Memory Mapping in the Bottom and Hammond Town

By Jen Sparenberg, Hazard Mitigation Program Officer

Easton’s Bottom and Hammond Town neighborhoods served vibrant African American communities in the decades after the Civil War.  Located adjacent to “the Hill,” an early free African-American settlement, both neighborhoods have suffered a slow decline over decades. As Easton considers the redevelopment of nearby Easton Point, the Port Street Master Plan presents an opportunity to revitalize the Bottom and to record and interpret the history of the Bottom and Hammond Town.

Old Moton School

Old Moton, a Rosenwald School in Easton. Credit: Michelle Zachs

As a first step towards documenting the history of both communities, the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center and Port Street Matters/the NAACP-Talbot County sponsored a community outreach meeting to record existing and vanished important places in the communities. Residents, ex-residents, and community elders met at the American Legion Blake-Blackston Post #77 in Easton to participate.

Large aerial maps of the Bottom, Hammond Town, Easton Point, and the Hill were set up as different stations with markers, pens and notepads so that residents could move between stations and record the location of important places on the maps and share their memories of those places.  The mapping led to a lively discussion among residents as they shared their memories of growing up and living in the Bottom and Hammond Town.

Residents and former residents id imp places

Former and current residents record important places in the Bottom and Hammond Town.

What emerged from the memory mapping was a portrait of lively communities that were eroded over time by forces beyond the residents’ control.  There were ballfields, pastures, schools, markets that sold fresh produce and seafood, retail establishments, places to eat and drink, a doctor’s office, a funeral home, a filling station and houses of worship – all owned and run by African Americans.  Residents had few needs that could not be within the communities.  Today, only a handful of the places remain and fewer still are African-American owned.

With further outreach and consideration of the Bottom and Hammond Town communities, the Port Street Master Plan has the potential to help rejuvenate the neighborhoods and bring businesses back in a way that benefits current residents.  The project also offers an opportunity to conduct a historical investigation of the Bottom and Hammond Town: two communities that have been overlooked due to the prominence of the Hill, but which are no less important in telling the history of Easton.

Cumberland’s Youth Summit

By Kathy McKenney, Historic Planner/Preservation Coordinator, City of Cumberland

With a Certified Local Government grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, the Cumberland Historic Preservation Commission and staff have partnered with Braddock Middle School to develop a first-ever Youth Summit. During the 2015-2016 school year, this project is bringing together local youth, educators, and preservation partners to investigate and engage with historic places in our city. The summit will give participating students real-world experience with a day focused on hands-on preservation maintenance and intensive sessions on using architecture as artifact, archival research, and place-based interpretation. Summit participants will visit, discuss, and analyze designated historic sites such as churches, the C&O Canal, and the Footer Dye Works Building. The students will craft stories about these places for their peers and the community at large. Project partners include the City of Cumberland’s Historic Preservation Commission, Allegany College of Maryland, the National Park Service C&O Canal National Historical Park, and Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority.

Cumberland Youth Summit 1

Visit to Dan’s Rock

On October 16, 2015, eighth grade students traveled to Dan’s Rock to understand cultural landscapes and to begin learning more about their community, while discussing “sense of place” and what places were important to them within their community. They began to interpret the layers of human visitation to the site over the years and asked other visitors to the site about their experiences and what drew them there. The students developed a hashtag to begin using for social media posting: #SaveOurHistory #BraddockSummit2015.

On October 23rd, students, accompanied by a staff member from Cumberland’s Economic Development department, traveled to five Cumberland neighborhoods (Dingle, Decatur Heights, Johnson Heights, White Oaks, and Rolling Mill) to learn more about cultural and architectural resources. They visited sites both with and without formal designation, such the city’s working class neighborhoods ranging from mid-nineteenth century to mid- century modern. Students selected a neighborhood for further research and are now learning more about documenting resources. The students will craft stories about these places for their peers and the community at large.

Cumberland Youth Summit 2

Youth Summit Neighborhood Visits – Decatur Heights

On November 20th, members of the project team, as well as staff from the Allegany County Library System, met with the students in the classroom to introduce them to sources for continuing their neighborhood research. Their research will result in the preparation of a report that they will present to the Cumberland Mayor and City Council at a public meeting in the near future. In the spring of 2016, students will participate in activities including a service learning project in and around Canal Place, a hands-on preservation maintenance opportunity and an additional heritage tourism activity. We’re looking forward to the results of this great program!

For more information, please contact Kathy McKenney, Historic Planner/Preservation Coordinator, at 301-759-6431 or kathy.mckenney@cumberland.md.gov.

2016 Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Grants Awarded

With funding from the National Park Service Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Fund, the Maryland Historical Trust has awarded seven grants throughout the state to help protect historic places and archeological sites from future storms. These grants will be supported by the Trust’s Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Program, which was created to assist local governments to better plan and prepare for the effects of coastal storms and other hazards that impact historic places and properties. The grant projects are described below.

Anne Arundel

Early 20th century vernacular home common to Shady Side

Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation, Inc., Phase I Hazard Mitigation Planning for Anne Arundel’s Cultural Resources: $32,000
Three areas in the county (Shady Side and Deale; Pasadena; and Maryland City, Laurel, and Jessup) face the highest risk to flooding and contain the most undocumented historic structures, as well as unsurveyed potential archeological resources. To remedy this, the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation will conduct a study to identify historic structures and archeological sites and evaluate the potential damages caused by flooding.

ASM

The River Farm site inundated by high tide

Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc., Sustainable Models for Sites Endangered by Natural Hazards: $32,000
The Archeological Society of Maryland will gather information about several archeological sites in Anne Arundel County, Calvert County and St. Mary’s County that are slowly being destroyed due to eroding shorelines and water intrusion from coastal storms and increased tidal flooding. In St. Mary’s County, at the possible location of the Native American village known as Secowocomoco, testing will inform future decisions about excavation and protection from ongoing erosion. Studies in the Battle Creek watershed (Calvert County) will help researchers understand the foodways and lifeways practiced by the Native Americans who lived there. At River Farm, a large Native American settlement along the Patuxent River, investigations will locate site boundaries, determine eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and inform planning against future erosion and flooding. The Society will develop a series of case studies to provide guidance for public-private partnerships engaged in survey, assessment, and protection of archeological resources threatened by natural hazards and climate change.

Baltimore

Historic Fells Point, a waterfront neighborhood

City of Baltimore, Integrating Historic and Cultural Considerations into Baltimore’s All Hazards Plan: $30,390
The City of Baltimore contains more than 80,000 historic properties and many of its oldest neighborhoods, such as Fells Point and Jonestown, are located on or near waterways, making them vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, storm surge and flooding. With this grant, the City will identify high-priority historic areas and buildings that are significantly impacted by flooding, evaluate the impacts of flooding, and incorporate the results of evaluation into their Disaster and Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3), which is the City’s climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan. The City will also identify methods for protecting vulnerable historic structures that are in accordance with the DP3 and amenable to the City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

Dorchester

Flooding on Elliotts Island Road (credit: K. Clendaniel)

Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, Hazard Mitigation Planning Project for Dorchester County: $44,000
Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, Dorchester County has a long history of occupation first by Native Americans and later by English settlement along its waterways. One of the greatest periods of historic significance for the county is 1825 to 1900, during which the agricultural economy shifted to towards the canning industry. There are many properties constructed during that period of significance that are at risk to flooding due to coastal storms, sea level rise, and tidal flooding, but have not been identified and studied to understand their contribution to history. Dorchester County will conduct a survey to identify areas with historic structures vulnerable to flooding and evaluate their vulnerability to flood hazards.

Port Deposit

Flooding from Hurricane Irene (credit: Town of Port Deposit)

Town of Port Deposit, Cultural Resources Inventory and Risk Assessment for Cecil Towns: $40,000
This project encompasses hazard mitigation planning efforts in two Cecil County historic towns: Port Deposit and Elkton. The Town of Port Deposit is located adjacent to the Susquehanna River, which makes the town’s historic district susceptible to flood damage by heavy rain events, coastal storms and ice jams. An updated historic and architectural investigation will be undertaken to re-evaluate and update the National Register of Historic Places nomination as the first step in planning to protect Port Deposit’s buildings from further flood damage. Situated along Big Elk Creek, the Town of Elkton’s Main Street and Historic District has a history of flooding that dates back to the nineteenth century. Elkton’s historic properties are vulnerable to flooding from coastal storms, large rain events and snow melt. To address this, a survey will identify historic structures vulnerable to flooding and assess the potential damages that could occur.

Smith Island

Crab shanty in Ewell

Smith Island United, Inc., Smith Island Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Initiative: $9,000
Situated in the Chesapeake Bay and accessible only by water, Smith Island is comprised of three communities — Ewell, Rhodes Point and Tylerton — which have a history of experiencing coastal storms. The historic occupation of the island dates back to the seventeenth century, although the majority of buildings on the island date to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Under this grant, an evaluation of flood mitigation measures for representative historic house types in each of the three villages will be conducted. The results will be used to develop preservation-sensitive models for flood protection for historic houses of similar construction.

Talbot

W-shaped Victorian house in Tilghman

Talbot County, Documentation and Assessment of Historic Resources in Western Water-Oriented Villages: $60,000
Talbot County contains thirteen unincorporated water-oriented villages, many of which have historic structures dating back to the eighteenth century. The four villages of Tilghman, Neavitt, Newcomb, and Royal Oak have a large number of unrecorded historic structures at high risk of flooding due to tidal events and coastal storms like Hurricane Sandy. This project will identify key historic properties that convey the history and heritage of each village, conduct a study to determine those properties’ vulnerability to coastal storms, and estimate the potential damages that could occur.