April IS Maryland Archeology Month

By Charlie Hall, State Terrestrial Archeologist

Every April since 1993 Marylanders have celebrated Archeology Month. Officially proclaimed by the Governor as a celebration of the remarkable archeological discoveries that provide a tangible link to at least 12,000 years of human occupation here, Maryland Archeology Month has annually provided the public with opportunities to become involved and excited about archeology.  With a variety of events offered statewide every April, including exhibits, lectures, site tours, and occasions to participate as volunteer archeologists, Archeology Month elicits the gathering of interested Marylanders at various occasions to share their enthusiasm for scientific archeological discovery.

Did I say “gathering”?  Well, we seem to have a conflict this year between our desire to gather together and do some archeology, and our shared responsibility to observe an appropriate social distance in groups not to exceed 10, and now to stay at home, in an attempt to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.  How can these two disparate callings be reconciled?  Like the heroes who are working hard to manufacture M95 masks and respirators, we have been working – albeit with perhaps not the exact same sense of urgency – on how Maryland Archeology Month might carry on in this time of careful isolation.  There is a will, and we have found a way.

This year’s Maryland Archeology Month theme – Partners in Pursuit of the Past:  50 Field Sessions in Maryland Archeology – lends itself to digital sharing.  The Field Sessions in Maryland Archeology are 11-day intensive archeological research investigations held every spring in partnership between the Archeological Society of Maryland, a State-wide organization of lay and professional archeologists, and the Maryland Historical Trust, a part of the Maryland Department of Planning and home to the State’s Office of Archeology.  While these two partners host the event every year, others are required to make the Field Sessions happen, including researchers/Principal Investigators, archeological supervisory staff, property owners, and volunteers from the public.  Each of these partners is essential.  Without any one of them the Field Sessions don’t happen.  Maryland Archeology Month 2020 is a chance to shine a grateful spotlight on all these necessary partners in the Field Session program.

2020 Maryland Archeology Month Poster

2020 Maryland Archeology Month Poster

Here is your first digital opportunity to engage with Maryland Archeology Month:  you can access downloadable versions of the Archeology Month 2020 poster and booklet online at the Archeological Society of Maryland’s website (https://marylandarcheology.org/, scroll down and click on the poster image to access the Maryland Archeology Month website).  The poster depicts a lively scene from the 2015 Field Session, held at the Biggs Ford Native American village site in Frederick County, and highlights the various kinds of partners present.  The booklet contains 40 pages that are jam-packed with information about the Field Session program, organizations doing or promoting archeology in Maryland, and volunteer opportunities in Maryland archeology.  This year the booklet features 13 essays written by Field Session partners, including three by researchers/Principal Investigators, two by archeological supervisory staff, four by officers of the Archeological Society of Maryland, one by a property owner, and four by volunteer archeologists.  These short, non-technical essays relay the authors’ recollections and reflections on their Field Session experiences.

Filling different partnership roles, the different individuals bring different life and professional experiences to the Field Sessions, and take different experiences from them.  As research endeavors, the Field Sessions must be under the direction of a qualified researcher with an anthropological interest in the site being studied who is responsible for designing the investigation and ensuring that it is properly carried out.  Researchers can come from universities, state and county agencies, and consultancies, and each meets strict professional standards.  Each site is owned by someone, and the property owner’s willingness to welcome a small army of sunburnt, dusty, and exuberant professional and volunteer archeologists on to their property is critical to each Field Session.  The sites of past Field Sessions have been owned by state agencies, county agencies, private individuals, and organizations.  While involving many sophisticated scientific techniques and instruments, archeology is at its core low tech and labor intensive.  It requires a lot of patient people wielding small hand excavating tools and carefully moving a lot of soil.  The labor pool powering the Field Sessions is the public.  In classic Tom Sawyer fashion, the public is enticed to pick up shovels and trowels and work for anywhere from a partial day to all 11 days excavating in the hot sun, often on their hands and knees.  Many volunteers take vacation time to participate in the Field Sessions.  They are the backbone of the Field Sessions, and they seem to really enjoy themselves.

With the first Field Session occurring in 1971, this year’s represents the 50th.  (Mark you calendars for May 22nd through June 1st and plan to join us at the Billingsly site in Prince George’s County.  Watch the Archeological Society of Maryland’s website for registration materials and updates.  We’re still crossing our fingers . . . )  The forty-nine previous Field Sessions have been held on 36 sites in 14 counties across the site. Twenty-five of the sites were Native American occupied (prehistoric), ten were historic aged, and one had both prehistoric and historic components.

Here is your second opportunity to connect digitally with Maryland Archeology Month:  Want to know more about the past Field Sessions?  Do you wonder where they occurred, or which were prehistoric and which historic?  Are you curious about the research conducted at each?  A team of talented professional archeologists have created a StoryMap of the 50 Field Sessions.  This map-based app is interactive, informative and entertaining.  Visit https://mdarchaeology.github.io/Annual-Field-Sessions/ or scan the QR code printed on the cover of the booklet and on the poster, or click the link on the Maryland Archeology Month website, to investigate the distribution of Field Session sites across the state, learn details of the archeology found on each, and see pictures from the past!

50 Field Sessions StoryMap

50 Field Sessions StoryMap

It is my hope that these digital experiences will connect you virtually to other Marylanders as you collectively, yet individually and at home, celebrate Maryland Archeology Month!  Several of the events planned for April will be rescheduled, and at them you will be able to pick up physical copies of the poster and booklet.  Watch the Maryland Archeology Month website for updated information.  I wish you an engaging, and healthy, Maryland Archeology Month!

 

Reflections on Maryland Day

By Matt McKnight, Chief Archaeologist

Maryland Day marks the March 25th, 1634 landing of the Ark and the Dove on St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River. Though the English colonists aboard these vessels made previous landings in the English Caribbean and in Virginia, their arrival at St. Clement’s meant that they had just entered the Province of Maryland, a territory of some 12 million acres granted to Lord Baltimore by Royal Charter from King Charles I. A few days later, the English colonists would sail north to negotiate with the Piscataway Tayac and obtain land for the establishment of their capital at St. Mary’s City. March 25th, 1634 and the events of the following days would be momentous not only for the Maryland colonists, but for other English already settled in the territory, Native Americans, African-Americans that would be forcibly transported into the colony, and rival European powers.

Here at MHT, we take pride in our efforts to support colonial archaeology and the study of Maryland’s colonial history. On this Maryland Day, we thought we would highlight several recent projects of interest focused on Maryland’s colonial period.

Dr. Tim Horsley conducts GPR survey in search of the 1634 Fort at St. Marys

Dr. Tim Horsley conducts ground-penetrating radar survey in search of the 1634 fort at St. Mary’s City.

Research Support through the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program. In FY2018 and FY2019, MHT supported critical research into Maryland’s colonial past. In FY18, MHT provided $16,000 in funds to Historic St. Mary’s City to conduct a geophysical survey of two possible locations for the fort built by the first Maryland colonists in 1634. That study identified numerous anomalies of interest at one of the sites, to be ground-truthed using traditional archaeological methods. In FY19, $30,000 in funds were distributed to Historic Sotterley, a late 17th and 18th century colonial plantation in St. Mary’s County to conduct an expanded survey of nearly 50 newly acquired acres that were once a part of the 2,000 acre plantation. Preliminary results suggest that new colonial-era and Native American sites have been identified.

Cover - The Archaeology of Colonial Maryland

Engagement through MHT Press. In 2019, MHT Press published The Archaeology of Colonial Maryland: Five Essays by Scholars of the Early Province. This heavily-illustrated volume provides the perspectives of five professional archeologists, exploring Maryland’s colonial past from slightly different vantage points. It is written with the general public in mind and is available in paperback and hard bound from MHT Press at https://mht.maryland.gov/home_mhtpress.shtml.

Excavation underway at the 17th Century Calverton Site

Excavation underway at the 17th century Calverton site

Public Archaeology Opportunities. In 2017 and 2018, the Annual Field Session in Maryland Archaeology, a joint “citizen science” project of the MHT Office of Archaeology and the Archeological Society of Maryland was held at the Calverton site along Battle Creek. Calverton was the 17th century seat of Calvert County government and archaeological work there was able to identify intact remnants of the colonial town. Artifacts from the 2017 and 2018 excavations became a part of the collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. You can learn more about the site and the collections by visiting https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1049440448592531. Archaeological research at Calverton has been supported through the Certified Local Government Program and the Maryland Heritage Areas Program.

Remote sensing survey at the late 18th century site of Barwicks Ordinary

Remote sensing survey at the late 18th century site of Barwicks Ordinary

Remote Sensing Research by the MHT Office of Archaeology. In recent years the MHT Office of Archaeology has conducted remote sensing projects at a number of colonial sites, as well as Native American sites with documentary or prior archaeological evidence suggestive of Native-English interactions. Among these are Barwick’s Ordinary (Caroline County), the Raven Site (Howard County), Billingsley (Prince George’s County), and Biggs Ford (Frederick County). This vital research will help the state, county partners, and dedicated members of the public to better manage these important historic resources.

The Journey Home

By Rebecca Morehouse, Curator of State Collections, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab

In 1980, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded a project to build townhouses in the block between what is now City Gate Lane and Dean Street in Annapolis. Excavation of the townhouse basements disturbed a portion of what was later identified as a 19th-century African American family cemetery. When archeologists at the Maryland Historical Trust heard of the discovery, they went to the site to rescue the human remains that had been exposed. They carefully mapped, photographed, and removed what turned out to be the partial remains of two individuals. In the event of this kind of inadvertent discovery, an archeologist’s priority is to identify what remains of the burials, document as much of the site as possible, and transfer any human remains to another location for protection. In the case of these two individuals, they were placed in the custody of MHT, and cared for at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab) at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), a unit of MHT.

Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis
Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

Little was known about these two individuals until research conducted by Janice Hayes-Williams in the early 2000s indicated their remains were likely removed from what had been the family cemetery of Smith Price. Price, formerly enslaved, came to Annapolis as a free man. He owned the property where an 1860s plat indicated his family cemetery was located, as well as the land where the Asbury United Methodist Church now stands less than a block away. Smith Price was a founding member of the African Meeting House in Annapolis, which eventually became the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1803, Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838, and then the Asbury United Methodist Church in 1968 (Figure 1).

While attending a meeting at the MAC Lab in April 2019, Janice Hayes-Williams asked me if the human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery were curated at the MAC Lab. When I told her they were, she asked if the remains could be returned to Annapolis and reburied there.  A flurry of correspondence soon followed, as MHT staff worked with the Office of the Attorney General to chart a course for the permanent transfer of the remains that would satisfy State regulations. 

The official request for transfer came from Asbury UMC in June 2019 and was quickly approved by the MHT Board of Trustees. The transfer took place on July 24, 2019 in a ceremony at Asbury UMC. In preparation for their trip to back to Annapolis, Janice Hayes-Williams wrapped the boxes which held the remains with Kente cloth and adorned them with sunflowers (Figure 2). I had the honor of assisting.

Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Once in the custody of the Asbury UMC, the church transferred the individuals to Dr. Julie Schablitsky, Chief Archaeologist at the Maryland State Highway Administration.  Dr. Schablitsky took the lead on coordinating the analysis of the remains, which included a detailed examination and inventory by Dr. Dana Kollmann, Forensic Anthropologist at Towson University, and facial reconstruction by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant (Figure 3). Dr. Schablitsky also arranged for DNA testing at DNA Labs International in Florida. Unfortunately, the extracted DNA was degraded and, while the scientists are still trying, they have been unable to match it to living descendants.

Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Analysis by Dr. Kollmann showed that the remains belonged to a man and a child of African ancestry. The man likely died sometime in his late forties or early fifties. Associated coffin nails dated to the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Though no personal artifacts were recovered with the skeletal remains, blue-green discoloration on the man’s left wrist indicates the presence of a copper alloy burial shroud pin, button, or cufflink. His skeleton showed evidence that he was muscular and would have participated in heavy physical labor. He had a minor injury to his left shin, which, while not resulting in a break, would have been painful. He also had arthritis in his right arm and shoulder, which would have also caused significant pain and hindered his movements. His teeth had  a well-defined pipe facet from carrying a tobacco pipe between his teeth on the right side of his mouth. The cause of the man’s death could not be determined.

The child, of unknown gender, likely died between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Copper alloy staining on the left temple suggests the child may have been wrapped in a burial shroud held in place with a copper alloy pin. The teeth show evidence of malnutrition or a significant illness, such as influenza. However, this did not contribute to the child’s death.

Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

On November 1, 2019, Maryland’s Emancipation Day, following a community ceremony at Asbury UMC, these two individuals were laid to rest for a second time in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis (Figures 4 and 5).

While MHT does not encourage the excavation of human remains, there are times when burials are threatened and must be removed, as with the case of the Smith Price family cemetery. Today, unlike in 1980, immediate relocation or reburial of disturbed human remains is now the preferred course of action, rather than being placed in the care of the State. On the occasion that human remains do end up in MHT’s custody, they are placed in a specially designated area, known as an appropriate place of repose, apart from the State’s other collections. This area is only accessible by MHT staff and is not visible to the public.

I consider the care of these individuals a sacred responsibility and one of the most important duties I have as Curator. However, if I am given the opportunity to help facilitate the return and reburial of human remains in MHT’s custody, I am honored to do so. Being able to participate in the preparation of the human remains, as well as the transfer and reburial ceremonies, was an experience which I will not soon forget.

Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

2020 Brings Staff Transitions at MHT

The Director and staff of the Maryland Historical Trust are pleased to recognize three of our own who are assuming new positions within the agency!

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On January 15, longtime Easement Administrator Kate (Bolasky) Jaffe began her new position as the Administrator of the Preservation Financial Incentives unit within the Office of Preservation Services (OPS). 

A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Kate developed her interest in historic preservation at an early age from her father, an architect whose passion was the restoration of historic structures. Through her work in the easement program for the past 4 ½ years, Kate has managed more than 900 historic properties statewide and provided technical advice and guidance to countless property owners, architects, and consultants with project rehabilitation plans and application of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Kate’s experiences have spanned the east coast from her upbringing in Pennsylvania immersed in both the vernacular and high style of Pennsylvania German architecture, to earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Historic Preservation amid the Lowcountry heritage of Savannah, Georgia. Kate’s broad-based knowledge of building history, materials, and construction techniques across the Mid-Atlantic and southern states will no doubt continue to benefit MHT in her new position.  

With this new position, Kate will supervise and lead the Preservation Financial Incentives Unit within OPS, overseeing tax credits, easements, and capital grants and loans programs.  Congratulations, Kate – and good luck!

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On January 29, Allison Luthern started her new position as Architectural Survey Administrator in the Office of Research, Survey, & Registration (ORSR).  She will primarily be responsible for overseeing additions to the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP). She will also participate in grants management related to the survey and documentation of standing structures, conduct architectural fieldwork, and provide technical assistance related to historic buildings.

As MHT’s Easement Inspector for three-and-a half years, Allison has completed inspections and conditions assessments on hundreds of historic properties across the state. This experience with historic building fabric and the diverse architecture of every region of the state will greatly benefit her new position. Her knowledge of the MIHP and experience with survey work gained during her education at the University of Mary Washington and Appalachian State University will be a valuable asset in ORSR.

Allison’s enthusiasm for historic buildings is evident, and there are sure to be many discussions about Maryland buildings as we traverse the State. As Allison says, “Few things excite me more than a stuffy attic with a tilted false plate, molding profiles, or a good eighteenth-century brick privy.” She joins a team of other historic building-lovers in ORSR, who can ponder a building’s evolution for hours, or who become giddy when seeing rare architectural evidence in a building. Orlando Ridout V, who served as ORSR’s Chief for many years, often said: “You’re either born a surveyor, or you’re not.” Well, welcome to the team, Allison!

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Also, on January 29, OPS welcomed Barbara Fisher as our new Capital Grant Administrator.  As part of the OPS grant team, Barbara will be responsible for administering the MHT Capital Grant Program and will also be involved with grant projects that have received funding through the African American Heritage Preservation Program.

Barbara is well-versed in project review and historical research for National Register nominations, with experience as a Section 106 reviewer at the Georgia SHPO and as an architectural historian in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Historic Preservation from Shepherd University and a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Since coming to MHT two years ago, she has worked in ORSR as an Architectural Survey Data Analyst, helping to identify re-survey needs and strategic opportunities for new survey work as well as enhancing our searchable database.  In her new position, she’ll be putting her hands-on experience from SCAD to good use in assisting grantees with their construction projects.

A native of Maryland, Barbara is thrilled to work with her fellow Marylanders to preserve the state’s historic resources. The OPS grant unit strives to directly support local communities in saving cherished sites, and we are delighted to add such a talented and enthusiastic member to the team!

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With all these changes occurring since the start of the new year, keep an eye out on our homepage in the right-hand sidebar for our open recruitments.  We’d love to have you join our team!  Applications are only open for two weeks, though, so check back frequently!

Announcing FY2020 AAHPP grant recipients!

We are pleased to announce the FY2020 African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) grant recipients! Twelve projects were awarded funding for preservation projects throughout the state. Jointly administered by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Maryland Historical Trust, the AAHPP provides capital funds to assist in the preservation of buildings, sites, or communities of historical and cultural importance to the African American experience in Maryland. The Commission and MHT are excited to support these projects, which include unique sites such as a World War II memorial park, an early 20th century bowling alley, a historic swimming pool, and tunnels that were part of the Underground Railroad.  Read more about all our newly funded projects below.

If you are planning to apply for funding for a project, the FY2021 grant round will begin in the spring of 2020, with workshops in April and applications due in July. For more information about the AAHPP, please contact Charlotte Lake, Capital Grant and Loan Program Administrator, at charlotte.lake@maryland.gov. For information about organizations receiving grants, please contact the institutions directly.

Project: Sotterley Plantation: Slave Cabin – Hollywood, St. Mary’s County ($78,000) Sponsor: Historic Sotterley, Inc.

Sotterley Plantation is a 1703 Tidewater plantation with more than 20 original buildings still standing. After its restoration, the 1830s slave cabin was dedicated to Agnes Kane Callum, a Baltimore resident whose great-grandfather was born enslaved at Sotterley, and who was instrumental in telling the story of Sotterley’s enslaved community. The grant project will include repairs to the cabin as well as accessibility improvements to the paths leading to it.

Project: Fairmount Heights World War II Monument –Prince George’s County ($12,250) Sponsor: Town of Fairmount Heights

The Fairmount Heights World War II Monument was built in 1946 to honor local citizens who served in the armed forces during World War II. The grant project will include repairs to the monument and site improvements within the park.

Project: Liberty Grace Church of God: Bowling Alley – Baltimore City ($100,000) Sponsor: Liberty Grace Church of God, Inc.

Liberty Grace Church of God was built in 1922 and has an early 20th century bowling alley in its basement. This historic bowling alley will be restored to working order. Read more about the bowling alley in our earlier blog post!

Project: Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – Cambridge, Dorchester County ($100,000) Sponsor: Eastern Shore Network for Change, Inc.

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed in 1903 and is the oldest African American church still standing in Cambridge. This grant will fund structural repairs to the church, as well as repairs to windows and doors.

Project: Emmanuel Episcopal Church: Tunnels – Cumberland, Allegany County ($100,000) Sponsor: Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Incorporated

Emmanuel Episcopal Church was built atop the remains of Fort Cumberland, forming a series of tunnels beneath the church that eventually came to be used as shelter by African Americans escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad. Local oral traditions describe a quilt panel with a cross on a hill representing Emmanuel Episcopal Church as a stop on the road to freedom. This project will improve lighting and ventilation in the tunnels, as well as improve accessibility for visitors touring the tunnels.

Project: Warren Historic Site: Warren United Methodist Church and Martinsburg Negro School – Dickerson, Montgomery County ($100,000) Sponsor: Warren Historic Site Committee, Inc.

The Warren Historic Site is likely the last in Maryland where the traditional triad of buildings constructed in most post-Emancipation African American communities – the church, school, and lodge hall – still exist. The grant project will include roof and foundation repairs on the church, as well as roof, foundation, and floor repairs on the school.

Project: McConchie One-Room School – La Plata, Charles County ($99,000) Sponsor: Charles County Fair, Inc.

The McConchie School was constructed around 1912 to serve African American children in central Charles County. The school was closed in 1952, was converted to a residence, and had been abandoned by 1980. The Charles County Fair purchased and moved the building to the fairgrounds in 1990. The grant project will include structural repairs so that the school can continue to be used as a museum.

Project: Zion United Methodist Church – Federalsburg, Caroline County ($100,000) Sponsor: Zion ME Church

Zion Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1931 and features stained glass windows and ornamental woodwork on its tower. The grant will fund accessibility and drainage improvements to the site, as well as structural repairs to the building.

Project: Robert W. Johnson Community Center: Swimming Pool – Hagerstown, Washington County ($100,000) Sponsor: Robert W Johnson Community Center, Inc.

In 1959, the North Street Swimming Pool was constructed as part of the Robert W. Johnson Community Center in Hagerstown’s Jonathan Street Neighborhood. It was the only pool in the city where African Americans could swim, and the pool itself is relatively unchanged since it was built. The grant project will repair the swimming pool so that it can be returned to community use.

Project: Ellsworth Cemetery – Westminster, Carroll County ($65,000) Sponsor: Community Foundation of Carroll County, Incorporated

Six African American Union Army veterans established the Ellsworth Cemetery in 1876 to provide a burial place for the African American residents of Westminster. The grant project will include mapping of the cemetery and conservation of grave markers.

Project: Asbury M.E. Church – Easton, Talbot County ($100,000) Sponsor: Historic Easton, Incorporated

Asbury M.E. Church was dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878. The church also served as a temporary high school for Black students in the 1930s and is now both an active church and a community center. Grant funding will be used to make structural repairs and accessibility upgrades to the fellowship hall within the church.

Project: Fruitland Community Center, Wicomico County ($44,000) Sponsor: Fruitland Community Center, Inc.

In 1912 local community members built the Morris Street Colored School, now known as the Fruitland Community Center, for Wicomico County’s African American children. The building is still used for educational purposes, with summer and after school programs for children as well as an archive. The grant project will include roof replacement, accessibility improvements, and upgrades to the electrical and mechanical systems of the building.

Announcing the Chair of the Maryland Heritage Areas Program’s New Grants Review Panel

By Ennis Barbery Smith, Assistant Administrator, Maryland Heritage Areas Program

The Maryland Heritage Areas Program is thrilled to announce the successful formation of its new Grants Review Panel, made up of 20 individuals from across the state of Maryland. The 20 panelists represent a wide range of areas of expertise – heritage tourism, public art, historic preservation, education, project management, museums, marketing, and other fields – all of which relate to the types of projects that are eligible for funding from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA).

In autumn of 2019, the program held an open call for panelists, inviting members of the public to nominate themselves or others to review MHAA grants in FY 2021. As part of the process, six state agencies nominated representatives with relevant expertise, and MHAA staff invited Maryland’s seven ethnic and cultural commissions to nominate panelists. In total, nearly 70 nominations were received.

The 20 individuals who will make up the FY 2021 Grants Review Panel are diverse not only in terms of expertise, but also in terms of racial and ethnic background, gender, and geographic associations. The Panel includes Commissioners from the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, and the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. It also includes representatives from the all corners of the State: from Garrett County in the west to Worcester County on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer will chair the new Grants Review Panel in its inaugural year. Spencer was nominated to serve on the Panel by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, on which he also serves as a Commissioner.

Mr. Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer, Chair of the Maryland Heritage Areas Program’s Grants Review Panel

Born, raised, and educated in Anne Arundel County, Spencer has an extensive background as an artist, as well as a background in public administration and a track record of serving his community. His CV includes time spent in the United States Marine Corps and a 23-year career with the Annapolis Fire Department. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and has served on the Anne Arundel County Public School Board, on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and as a grants evaluator for the Maryland State Board of Education. Currently, he devotes his time to the arts. He is the founder of A. J. Spencer Consultants, LLC and Enrapture Records. Plus, he manages a career as a performing artist, which has included appearances with a host of local, regional, national, and international artists and philharmonic orchestras.

Spencer shared these thoughts on his new role as Chair: “I have come to understand the value of giving back and serving the greater community. Serving with the Maryland Heritage Areas Program as a grant evaluator provides me the opportunity to ensure that the communities and organizations within Maryland have access to resources to research, preserve, present, and celebrate our collective histories.”

The deadline for Intent-to-Apply forms – the first step in the MHAA application process – was January 31, 2020, and the Program received over 240 forms, requesting over $10.4 million in grant funds. With such a strong turnout, MHAA staff are expecting a large number of applications this year. The panelists will soon be busy reviewing the applications, and the Program is grateful for their willingness to read, review, and rank the hundreds of applications that come in each year. The panelists’ duties will also include participating in a training session and two day-long grants review meetings. Be on the lookout for our follow-up blog post, which will include more panelist profiles!

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Fort Frederick Colored School

By Peter Morrill, Curator Program Manager, Department of Natural Resources

Along the south side of Big Pool Road in Washington County, Maryland, sits a non-descript vacant house.  It’s easily overlooked by passersby, but hidden beneath additions, layers of asphalt “brick” and aluminum siding, lies a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse built to serve the area’s African American community.  Though it is not immediately recognizable by the casual observer as a school, a closer look reveals that much of the school’s original fabric remains intact and waiting to be restored in order to tell its story about Maryland’s racially segregated past and one of the county’s most interesting families.

The Fort Frederick Colored Schoolhouse, or the Williams Schoolhouse as it is also known, survives despite later alterations, including the porch and two-story addition at right.

In 1857 Nathan Williams, a free black man, purchased about 115 acres of land in Washington County, including the remains of the colonial Fort Frederick, and began what would become a successful farming operation.  Beginning in the 1870s, the family operated a schoolhouse for local African American children; family members also taught at the school.  By 1892, a 36’ by 24’ by 12’ frame school had been constructed by the county and was designated the “colored” school for the Indian Springs Election District, #11.  The teacher was Charles A. Williams, and the school enrolled 14 pupils.  By 1895, it was determined that this schoolhouse was unsatisfactory and that a new one should be built.  For $3, the Williams family deeded a quarter-acre parcel of their land to the county for the erection of a new school.  This school was completed by 1900 for a cost of $297.76 and remained in service until 1914, when it became a residence.  Over the years, the original one-room schoolhouse became virtually unrecognizable: the door was relocated, porches were added, and the interior was divided into three rooms.  A two-story addition was also added to the west, further obscuring the tiny school’s historic form.  The house has long been known as the Hornbaker House after the family who owned the house from 1950 until 1973, when they sold it to the State for inclusion into Fort Frederick State Park, which had been formed in 1922.  The Maryland Department of Natural Resources rented the property as a residence for a number of years, but it is now vacant.

DNR staff, including Charlie Mazurek, Historic Preservation Planner (second from left), and Peter Morrill, Curator Program Manager (right), have been instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of this structure and in seeking funding for its preservation.

Thanks to a generous grant from the African American Heritage Preservation Program[AR1] , donations from the Friends of Maryland State Parks and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Department of Natural Resources will begin to peel back the layers and restore the schoolhouse to its circa 1900 to 1914 appearance.  In collaboration with staff from the Maryland Historical Trust, selective demolition has been carried out to begin to identify the original locations of windows and doors, identify later additions to the structure, and document these changes prior to the beginning of restoration work.  In the coming months, later additions will be removed and the exterior of the schoolhouse will be returned to its former appearance for the first time in over 100 years.  Once complete, the school will serve as a gateway to Fort Frederick State Park and an educational center to interpret the rich history of the Williams Family and the experience of African American families living in Washington County after the Civil War and emancipation.


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Curator Program Manager Peter Morrill looks for physical evidence
of the schoolhouse’s historic form and finishes.

Further reading:

Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties form: https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Washington/WA-V-206.pdf

Preservation Maryland Six-to-Fix: Historic Resources in Maryland’s State Parks: https://www.preservationmaryland.org/programs/six-to-fix/projects/current-projects/historic-resources-in-marylands-state-parks/

 [AR1]Link to: https://mht.maryland.gov/grants_africanamerican.shtml