Maryland’s Polling Houses: Vanishing Reminders of Elections Past

By Elizabeth Hughes, Director and State Historic Preservation Officer

On November 8th, Marylanders will cast votes in public places ranging from schools, community centers, and libraries to churches, fire houses, and office buildings. In years past, private homes, stores, and purpose-built polling houses also helped meet this need. Today, the handful of polling houses that survive speak volumes about how local communities have long valued their right and duty to vote on Election Day.

nutterselectionhouse

Nutter’s District Election House. Photo: Wicomico County Historical Society

On the Eastern Shore, the Nutter’s District Election House was built in 1938 as a simple one-room frame structure. Relocated in 1976 by the Wicomico County Historical Society to its current site in Fruitland, it now serves as a museum that houses the Society’s collection of presidential and inauguration memorabilia and political campaign items. In nearby Somerset County, Princess Anne’s Election House was moved to its current location in Manokin River Park in the 1980s. One of the state’s most decorative examples, this one-room structure boasts eave brackets, corner pilasters and (originally) a lath and plaster interior. It has the added distinction of serving its original purpose, as votes are cast here every two years for the Princess Anne town elections. Continue reading

Advertisements

Landmark in a Pumpkin Patch

by Peter Kurtze, Administrator, Evaluation and Registration

At pumpkin season, we highlight what may be Maryland’s least well known – and perhaps most controversial –National Historic Landmark:  Whittaker Chambers Farm in Carroll County.  Continue reading

Preparing for Future Floods

By Nell Ziehl, Chief, Office of Planning, Education and Outreach

IMG_3652

Hoopers Island

As we turn from Ellicott City’s disaster response to recovery, and watch hurricanes threaten Florida and Hawaii, it’s hard not to think about all the places throughout Maryland that are prone to flooding. We built our earliest towns, cities, roads and rail lines along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. As ports and fishing industries boomed, we developed more. And let’s be honest: we all love to live and play near water. Continue reading

Documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore

By Eli Pousson, Director of Preservation and Outreach, Baltimore Heritage

Over the past year, Baltimore Heritage, the Maryland Historical Trust and the Baltimore National Heritage Area have been hard at work researching and documenting the history of Baltimore’s African American Civil Rights movement. Our long-term goal is to identify and designate historic places associated with the Civil Rights movement in and around Baltimore City. From the start, we recognized this project as a unique opportunity to get Baltimore residents interested and involved in the search for the city’s Civil Rights history.

In the spring, we put together a comprehensive bibliography with journal articles, books, government reports, and more—using Zotero to publish the bibliography online as a resource for local historians and educators. In the fall, we launched our project website featuring an interactive timeline of Civil Rights history and an inventory map showing all of the sites and buildings we have found so far. If you think we missed any important events or places, please get in touch or you can comment directly on the timeline or inventory as Google Spreadsheets.

23836704794_5927ab1cb2_b

Rally to Save Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage, November 2015. Photo by Eli Pousson.

In addition to these online resources, we’ve organized several tours and programs for Baltimore residents and local students. In November we led a bike tour with stops at the segregated Pool No. 2 in Druid Hill Park, the home of activists Juanita Jackson and Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. on Druid Hill Avenue, and the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge on Eutaw Place where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1964. We also led a tour for a group of students from Digital Harbor High School with stops at the Ebenezer AME Church and Leadenhall Baptist—two of the oldest African American churches in Baltimore with long histories of fighting for justice.

Jackson Mitchell House

Juanita Jackson and Clarence Mitchell House on Druid Hill Avenue. Photo by Eli Pousson.

Our research has uncovered powerful stories from fight against residential housing segregation in the 1910s, the campaign desegregate downtown lunch counters in the 1950s, and activism around economic empowerment and urban renewal in the 1970s. But we know there are many more stories and places that we still need to learn more about. We look forward to continuing our research and working with community residents (and veteran activists) to make sure we preserve these important places from Maryland’s Civil Rights history.

If you are interested in learning more Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage: Looking for Landmarks from the Movement, please sign up for updates through the Baltimore Heritage website or get in touch with Eli Pousson, Director of Preservation and Outreach at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org.

The Common Good: Blacks in Secret Societies in Calvert County, Maryland

By Michael Gayhart Kent, Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

Volumes have been written about the sacrifices and victories of the many men and women who have fought for civil rights.   While the focus is often on individual leaders and national events, many of our black ancestors worked quietly in the shadows to create a better future for their descendents. These unsung heroes, working together within the framework of benevolent, masonic, and fraternal societies, made lasting contributions to their local communities, setting the groundwork for – and engaging in – the struggle for civil rights.  This article examines the presence, impact, and succession of several such African American societies in Calvert County, Maryland, , which is also the subject of an exhibit opening at the Prince Frederick Library on February 6, 2016.

Capture_galilean fishermen_Afro American

The Baltimore Afro-American celebrated the Galilean Fishermen in an article on July 1, 1974, noting a current membership of 500.

Continue reading

A Special Visit to Whitehall

A Special Visit to Whitehall

By Bernadette Pulley-Pruitt, Administrative Support, MHT Office of Preservation Planning and Museum Programs

Rideout Family cemetery at Whitehall

Ridout Family cemetery at Whitehall

Most people know Whitehall outside of Annapolis – if they know it at all – as a beautiful 18th century home and National Historic Landmark. For me, it has a special meaning and connection as the place where some of my ancestors were enslaved by the Ridout Family. When Michael Winn of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church organized a visit with Mr. Orlando Ridout IV and church members to the property’s cemeteries, I jumped at the chance to visit the graves of my family members .

Timothy Harris tombstone, Ridout Family cemetery

Timothy Harris tombstone, Ridout Family cemetery

Buried in the Ridout Family cemetery, my great-great-grandfather Timothy Harris was born into slavery in 1834 and died in 1905. After Emancipation, he continued to work for the Ridouts as a carriage driver and eventually purchased land near Whitehall. He and his wife Mary E. Bailey Harris donated a portion their land to build the now-demolished Skidmore School for African Americans. The epitaph on his tombstone reads “With the Upright Man, thou shalt show thyself upright.”

Amelia Martin tombstone, African American burial ground. Photo credit: Dalyn Huntley

Amelia Martin tombstone, African American burial ground. Photo credit: Dalyn Huntley

On the other side of the fence, adjacent to the Ridout Family cemetery, is an African American burial ground where many of Whitehall’s enslaved are interred. Only one permanent tombstone remains, belonging to Amelia Martin (1878-1899), the daughter of my great-great-grandmother Mary Calvert-Martin, who was also enslaved by the Ridouts. Over time, the name “Calvert” was changed to “Colbert”, and the “Col-Mar” and “Colbert” roads near the property refer to our family.

Portrait of Mary Calvert-Martin

Portrait of Mary Calvert-Martin

Today we do not know how many others are buried in the African American cemetery. Their markers, likely wooden, deteriorated over time or were removed by owners of the Whitehall property. I hope that one day we will be able to identify the graves of those buried there, perhaps with ground-penetrating radar, and erect a plaque in their honor, so that their lives will not be forgotten.

Of course, this is not a story unique to Whitehall, or to my family — these stories and these places exist all over Maryland. Many are threatened by time or neglect or ignorance of what is there. We must do what we can to save them and tell these stories, because we still have so much to learn about ourselves and our histories.

The author with Mr. Orlando

The author with Mr. Orlando “Lanny” Ridout IV

Guest Blog – Old Bohemia Tenant House Curatorship Available

Guest Blog – Old Bohemia Tenant House Curatorship Available

By Peter Morrill, Curator Program Manager, Maryland Department of Natural ResourcesOld Bohemia Tenant House

Do you ever dream about restoring and living in a historic house? Or living on pristine rural land within one of Maryland’s beautiful Wildlife Management Areas?  If so, check out the Department of Natural Resources Resident Curatorship Program.  The Curatorship Program offers historically significant state-owned properties to private individuals for rehabilitation.  In exchange for rehabbing and maintaining the property, curators are given lifetime tenancy – rent free.  The Curatorship Program allows private individuals to breathe new life into significant historic properties which might otherwise be lost. Continue reading