley House dates to the 18th century, this 11-day field session focused on finding two 17th-century Native American villages. I was charged with keeping the field lab running smoothly and the site forms organized. Water buckets and toothbrushes came out every day for artifact washing, allowing volunteers to take a break from digging in the heat. Every tenth bucket coming from each unit was water screened through a ⅛” mesh, hoping to reveal small trade beads (and creating quite the mess). By the end of the session, 12 units had been opened, resulting in artifacts ranging from pre-colonial lithics and ceramics to nails, faunal remains, and fire-cracked rock. Thanks to the hard efforts of the lab volunteers, almost all of the artifacts were washed and weighed by the end of the last day.

The remaining time of my internship was split between a variety of projects. I was able to work on projects that met my interests, and though I love to be out in the field, I challenged myself by taking on tasks that I was not as familiar with: Section 106 review and compliance, artifact identification, and remote sensing.

A Late Archaic projectile point recovered at Billingsley (Photo by the author).

Compliance archeology focuses on ensuring that federal and state funded projects limit impacts to the historical integrity of sites around Maryland. Dixie Henry and Beth Cole shared their expectations for compliance reports and gave me federal and state standards for archeology and architectural studies to read. They then allowed to me to review some compliance reports and tag along on a consultation meeting with the National Park Service to mitigate impacts to historic sites while building their new C & O Canal Headquarters. The time I spent learning about compliance has reinforced my appreciation for the work that goes into protecting our historical resources.

My graduate research focused largely on Pacific Islander culture and modern conflict, so getting familiar with artifacts found throughout Maryland was a necessity. I spent much of the second half of my internship in the lab cleaning, identifying, and photographing artifacts from previously completed fieldwork in Janes Island State Park (Somerset County). I then began working on site forms and compiled a report that highlighted research on each type of artifact find. There’s no better way to learn how to complete a task than getting to do it first-hand, and I feel that my time working with the artifacts helped familiarize me with examples found around Maryland and the resources available for identification.

Most of my previous work involved excavation or evaluation with very little training in remote sensing. Under the tutelage of Matt McKnight and Charlie Hall, I learned how to run a magnetic susceptibility meter and a fluxgate gradiometer. Putting what I had learned to the test, we set out for a new site that may be associated with an ordinary dating from the origins of Caroline County. I assisted with using the gradiometer and practiced with the magnetic susceptibility meter. The collected data will help with future work on the site by the Caroline County Historical Society. Out on Janes Island, Troy Nowak put me to work completing a side-scan sonar and bathymetric survey in Maryland waters. With a steady hand and concentration, I learned to follow transect lines while driving a boat in order to collect data consistently. The rest of the week was spent surveying the shoreline and tracking how it has changed over time in order to evaluate potential impacts on historical sites.

The author collecting marine remote sensing data off of Janes Island (Photo by Troy Nowak).

My summer at MHT came to an end far too quickly, but it has been an extremely rewarding experience. It has helped prepare me for a career in Maryland, and I’d like to thank the entire staff at MHT for their guidance, patience, and for providing me this amazing opportunity.

Maryland Heritage Areas Program Highlighted as a Funding Source for Landscape-Scale Conservation

Maryland Heritage Areas Program Highlighted as a Funding Source for Landscape-Scale Conservation

By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator

When you think of “cultural resources” in Maryland, do you picture buildings and artifacts? And, when you read the phrase “natural resources,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a diamond back terrapin sunning itself in the marsh grasses?

These images are “zoomed in.” When we zoom out and use a landscape-scale perspective, thinking of any of the regions that make up Maryland’s 13 heritage areas for example, cultural and natural resources are intertwined. Historic Districts are often home to streams and dotted with trees. Agricultural landscapes — hemmed in by wetlands, rivers, and forests- – serve as stunning backdrops for nineteenth century barns and farm houses. On Maryland’s shores, in coastal and bay-side communities (like Tilghman Island, pictured below) cultural traditions, the economy, and the built environment are all closely tied with the surrounding land and water.

Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Oyster House on Tilghman Island serves as a working oyster house and a site for environmental education. It has benefited from Maryland Heritage Area Program grants.
Photo provided courtesy of Phillips Wharf Environmental Center

The Maryland Heritage Areas Program (MHAP) staff recently wrote a paper detailing examples of how the program uses a landscape-scale perspective to support a wide range of heritage tourism and education related grant projects: from hiking trails to museum exhibits, wetlands to web resources. Jennifer Ruffner presented the paper in November of 2018 at a symposium called Forward Together. The United States National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) held the symposium, bringing together an international group of scholars and professionals to discuss the linkages between culture and nature in their work.

Jennifer Ruffner, MHAP Administrator, presenting the paper entitled Stewarding Places and Stories: Maryland Heritage Areas Program as Framework for Conservation

The symposium was held in San Francisco at the Presidio (pictured below), a former army post turned park that includes historic buildings, walking trails, and an unusually high number of rare and endangered plant species. MHAP staff were honored to attend the symposium — especially in this setting that illustrated how the cultural and natural are so often linked, rather distinct.

If you are interested in reading more about how the Maryland Heritage Areas Program supports landscape-scale heritage conservation, MHAP staff’s paper is now available online.

The Presidio’s Infantry Row
A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Black Panther’ – History and Archaeology of a U-boat

Upcoming Lecture – 7:00 pm October 15, 2019

U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ – History and Archaeology of a U-boat

Speaker: Aaron Stephan Hamilton

Author of German Submarine U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ The Naval Archeology of a U-boat

Tickets are free, but each individual must register to guarantee seating. Register here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/u-1105-black-panther-history-and-archaeology-of-a-u-boat-tickets-68283262075

U-1105 was the last German U-boat to cross the Atlantic. It departed England for Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 19 December 1945 under the command of U.S. Navy LCDR Hubert “Hugh” T. Murphy.  LCDR Murphy and a prize crew of 38 delivered U-1105 after a harrowing 14-day crossing.  They endured winter storms, heavy seas, and mechanical failures throughout their voyage without being briefed on the importance of their mission.  The crew speculated and “agreed about why it was so necessary to get this one back to the states.  .  .  the boat was built in 1943 and had snorkeling equipment for charging batteries while submerged.  .  . it was completely covered with rubber coating to help escape our sonar and their periscope and optical equipment [was] better in some ways than ours.  The batteries could go longer without charging and required less watering.”  (December 12, 1985 letter from William Ferguson who served on Murphy’s prize crew during U-1105’s Atlantic crossing).

Figure 1. US Navy LCDR Hubert T. Murphy receiving the Bronze Star
(Photo courtesy of Janet Murphy).

The specific combination of technologies on U-1105 attests to a dramatic shift in U-boat tactics in response to Allied victories during May 1943.  U-1105 was the only Type VIIC U-boat equipped with a snorkel, the rubber coating Alberich and the advanced hydrophone array GHG Balkon that conducted a wartime patrol.  It represents a critical evolutionary stage in the development of the modern submarine. 

Figure 2. U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ maneuvering in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1945.
(Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum).

The Maryland Historical Trust is hosting a lecture on October 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm by Aaron S. Hamilton, author of German Submarine U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ The Naval Archeology of a U-boat, published June 2019.  It is a must-read for individuals intending to visit the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve or the exhibit at the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum.  Aaron is an academically trained historian and member of the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group who has spent the past six years researching U-1105 as part of a broader study of the technical and tactical evolution of the U-boat in the last year of WWII.  

Figure 3. Aaron Stephan Hamilton at the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve.

Join MHT on October 15th to learn more about the history of U-1105 and how it ended up at the bottom of the Potomac River.  Aaron will also show a ten-minute film of U-1105 taken by the U.S. Navy in 1948 during salvage training. This film has never been seen by the public.

Follow the links below to learn about the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve and the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum:

https://mht.maryland.gov/archeology_U1105.shtml

https://www.stmarysmd.com/recreate/PPL/

Maryland in Concert

By Lara Westwood, Librarian, Maryland Historical Trust

Woodstock nearly came to Maryland this summer. Organizers of the 50th anniversary celebration of the legendary music festival of August 15th through 18th, 1969 attempted to move the event from Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Howard County in a last ditch effort to save the show. But plans never quite came together. Several of the big name acts, including Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z, dropped out, and the show was canceled. Even without hosting the legendary Woodstock, Maryland has a rich musical history, and many concert venues, theaters, and related structures are listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties

Knabe opened this piano factory in 1861. After the company moved production out of state, the factory was purchased by Maryland Baking Company and its subsidiaries.

Music has always been a vital part of culture in Maryland. Each Native American tribe that settled the Chesapeake Bay area had its own musical style and rituals. Enslaved people and free Africans brought their native traditions to the colony which spurred the development of new styles and genres. Colonial elites often hosted performances in the drawing rooms of their plantations, while the popular music, such as ballads and dance music, could be heard in the taverns. Francis Scott Key’s poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry”–today called “The Star-Spangled Banner” and arguably Maryland’s most famous contribution to American music history–became popular after it was set to a well-known drinking tune. As the colony developed, concert halls and theaters were opened and musical social clubs were formed in the cities and larger towns.

The Peabody Institute is located near the Washington Monument in Baltimore.

By the mid-1800s and into the 1900s, Maryland had developed a strong musical culture. Baltimore saw several notable musical institutions established during this time. In the 1830s, William Knabe, a German immigrant, opened his piano repair and sales company. In partnership with Henry Gaehle, the company began manufacturing square, upright, and grand pianos. The partnership eventually ended. By 1861, Knabe built a new, larger factory on Eutaw Street after two of his other manufacturing locations burned and to accommodate the business’ growth. The factory operated until 1929 when new owners moved production to New York state. The Peabody Institute was founded in 1857. The city of Baltimore opened an academy of music as well as a free library and gallery of art in the Mount Vernon neighborhood with $300,000 donated by businessman and philanthropist George Peabody. One of the country’s best music schools, it became part of Johns Hopkins University in 1977. The Music Hall on Mount Royal Avenue opened in 1894 to much fanfare as the city had been without a major performance venue after the Concordia Opera House burned down. The first concert season promised to be of the “finest class” and promised to attract visitors to the city.[1] The Boston Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by several renowned opera singers, including soprano Nellie Melba, kicked off the inaugural season. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra also regularly played concerts at the venue. The hall was purpose-built as a concert venue, designed for acoustic quality, but also hosted other theatrical events and was available for balls and banquets. Otto Kahn, an investment banker and patron of the arts, purchased the hall in 1909 and changed the name to the Lyric Theatre. The theater changed hands several times and was nearly torn down in 1903 to make way for a garage. The theater has undergone extensive renovations over the years, and is now known as the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric.

The exterior of the Lyric has undergone extensive renovations. Pictured here is the Maryland Avenue facade in 1984. 
The Lyric’s stage area remains largely unchanged.

Maryland also boasted several stops on what would become known as the Chitlin’ Circuit. In the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws, African American performers often played in venues where they would otherwise be barred from patronizing. The theaters and other performance spaces on the circuit, on the other hand, welcomed both black artists and audiences. Arthur Wilmer converted a Prince George’s County tobacco farm into one of the premier venues on the circuit. Wilmer’s Park in Brandywine hosted the likes of Patti LaBelle, Chuck Berry, James Brown, and Sam Cooke. Wilmer booked many famous artists before their careers took off. The park, which opened in the early 1950s, featured a dancehall, motel, restaurant, picnicking grounds, and ball fields. Music events were held at the park until it closed in the 1990s and has since fallen into disrepair. The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, more commonly known as the Black Elks, operated a similar venue at John Brown’s headquarters, also called Kennedy Farm in Sharpsburg, Washington County. Abolitionist John Brown orchestrated his raid on the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry from the farm in October of 1859. He and his followers stockpiled weapons at the farm in the months leading up to the raid. Almost 100 years later, the African American fraternal organization purchased it with the intent of establishing a national headquarters complete with a youth center, retirement home, tennis courts, and other amenities, as well as a national shrine and museum to honor Brown. It became a popular weekend destination for black residents of western Maryland and West Virginia and attracted many famous artists to play at the dancehall. James Brown performed the last concert there in 1966, just before the camp closed and the Elks sold the property. 

Since it closed in 1999, Wilmer’s Park has fallen into disrepair. The main building and restaurant can be seen here.
An interior view of the main hall at Wilmer’s Park showcases a mural commemorating building’s musical legacy.

The Baltimore Civic Center, now known as Royal Farms Arena, has hosted several historic concerts since it opened in 1962. The futuristic, Googie-style arena was built in an effort to revitalize the city’s downtown and served as a multi-purpose entertainment space. The Baltimore Bullets and Clippers called the Civic Center home court and ice, respectively, during the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Ringling Brothers Circus regularly performed there. Martin Luther King, Jr. also gave speeches at the Center in 1963 and 1966. The 1964 Beatles concerts cemented the venue in music history. The band played two shows on September 13 to a packed house. Beatlemania was at full froth. A large contingent of Baltimore City police officers had to be stationed outside the band’s hotel before the show. Two female fans apparently unsuccessfully tried to meet the Fab Four by mailing themselves to the arena in boxes marked “fan mail” before the show. Once the band took the stage, even greater pandemonium ensued. The Baltimore Sun described the scene at one of the shows: “The enormous cavern of the building had become a vibrant, pulsating shrine with waves of shrieking adulation that burst with concussive force.”[2] Several concert-goers had to be treated for “hysterics” and fainting, according to the same article. A few years later, a Led Zeppelin appearance nearly caused a riot when 200 people without tickets to the show attempted to rush the doors of the arena. Ten people were arrested as a result. This and other raucous rock concerts led the city to attempt to limit shows that would “[appeal] to young people” to afternoons and require promoters to hire more security.[3] The evening concert ban was eventually lifted, and the venue continues to host a wide variety of events every year. 

The house at Kennedy Farm, or John Brown’s Headquarters, pictured before extensive renovations were undertaken to return the structure to its original form.

Maryland’s musical legacy continues to grow. More concert venues are being studied for their architectural and historical significance, and notable concert events will assuredly continue to be held across the state. 

Large billboards now line the exterior of the Baltimore Civic Center or Royal Farms Arena, but little else has been changed over the years. 

Sources:

[1] “The Music Hall.” Baltimore Sun, Oct. 29, 1894: p. 4. 

[2] Levine, Richard H. “Thousands See Beatles Shake Civic Center”. Baltimore Sun, Sept. 14, 1964, p. 38.

[3] O’Donnell, Jr., John B. “Rock Shows To Be Limited To Afternoon.” Baltimore Sun, May 7, 1970: p. C22.

“Baltimore Symphony.” Baltimore Sun, Oct. 5, 1898.

Borha, Imade. “John Brown To James Brown.” The Frederick News Post, Dec. 31,  2016. 

Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation. “Baltimore Civic Center (B-2365).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 1976.

Engineering Science, Inc. “William Knabe & Co. Historic American Engineering Record Draft report.” Maryland Historical Trust. 

“George Peabody.: Death of the Great Philanthropist–His Last Hours Passed in London–His Career and Benefactions.” New York Times, Nov. 5, 1869.

Goodden, Joe. “Live: Civic Center, Baltimore.” The Beatles Bible.

Hildebrand, David, Elizabeth M Schaaf, and William Biehl. Musical Maryland. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. 

History.” Knabe Pianos, Samick Music Corporation.

History of the Peabody Institute.” Our History, Johns Hopkins University.

Hopkinson, Natalie. “The End of an Era?: Wilmer’s Park Played Host to Much History, But the Future of the Brandywine Venue Is Unclear After the Death of Its Owner.” The Washington Post, Aug. 18, 1999.

Hopkinson, Natalie. “Music, Memories at Wilmer’s.” The Washington Post, Aug. 18, 1999.

John Brown’s Headquarters“. 2019. Aboard The Underground Railroad.

John Brown Raid Headquarters.

Kaltenbach, Chris. “Baltimore got a whole lotta love from Led Zeppelin.” Baltimore Sun, July 13, 2017.

Levy, Benjamin. “Kennedy Farm (WA-III-030).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 1973.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. African American historic and cultural resources in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Upper Marlboro: The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, 2012, pp.252-254.

Morrison, Craig. “Lyric Theatre (B-106).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 1985.

Patterson, Stacy. “Wilmer’s Park (PG:86B-37).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 2009.

Peabody Institute Conservatory and George Peabody Library (B-967).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 2002.

“To open the Music Hall.” Baltimore Sun, Oct. 16, 1894: p. 8. 

Weis, Robert and Dennis Zembala. “William Knabe & Co. (B-1006).” Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust, 1980. 

Yu, Richard K. “Chitlin’ Circuit: Blues Culture and American Culture”. Medium, April 2, 2018.

Maryland Heritage Areas Grant Helps Wye Mill Keep on Grindin’

By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator

Each year, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) provides grant funding to heritage tourism-related projects that preserve and celebrate important places across the state. As part of Preservation Month, the MHAA staff wanted to take the time to visit one of these fascinating places where preservation work is underway, and to take you — our blog readers — along with us on a photo-based virtual tour.

John Nizer, Gail Owings, and Otis pose in front of the Wye Grist Mill in Wye Mills, MD.

The place we chose to visit was the Wye Grist Mill, where we were greeted by the cast of characters above: John Nizer (Board President and volunteer extraordinaire for the Friends of Wye Mill), Gail Owings (Executive Director of the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area), and Otis, a canine-heritage-tourism-enthusiast who you may recognize from his frequent appearances visiting historic buildings and landscapes on the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area’s social media feed.

The Mill dates to 1682, and — with very minimal interruption — it has been grinding grain to produce flour ever since. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the Mill’s claims to fame, featured prominently in tours and signage, is that it (and many other mills on the Eastern Shore of Maryland) shipped flour to the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington, during the American Revolution. Part of what makes the Wye Grist Mill so special is that it’s a rare survivor. Sadly, those “many other mills” that dotted the Eastern Shore during the American Revolution are nowhere to be found today.

But Wye Mill is still standing and still grinding. Visitors can still see the grindstones, the waterwheel, and all the other intricate inner workings in action on the first and third Saturdays of each month from May to the middle of November, when a trained miller is on site. Visitors may also purchase grain. I, the author, can attest that the cornmeal ground on-site is fabulous, and makes a mean cornbread.

When we arrived at the Mill on a cloudy Wednesday in early May, one of the first things that John Nizer showed us was a new door on the rear lower level of the building that had just been commissioned and installed as part of the MHAA grant project. The previous door was determined to be damaged beyond repair, and a new “beaded vertical plank exterior door with diagonal interior sheathing” was approved by the Maryland Historical Trust just this spring.

John was excited to show it off, not only because of the door’s period-specific details, but because of the people who made it. A local teacher at Queen Anne’s County High School, Ron Frederick, took on the special project with some of his best carpentry students. Even the nails on the door are handmade. Charles Euston, a blacksmith working in Woodbury, CT crafted all 175 of them. He also does blacksmith work for the National Park Service.

Illustrations used in exhibit at the Wye Grist Mill, showing Oliver Evans’ automated process for milling, which he patented with the U.S. Patent Office in 1790.

As John explained and as the Mill’s hand-painted illustrations convey, the building uses an automated system for grinding grain, which was invented by Oliver Evans in 1784. This system would have been installed at the Wye Grist Mill sometime in the late 18th century or early 19th century, according to the signage present on-site. It replaced a system that required much more manual labor.

Wye Grist Mill’s iron waterwheel, which will be inspected as part of the grant project

When the miller on duty is ready to get started grinding, he or she opens a small metal gate that allows water to flow onto the waterwheel from a nearby containment pond. The waterwheel then powers the automated mechanisms. A miller must start the milling process by pouring grain down into the door in the floor (shown below) that leads to the “grain spout.”

The door to the grain spout is shown here. It is simply a removable panel in the floor with a handle attached.

From the grain spout, the grain then goes up an elevator to the top floor and back down another chute into the hopper on the main floor.

John Nizer explained the process as he stood beside the hopper (right).

Inside the hopper, the grain filters down between the two millstones’ grooves, where the grinding happens. The two stones involved in this process are called the “runner stone,” the top stone weighing in at around 2,600 pounds, and the “bed stone,” located below and weighing about 1,800 pounds in comparison. The distance between the two stones can be adjusted by the miller and will depend on how fine or coarse the miller wants the resulting flour to be.

A view of the top of the runner stone inside the hopper

The millstones are turned by a system of belts and cogs located directly below them on the first floor. John explained to us, as he showed us the system (below), that some of the cogs are metal while others are wood. He asked us why this would be the case, and we were momentarily stumped. “Metal against metal produces sparks,” he said, explaining the fire risk potential.

This photo shows the cogs that help turn the millstones, and the bottom of the bed stone is visible near the top of the photo.

After being ground between the two stones, there is one more automated elevator ride to the top floor of the building, where the course outer layers of the grain and other impurities are removed. The grain then comes back down to the main floor and falls into the “meal bin” through a chute. At this point, the grain is now flour. The processes for cornmeal and grits are slightly different.

The meal bin, where flour arrives through the chute visible on the right

The best way to learn about this traditional — albeit automated — process and all the related history is to see the Mill in action, talk with a docent, and peruse its exhibits and hands-on activities. Just down the road from the Mill, there are other historic sites to explore:

Over the next year, the Friends of Wye Mill will continue to inspect and repair parts of their historic building and milling equipment with the help of millwright Gus Kiorpes (also the millwright for Mount Vernon). These repairs will be funded in part by the MHAA grant they received. We wish them and all of our grantees a merry Preservation Month and happy grant season!

Thanks for coming along on our virtual photo tour of the Wye Grist Mill.

Join the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions for Our 40th Anniversary Celebration at the 2019 Annual Symposium on May 18! (Guest Blog)

By Leslie Gottert, Executive Director, MAHDC

This year Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions (MAHDC) is turning forty and it will kick off the celebration of this milestone at its 2019 Annual Symposium on Saturday, May 18, at the beautiful Conference Center of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ (ERUCC) in downtown Frederick.

Capture

The theme of this year’s symposium is Looking Back, Looking Forward: Considering Maryland’s Historic District Legacy and Future. The morning session will provide an opportunity for attendees to explore the history of their districts through a series of case studies. A break-out session will encourage an exchange of experience about the reinterpretation of district history through the inclusion of new stories. In the afternoon session, attendees will consider the challenge of a changing climate and its impact on Maryland’s historic resources and landscapes with keynote speaker Lisa Craig, nationally recognized preservationist and expert on climate change. A panel discussion, followed by a Q&A, will allow attendees to share experiences from their districts and begin to formulate a vision to inform local strategies. You can learn more about the program or register online here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mahdc-2019-annual-symposium-tickets-59208276549 .

outline drawing of church

Historical Drawing of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ (used with permission of ERUCC)

Over the past four decades, MAHDC has facilitated an exchange of information among the state’s Historic District Commissions and provided training for commissioners and staff in topics such as design review, law and legal procedures, and ethics that support the effective work of the commissions.  Between the two sessions, after lunch, the Board of Directors will launch the MAHDC fortieth anniversary celebration in the historic ERUCC sanctuary, when it will recognize the support of the Maryland Historical Trust and its Director Elizabeth Hughes,  MAHDC co-founders G. Bernard “Bernie” Callan and Cherilyn Widell, the former Mayor of Frederick, State Senator Ronald Young, and three of the first board members.

2018 Annual Symposium Session

2018 MAHDC Annual Symposium at the University of Maryland, College Park

Since 2016, the MAHDC Annual Symposium has been a lively encounter of over fifty district commissioners, Certified Local Government staff and other preservation professionals and supporters, who gather to learn from experts in the field, ask questions, and exchange lessons learned from their experiences in the field. MAHDC is grateful for the generous support for this event of the Maryland Historical Trust and SuperGreen Solutions/Indowindow, the Symposium’s Principal Sponsor. We look forward to seeing you in Frederick on May 18th and welcoming you to the Symposium!