Preserving Chesapeake Heritage: Navigating the Tubman Landscape amid Rising Tides

By Jessica Brannock, Communications Intern

In 2007, roughly 17 acres of wetlands within Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) were dedicated to create the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad (HTUR) State Park. These lands and waterways where Tubman lived and worked as a young woman, enslaved by the Brodess family, make up just a fraction of the 25,000 acres of land in Dorchester County dedicated to the HTUR National Monument. While the park’s Visitor Center offers exhibits on the life and heroism of Tubman, the true monument to her legacy is the landscape itself—and it’s disappearing.

Over the course of a decade, Tubman returned to this landscape 13 times and guided 70 slaves to freedom. Hiding in the marshes by day and traveling by foot and boat at night, Tubman and other freedom seekers relied on their knowledge of Chesapeake waterways, plant, and animal life to survive the journey north.

Visitor Center

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, LEED silver certified, and constructed on higher ground to protect the building against rising sea levels.

Today, much of the wildlife found in the brackish tidal marshes and hardwood forests of Blackwater NWR are typical of what Tubman encountered over 150 years ago. However, preserving these habitats and heritage is an ever-present challenge as wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed are threatened by environmental change.

Current water levels in Blackwater NWR are much higher than when Tubman navigated the rivers and marshes to freedom. Since the NWR’s establishment in 1933, over 5,000 acres of wetlands have been lost to sea level rise.

Marshes act as buffers between land and water, filtering out toxins and absorbing the forces of storms and tides, and Tubman would have been familiar with the tidal rhythms that flooded the wetlands with saltwater and ebbed back with the flow of freshwater tributaries. As sea levels rise, however, saltwater mingles more heavily with fresh, destroying salt-sensitive plant-life as marshlands erode and give way to flooding. By the end of the century, climate science predicts that sea levels will rise in the Bay region between 3 and 4 feet.

Saltwater Intrusion 4

Patches of bare forest and exposed tree roots, destroyed by saltwater intrusion are reminders of rising tides, and the imminent loss of habitat that follows.

The HTUR Visitor Center was constructed with the vulnerability of the landscape in mind. The building is sustainably designed to LEED silver standards and includes bioretention ponds, rain barrels, and vegetative roofs. Located near the Little Blackwater River, where Tubman worked checking muskrat traps as a child, the site was strategically elevated, placing the building on higher ground—a precautionary measure against the accelerating rate of sea level rise. With nearly 300 acres of marsh within the NWR lost each year, the wetlands could be fully submerged by 2050.

Actions can be taken to slow the loss and preserve the landscape so valuable for its habitat and history. In 2017, the Conservation Fund, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Audubon Society partnered to raise 40 acres of marshland within the NWR. This thin-layering process spread 26,000 cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Blackwater River across the wetlands, raising the marshes by 4-6 inches. Along with large scale tree and marsh grass planting, these efforts will help reduce the pace of flooding over the next decade.

As tides rise, the landscapes that hold our heritage will continue to suffer losses to their environmental and historical resources. In the coming years, we must acknowledge environmental threats and face them head on, so that future generations may continue to experience and interpret the legacy of our national treasures.

Advertisements

Using the National Register to Connect Baltimore City Students with Neighborhood History (Guest Blog)

By Jeff Buchheit, Executive Director, Baltimore National Heritage Area

Since 2016, the Baltimore National Heritage Area (BNHA) has partnered with the Maryland Historical Trust and Baltimore Heritage (the city’s preservation advocacy organization) on a project that engages Baltimore City Public School students in an exploration of their local history using the research standards and processes necessary in developing nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Through the project, students investigate Baltimore’s significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and the people and places that reflect this critical time in U.S. and Maryland history.

IMG_4957

Baltimore School of the Arts students prepare for their upcoming field trip.

The heritage area’s primary role is to help teachers and their students connect to historic sites and resources for researching the Civil Rights Movement. Key partner sites have included the Maryland Historical Society and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum, which operates under the stewardship of Morgan State University.

Initial planning meetings brought together the BNHA, Baltimore Heritage, Baltimore City Public Schools, the Maryland Historical Society, and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. A handful of Baltimore City Public Schools teachers were identified based on their classroom studies in African American history and the Civil Rights Movement. Those teachers attended an October 2017 workshop during which Baltimore Heritage Executive Director Johns Hopkins provided an overview of the National Register nomination process. Following the presentation, the teachers toured the collections of the Maryland Historical Society and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. At the end of the workshop, teachers scheduled nine field trips, five of which took place in the fall of 2017.

image006

Baltimore Heritage’s Johns Hopkins talks to students at the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum.

Perhaps the key takeaway for the students on the field trips has been their exposure to the use of primary documents in research, and the phenomenal contributions (past and present) of Baltimore citizens in the Civil Rights Movement. The heritage area is meeting its overarching goal too: raising student awareness and pride in their history and their neighborhoods. Students have been very engaged, and the teachers are asking “What else can we do together?” — a real win-win for everyone.

A Story Map of Women’s Suffrage in Maryland

By Kacy Rohn, Graduate Assistant Intern

As a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, I had the opportunity to spend over a year interning with the Maryland Historical Trust and to work on a personally significant project – documenting the Maryland women’s suffrage movement.

HikersMDSoil

Image from the Baltimore Sun article “Maryland Is Invaded,” which detailed the Elkton, Maryland stop on the 1913 suffragists’ march from New York to Washington, DC. 

Generously funded by the Maryland Historical Trust’s Board of Trustees, this special project allowed me to develop a history of the statewide women’s suffrage movement and to identify significant suffrage sites, a timely endeavor as we approach the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Before this research, we had little idea that that Maryland’s suffragists (a term they preferred to the derogatory “suffragette”) had been so active or that they had worked in dozens of hitherto forgotten places around the state. In previous blog posts (which can be found here and here), I highlighted two of these stories and two historic sites with previously overlooked connections to the movement.

Now, I’m excited to share one of my final projects: a story map that presents a chronological overview of the important places and milestones of the Maryland suffrage movement. This story ranges from the earliest beginnings of the movement to the final passage of the 19th Amendment, showcasing Maryland women’s dedication to this long fight.

storymap

The women’s suffrage story map can be found on the Maryland Historical Trust website.

Though my internship has almost ended, I’m happy to see that this important project will continue. My research will be used by Maryland Historical Trust staff to nominate significant women’s suffrage sites to the National Register of Historic Places and will support other statewide efforts to preserve these sites and tell their stories.

A Summer Spent at the Maryland Historical Trust

By Noah Jaques, Intern

As a rising senior majoring in History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I have spent the past two months interning at the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) in the Office of Research, Survey and Registration through the Governor’s Summer Internship Program. With the guidance of my mentor Nancy Kurtz, the office’s Marker and Monument Programs Administrator, I worked on exciting tasks both in the office and out in the field.

IMG_8026

The author practicing cleaning techniques in the field

While in the office, I researched and compiled the information necessary to make a robust virtual tour of monuments and markers related to African-American history that will soon be available on MHT’s website. I learned how to access archive materials to pair with my online research, so that I could paint the fullest possible picture of the historic people and sites that I covered in my virtual tour. The biggest challenge I encountered in making the virtual tour was ensuring that the information was presented in a way that would be appreciated by the public. I also learned the importance of using pictures to grab the public’s attention and utilized many of MHT’s pictures along with pictures from the web to create a satisfying final product.

In the office I also completed the less glamorous, but still fulfilling, work of uploading monument treatment reports to a database so that they are now accessible by MHT staff. I worked on uploading scanned postcards of historic sites so that they can be accessed digitally as well. Finally, in my spare time I began to put together a storymap of places in Maryland related to World War I.

IMG_8001

Assisting with monuments maintenance

In addition to my work in the office, I treated war monuments out in the field. I washed a Spirit of the Doughboy monument in Crisfield and waxed the Talbot Boys war memorial in Easton. These were valuable experiences because I learned about the expertise that is required by conservators to maintain monuments, exposing me to a new field of work. I also had the opportunity to tour monuments and other historical sites, including a WWI exhibit in the Maryland Museum of Military History at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, the WWI Hammann-Costin monument nearby, and WWI and Revolutionary War monuments in Annapolis. I found the tour opportunities helpful and satisfying in the process of constructing my WWI storymap, and the information provided by my mentor was intellectually invigorating.

My time spent at the Maryland Historical Trust was a highly rewarding experience because I have learned about how history can be related to the public in the most meaningful ways. I have also made lasting professional connections, including not just those in my office but those I have interacted with in the process of completing my work. My future is brighter because of this experience.

A Maryland Patriot’s Annapolis Home (Guest Blog)

By Glenn E. Campbell, Senior Historian, Historic Annapolis

William Paca was one of the four Maryland men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and he served as the state’s third governor at the end of the Revolutionary War. After marrying the wealthy and well-connected Mary Chew in 1763, the young lawyer built a five-part brick house and terraced pleasure garden on two acres of land in Annapolis. The couple had three children, but only one of them survived to adulthood, and they cared for an orphaned niece for several months in 1765-66. In addition to Paca family members, the Georgian mansion also housed a number of enslaved individuals and bound servants.

William Paca House

William Paca House and Garden, located at 186 Prince George Street in Annapolis. Photo: Ken Tom

After William Paca sold it in 1780, the house continued as a single-family home until 1801, then served mainly as a rental property for much of the 19th century. Later owners and occupants added upper floors to the building’s wings and hyphens; this increased the square footage of its potential rental space but disrupted the structure’s original Georgian symmetry. In 1901, national tennis champion William Larned purchased the property, added a large addition and created Carvel Hall, known as Annapolis’s finest hotel for much of the 20th century.

WPHG Summer 2017 Credit Tom, K

In the early 1970s, Historic Annapolis and the State of Maryland undertook extensive archeological investigations to restore the garden to its colonial appearance. Photo: Ken Tom

Concerned that developers might tear down the home of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, the nonprofit preservation group Historic Annapolis and the State of Maryland bought the Paca mansion and the rest of the Carvel Hall site in 1965. Over the next decade, a team of experts—archival researchers, archaeologists, architectural historians, paint analysts, x-ray photographers, carpenters, masons, landscape designers, horticulturists, and other skilled professionals—restored the William Paca House and Garden to their 18th-century configurations and appearances. The site was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Historic Annapolis and the Maryland Historical Trust continue to work closely together as the property’s stewards for today and the future.

DSC_0132

Candidates for American citizenship take the Oath of Allegiance on July 4, 2016. Photo: Ken Tom

Since 2006, Historic Annapolis has hosted an Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony at the William Paca House and Garden. It’s especially fitting to welcome new citizens (over 300 so far!) into the American family at the Signer’s home every July 4th, because William Paca himself became a citizen of the newborn United States on that historic date in 1776. The basic truths and simple yet profound ideals expressed so powerfully in the Declaration of Independence motivated his patriotic action 241 years ago, and they continue to attract people to our shores to share in the freedoms enjoyed by American citizens.

The Life of a Roadside Historical Marker

By Nancy Kurtz, Marker and Monuments Programs

The marker you pass on your journey, embossed with the Great Seal of Maryland, could have been born in the early 1930s, cast in iron and displayed along a narrow roadway in the days when the family car and the road trip were new ideas and local citizens wanted to inform travelers of the people, places and events important in their history.

The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) and Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) jointly manage the state roadside historical marker program.  The State Roads Commission began the program in 1933 in cooperation with the Maryland Historical Society.  The program was transferred to the Maryland Historical Trust in 1985, with new standards, criteria and placement guidelines added in 2001, including the requirement for markers to commemorate topics that carry statewide significance.  MHT reviews and approves new marker applications.  SHA installs and maintains the markers, and now funds all new and replacement markers.

RM-733h THE BANK ROAD old

The Bank Road marker, when it was young

When either agency is notified of a marker problem, SHA staff pick up the marker and start the refurbishing, repair or replacement process.  A tag is installed on the pole to notify the public of its whereabouts.  If you should notice a sudden unexplained disappearance, a marker on the ground or other problem, please contact Nancy Kurtz at 410-697-9561nancy.kurtz@maryland.gov, or send in a problem report found on the MHT marker website:  http://mht.maryland.gov/documents/pdf/research/MarkerReport.pdf.

With over 800 markers installed since the 1930s, maintenance is ongoing. Markers requiring repair or refurbishing are sent off-site for the work, usually in groups of two or more.  Sandblasting and welding repairs can take three to four weeks.  Repainting can take four to six weeks.  Reinstallation is dependent on weather and work schedule, and usually grouped geographically, so can take two to three months after repainting.  The best time estimate for the whole process would be approximately six months, but can vary according to these factors.

One important aspect of reinstalling a marker is safety.  Roadways, traffic volumes and speed have changed through the years and do not always allow reinstallation in the original location.  Where possible, the markers are placed near a side road to allow drivers to pull off the highway.

RM-733 THE BANK ROAD refurbished

The Bank Road marker, refurbished

The early markers are historic in their own right.  Although some show the scars of damage and repair, we strive to keep them on the roadways well into the future.  The history of the marker program, thematic tours, application procedures, photographs and maps are found on the MHT website, including a keyword search for travelers who pass a marker at today’s highway speeds. To learn more, please visit:  http://mht.maryland.gov/historicalmarkers/Search.aspx

 

Introducing Map-Based Medusa: Viewing Maryland’s Historic Places in Real Time

By Gregory Brown, Cultural Resource Information Manager

To kick off Preservation Month this May, the Maryland Historical Trust is pleased to announce a new interactive map-based tool, “map-based Medusa,” to explore the state’s inventory of historic places and archeological sites.  Taking advantage of new web-based mapping technology, map-based Medusa offers the opportunity to view Maryland’s extensive geographic database of historic and cultural properties and to access the records linked to these resources, all within an easily accessible user friendly interface.

Blog1The new system allows both in-house and remote access to the documentation of over 60,000 architectural and archeological resources in a variety of ways. Consultants and staff can view a proposed project area and see all known cultural resources, with links to Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties forms, National Register nominations, determinations of eligibility, and other detailed documents. Map-based Medusa also allows you to look up a property by name, address or inventory number, and view that property on a map along with associated forms and photos.

Most architectural information is freely available in Medusa. Archeological site location is restricted to qualified archeological professionals as mandated in the state’s Access to Site Location Policy. Any qualified professional can apply for a Medusa account to get access. For assistance using map-based Medusa, tutorials and FAQs are available online. We will introduce webinars and introductory videos in the coming months.

Blog2

The new map-based Medusa application was created with the technical assistance of the Applications Development team of the Maryland Department of Planning, the Maryland Historical Trust’s parent agency. We are grateful for the efforts of Information Services Manager Ted Cozmo, Doug Lyford, Greg Schuster, and Debbie Czerwinski, building on earlier database development work of Maureen Kavanagh, Carmen Swann and Jennifer Falkinburg. The online version of Medusa was supported in part through a Preserve America grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior, and by funding from the Maryland State Highway Administration through its Transportation Enhancement Program.

To start using map-based Medusa, go to https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/.

For more information, please contact Gregory Brown, Cultural Resource Information Manager, at gregory.brown@maryland.gov.