Giving Thanks for Oysters and Watermen

By Elizabeth Hughes, Director, Maryland Historical Trust

As you enjoy your oyster dressing this Thanksgiving holiday, take a moment to be thankful for our watermen and the sleek vessels that carried them to harvest these tasty bivalves while under sail.  Hundreds of Skipjacks, powerful shallow-draft wooden boats with a single mast and two sails, once dredged oysters from the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.  Cold, dangerous and dirty work, the history of winter oyster harvesting in Maryland is defined by stories of fierce competition and often unfavorable weather.

Maryland Traditions- Deal Island Skipjack Races

Skipjacks on Deal Island. Credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs

Skipjacks were developed near the end of the 19th century, replacing Bugeyes with their more powerful design.  Survivors of this traditional industry include the Ida May (built in 1906 in Deep Creek, VA) and the Thomas W. Clyde (built in 1911 in Oriole, MD) which were among 36 traditional Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s.  Far fewer vessels exist today.  

Every year, over Labor Day weekend, the Lions Club of Deal Island celebrates these graceful boats at the Skipjack Races and Festival event, now in its 58th year.  An important ceremonial precursor to oystering season, the weekend includes a race around a marked course in Tangier Sound, a blessing of the fleet, a boat docking contest and fishing tournament.

Maryland Traditions- Deal Island Skipjack Races

Skipjack Race. Credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs

If you missed the race this year, we have some great news: on December 2nd, the Deal Island Skipjack Races and Festival will be honored — along with Anne Arundel County quilter  Joan M. E. Gaither and the Baltimore American Indian Center — with a Maryland Traditions Heritage Award at the Proscenium Theater (Performing Arts and Humanities Building) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  Tickets to this event are free and can be reserved by visiting the UMBC box office or by visiting the Maryland Traditions Facebook event.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Federal Historic Tax Credit Endangered

By Elizabeth Hughes, Director, Maryland Historical Trust

Last week, following release of the tax reform bill by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, Maryland residents began reaching out to our office, alarmed that changes to the tax code could impact historic preservation projects in their communities.  The draft bill eliminates one of preservation’s most valuable tools – the federal historic tax credit.    

Introduced in 1976, the federal historic tax credit has supported over 42,000 rehabilitation projects nationwide. This number includes 505 projects completed in Maryland between 2002 and 2016 that generated over $2 billion in development expenditures and created over 28,000 jobs. Rutgers University recently studied the nationwide impacts of this incentive program and found that its investments are leveraged more than five times over; that is, for every dollar invested by the federal government in a historic rehabilitation project, an additional five or more dollars are invested through non-federal sources. The extraordinary return, plus the positive impact on historic properties, makes the tax credit (according to the National Park Service, in its preface to the Rutgers report) one of the Federal government’s “most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs.”

EasternShore_After

This former industrial laundry building, adapted as the headquarters for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, used a federal historic tax credit of $922,653 and a state historic tax credit of $700,000 toward development costs of $8.3 million.

The federal historic tax credit has assisted projects in every corner of our state. The incentive has helped rehabilitate blocks of rowhouses in Baltimore City, bringing these historic properties back into use as single family dwellings, and spurred the adaptive reuse of industrial buildings like the McCord Laundry in Easton (now the headquarters of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy).  The credit has incentivized the renewal of obsolete institutional buildings like the Cottage “G” at the Warfield Hospital Complex in Sykesville that now serves as office space. Although the federal credit is often paired with the state historic tax credit, many of these projects require both incentives to be financially feasible.

Rowhouses_After

Rowhouse rehabilitation is changing the face of Baltimore City by bringing historic properties back into use as single family dwellings.

Work on the tax reform bill is expected to happen quickly.  If you wish to learn more about the historic tax credit, its future and its impact on state preservation efforts, we encourage you to connect with Preservation Maryland, which has compiled a wealth of resources and information to assist. The Maryland Historical Trust will be monitoring this situation closely.