Sunday, December 6, 2015

J is for [Historical] Jerusalem Mill Village

is for [Historical] Jerusalem Mill Village in Harford County (click here for map). 

Little did I know a 45 minute drive would land me in a place so rich in historical preservation. Additionally, the name of the village coordinated PERFECTLY with the month of December and, of course, Christmas. There “are” residents – four (to be exact), but for the most part it is made up of roughly 300 volunteers (more about that later). You see, this 17 acre historical village is actually the headquarters of Gunpowder State Park – the largest park in Maryland. Nearly 50 Eagle Scout projects have been completed here and the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 20, 1987. Additionally, Jerusalem Mill is the most photographed park in the State of Maryland.

During my research, I read the village was holding its 2nd Annual Dickens Christmas Village & Holiday Boutique on this day only. Figuring it would be a very active day with the reenactments and entertainment, I phoned ahead requesting an appointment to speak with one of the volunteers about the history of the village. I was scheduled to meet with Chris, a volunteer for 15 years at the site, in the Visitor’s Center of the
Gristmill which is located on the property.

When I got to the village, the volunteers were preparing for the Christmas celebration. People were walking around in colonial attire – men with their infamous stove-pipe hats, vests, and decorative canes and women with velvet, floor-length hoop skirt dresses and complimentary hats. Later I discovered the volunteers are the only ones who are in character, not the visitors. I found the mill, walked in, and Chris met me with a smile and immediate conversation.
It took me only seconds to happily deduce Chris was the man to talk to about the history of this village. Without a doubt, he is extremely passionate about his job and has a great love of this village and the history behind it. He began by telling me the mill dates back to 1772 as a water powered grain mill and it was in active use until 1961 when the State of Maryland purchased the property, which included the mill, the Blacksmith’s Shop, and the cooperage (the Gun Factory today).

The mill was started by David Lee, who was of Quaker descent, and it was named “Lee’s Merchant Mill”. 
It was here he began milling flour under the “White Silk” label. Much of this flour was shipped to the Caribbean from Joppa, Maryland, which was at one time a MAJOR seaport.  Jerusalem Mill was classified as a large merchant mill and export operation. These large mills used to buy unmilled grain from the seller (paying only in cash), mill the grain, and then own the rights to the flour. There are smaller merchant mills that are privately owned and accept money or trade for milling grains.  

What I found to be extremely interesting was when Chris explained the water wheel at the Jerusalem Mill was not on the exterior of the building – “they” (as there were two wheels), were located in the basement of the mill.
Basement of Grist Mill
Because it gets so cold in Maryland, the wheel could freeze if it was on the outside of the mill, thus stopping production. So, the water from the Little Gunpowder Falls flowed through a channel underneath the mill, which powered the wheels.  

Various members of the Lee family ran the mill until it finally ended up in the hands of Jack Bridges (the final miller) until his death in 1961. He actually converted the blacksmith shop (located across the street from the mill) into his home so he wouldn’t have to walk far to work. It has since reverted back to a working Blacksmith’s Shop. Jack also added a convenience store to the property after recognizing the declining business in milling, which compensated for the decrease in milling income. Chris made mention of the unsubstantiated rumor about Jack selling “Bohemian Beer” at his convenience store, without a permit, for a number of years (teenagers were happy).

Unfortunately, a hurricane in the 1940s destroyed the race (a channel that carried the water to the waterwheel), so the mill was run off electric means for the last 20 years of its active life. 

Following Jacks’ death in 1961, the mill sat vacant for nearly 25 years. In 1985, a committee of six local residents formed the non-profit, all volunteer group named, “Friends of Jerusalem Mill (FOJM)” and embarked on a long journey to recapture the past. They ended up saving the whole village—the state rebuilt (NOT restored) the mill as the headquarters of Gunpowder State Park and used
Program Open Space funding to purchase the rest of the original buildings.

Chris told me the FOJM razed the buildings and meticulously rebuilt each in stages to today’s code. The stones and foundation are the original parts of the building and everything above the stones is a well-researched copy. When the undertaking began, the buildings were in such shambles a few of the locals thought the committee was “delusional” with their ideas. The FOJM persevered and as a result, 10 years later Jerusalem Mill is now one of the most intact historic mill villages in Maryland.
Aerial View of Village
In 2011, the FOJM earned national designation as a
Preserve America Steward in part for filling an unmet need in heritage preservation with volunteer efforts.

The village is open 365 days a year (weather permitting). As mentioned earlier, it is made up primarily of close to 300 volunteers. However, Chris told me there are only about 30 active volunteers and he is really hoping more will decide to become active in the future. He told me about one such volunteer; feisty Agatha was a 70-something when she was actively volunteering at the mill. She is now 102 years of age and no longer lives in Maryland. She would give the youngsters (40-somethings) “a run for their money” when pulling the weeds out from around the buildings!  

If you visit on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.), you can watch the village demonstrate its Living History Program. This is when you can get a sense of daily life from the 1770s (when the Gristmill opened) through the 1930s. On Sunday afternoons, interpreters in the buildings behind the Gristmill demonstrate woodworking, hearth and open fire cooking, gardening, sewing, and other activities essential to daily life in times past.

Inside General Store

Chris proceeded to tell me about the different buildings on the property.  The General Store made its mark in history because of a 1864 Civil War engagement known as “Gilmor’s Raid” (there is an annual June reenactment). In short, a band of Confederate cavalry under the command of Colonel Harry W. Gilmor swooped down and "requisitioned" nearly $1,000 worth of goods and horses.  

Chris then told me about the Gun Factory.  The Gun Factory was originally a "Cooperage".  This was where wooden barrels and casks were made.  It was allegedly used during the Revolutionary War for the production of Black Walnut gunstocks for the Maryland Militia.  Chris then made mention of another unsubstantiated rumor that the Quakers  made these gunstocks.  Remember, it was a Quaker village.  The Quakers making gunstocks?  Ones who are a PEACEFUL people? Maybe they made them, maybe they didn't. It would have brought revenue to the village, right?  Unfortunately, there is not any official paper trail, so the mystery remains.  In later years, the building housed at different times a cabinetmaker's shop, a cider press, a cannery, and a residence.

Bank Barn

Working our way over to the bank barn, Chris explained that it was the largest bank barn in Harford County built in 1803. What is a bank barn?  What is unbelievably devastating was that it was burned by an arsonist in the late 1950s/early 1960s AND the act was done by a volunteer fireman. The FOJM is in the process of rebuilding the barn and once finished, revenue could probably be brought in by holding events in the building that would be otherwise cancelled by inclement weather.

Speaking of inclement weather, it was at this point Chris proceeded to tell me that the mill was built on a flood plain. It makes sense in that the mill needed the water to work its magic. The problem is the park is usually underwater on an average of three times per year. To keep the water “in check”, a dam was built up stream. However, if the water got high enough during a bad storm, the dam would break and the area flooded. The mill would have to stop production as no dam meant no milling. Also, during inclement weather, sometimes huge tree timbers close to 30 feet long would come barreling down the river. Chris saw this happen on a couple of occasions and to this day cannot figure out where those timbers came from.  

The activities for the 2nd Annual Dickens Christmas Village & Holiday Boutique were nearly beginning and I did not want to miss anything.

Chris suggested I wander over to the Gun Factory for some hot apple cider and to see a woman reenacting the making of a festive Christmas dinner for her family. Chris also suggested I attend the “Christmas Carol” reading in the tent located next to the Blacksmith’s Shop.

I thanked Chris for all of the invaluable information he provided and walked over to the Gun Factory located just behind the mill.  

The Gun Factory was quaint. I mentioned earlier the building held many roles - one of which was a residence. I remembered Chris telling me there was a family of 10 living in there at one time.  
Gun Factory
When I arrived, I could not believe how a family of that size actually lived in that little house! But they did, and they made it work. Inside I found the “lady of the manor” joyfully grinding up potatoes for the Christmas dinner, which by the way, smelled heavenly. She had several other dishes she prepared sitting on the table where she was working. There was also something cooking in a pot hanging over the open fire in the fireplace.  Did I detect
Chestnuts roasting over that open fire, as well? Santa was in the house having a discussion with the “lord of the manor”. The eight children must have been outside playing. On another table sat some hot apple cider and cookies for the taking. Yum! I took a cup of hot apple cider and ventured outside to the vegetable garden where I could envision the plethora of good eating when the growing season began.  

I walked over to the Blacksmith’s Shop

Blacksmith's Shop
where the blacksmith (Jeff) was giving a brief overview on the history of the trade, all while actively making something out of steel.  According to Jeff, blacksmiths used to have to buy their own steel to make their wares to sell. Jeff showed us the different sizes of anvils he used. We learned about a post leg vise, the fuel blacksmiths use (charcoal, wood, gas), and that the temperature of the fire needs to reach 2,400 degrees in order to melt the steel. Additionally, all of us were educated on the fact that blacksmiths do…not….shoe….horses. It is a common misconception. Farriers are the ones who shoe the horses and the blacksmiths make the shoes. Jeff also mentioned that the youngest blacksmith he knows of was 12 years old when they began the trade.
Finally, in true coincidental fashion, Jeff found out his grandfather also worked at Jerusalem Mill as a blacksmith. However, Jeff never knew his grandfather. He found a blacksmithing book written by an author in Baltimore, was leafing through the book before he started the read, and saw an old picture of his grandfather standing in front of the Jerusalem Mill Blacksmith’s Shop. It meant more than ever to Jeff he was able to work at Jerusalem Mill in order to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.  

It was nearing 2 p.m. – time for the “Christmas Carol” reading! I walked into the tent and took my seat. The reading began shortly thereafter.  There were two excellent narrators who took roughly 45 minutes to read the story and it was extremely enjoyable. It was interesting to think about the fact that at one time stories read out loud used to be a major source of entertainment.  

It was time to head home. I walked back over to the mill and once again thanked Chris for taking the time to talk to me about the village. I told him I liked Jerusalem Mill for a couple of reasons: (1) it was an entire village of history, not a just a building or two tucked away in a modern day community; and (2) I liked that there was not a place to eat nor souvenir shops on the premises. Things like that only turn places like this into “amusement parks”. 

Bottom line.....this village is a work in progress and is filled with charm and the love of the volunteers who will let anyone experience a bit of the past in the present. Visit the property yourself, or give the gift of volunteering some of your time to help rebuild a hidden treasure.  I don't think the experience will disappoint. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

I is for Inner Harbor (Baltimore)

I is for the Inner Harbor (Baltimore) (click here for map).

This is one of Baltimore’s most popular neighborhoods, which dates back over 300 years, and it took me less than 30 minutes to drive there. The Baltimore Inner Harbor is occupied by 235 residents who are situated amidst Baltimore City's premier tourist attraction and one of the city's crown jewels. Additionally, the name "Inner Harbor" is used not just for the water, but for the surrounding area of the city. The approximate street boundaries are: President Street to the east, Lombard Street to the north, Greene Street to the west, and Key Highway to the south.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is one of the United States’ oldest seaports. It is a popular tourist attraction and a National landmark, as well. For over a number of decades, the Inner Harbor has undergone a serious facelift. It is hard to remember now that this same Inner Harbor is the focal point of an old “Rustbelt” city that was once considered D.O.A. by travel agents, and was the source of a collective inferiority complex shared by almost 1 million mostly blue-collar citizens.  

So, in 1963, the city began to redevelop the area. Corporate headquarters and hotels were built around the shoreline of the Inner Harbor, in addition to a public park and promenade for leisure activity and community gatherings.

In 1976, following the rendezvous of Tall Ships in New York for the U.S. Bicentennial, eight ships from other nations visited Baltimore where they attracted a huge number of tourists. This interest helped spur the development of other tourist attractions – including the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, and the Harborplace Festival Marketplace, which opened in 1980.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to the more specific Baltimore Inner Harbor history, it is important to note that this harbor was the second leading port of entry for European immigrants after New York City's Ellis Island. Close to 2,000,000 immigrants arrived in Baltimore between the 19th and 20th centuries.  

I was anxious to begin my visit when I arrived to this bustling neighborhood, but did not wish to frequent the local tourist haunts. So, I researched the area to find out if any of the current day structures may have replaced something from “back in the day”. I was surprised to discover a couple of the popular attractions were actually constructed over, around, and/or next to the Inner Harbor’s old Finger Piers. You are probably asking yourself (and me), what are Finger Piers? In short, Finger Piers are piers built at ports having small tidal ranges, such as the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The principal advantage of these piers was to give a greater available dock length for ships (merchant, clipper, steamers) to berth against. The Baltimore Inner Harbor used to house six of these piers, but currently only five remain.  

So, I decided I would “peer” into the history of the Baltimore Inner Harbor piers……how was that play on words? Once I crossed Pratt Street onto the promenade, I began my pier search.  

As I navigated through a small crowd of people and walked over to where I thought Pier 1 would be located, I looked up to see the
USS Constellation looking back at me in all her glory.

Jackpot! I realized I was standing at Pier 1. For those of you who do not know about this beautiful frigate, the USS Constellation is the last sail-only warship designed and built by the United States Navy. She was constructed and launched in 1854 (in Baltimore) and is the second United States Navy ship to carry the name. She has been docked in Baltimore at Pier 1 since 1955. The ship is open to the public and has a museum.  

I walked over to where, decidedly, Pier 2 should be located. There is no longer a pier and I could not find anything during my research as to what may have happened to it.  

Pier 3 now houses the National Aquarium.  
However, from 1840-1962, Pier 3 was the dock for “The Baltimore Steam Packet Company”, also known as the “Old Bay Line”. This was an American steamship line which provided overnight service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia. The trip would take approximately 12 hours and a one-way ticket would cost $3.00. It was the last surviving overnight steamship passenger service in the United States. The classic Old Bay seasoning is named after this steamship line, as well.

The Inner Harbor’s renovation brought the National Aquarium to Pier 3 (actually it “is” Pier 3). Honestly, this is a gem of the Inner Harbor and of Maryland, and one of the best aquariums in the Nation. The aquarium not only provides fun/educational material for kids of all ages, but it also assists the State by advocating for things like sustainable fisheries and incorporating more wetlands. It is famous for its tropical rain forest exhibit, its efforts to saving marine mammals, and its large shark tanks. This aquarium has an annual attendance of 1.5 million people, holds more than 2,200,000 gallons of water, and has more than 17,000 specimens representing over 750 species.  

On to Pier 4……the
Pratt Street Power Plant.Built between 1900 and 1909, this historic former power plant held such names as: Pier Four Power Plant, the Power Plant, and Pratt Street Station.  The structure is made up of three buildings and is one of only 11 buildings to survive the Baltimore Fire of 1904. It once served as the main source of power for the United Railways and Electric Company, and later served as a central steam plant for the Consolidated Gas, Electric Light and Power Company - a predecessor of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BG&E).  BG&E finally ceased use of the building in 1973. 

After the electric plant was retired from service, the building was vacant for several years. It was eventually acquired by the city of Baltimore in the mid-late 1980s. It has since been redeveloped and has received tenants, such as: the first ESPN Zone (in the country), Phillips Seafood, Hard Rock Café, Barnes & Noble, Gold's Gym, and loft offices.  Maryland Art Place, a contemporary art gallery for Maryland artists, is located in the northwest corner. It also lends its name to the nearby Power Plant Live! night life complex. 

A crossing of a little bridge brought me to Pier 5. 
Happily, I found two structures with historical significance. The first was the U.S.C.G.C. Taney. This is a famed Coast Guard cutter built in the mid-1930s and is notable for being the last ship floating that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The ship is named for Roger B. Taney, who served as: U.S. Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during his lifetime. The ship itself served during World War II and the Vietnam War and now acts as a memorial and museum. The beautiful walkway in front of the cutter was built with hundreds of bricks imprinted with the names of U.S Coast Guard men and women who dedicated their lives in the service of our country.
The second treasure located at Pier 5 is the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse – a round, raised building painted bright red. It is located at the very end of end of the pier and situated in the middle of a brick walkway, making it easy to take lots of pictures. The lighthouse is the last of its kind in Maryland. It was constructed in the "screw-pile" style, meaning it sits on piles that are meant to be screwed into sandy or muddy sea or river bottoms rather than on a foundation.

Originally installed on a shallow shoal at the mouth of the Patapsco River, the isolated lighthouse was manned by three keepers at a time and marked the river entrance for over 130 years before being decommissioned in 1987 and transported to the Inner Harbor. Now it is a museum and is free to all visitors.

A hop, skip, and a jump from Pier 5 and I had arrived at Pier 6. Oh, if only it were summertime! As I looked over at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion (which is actually the entire pier), I remembered the many outdoor concerts I attended at this venue.

The Pavilion opened in 1981 and has featured a wide variety of music acts ranging from rock to jazz. Its location allows for excellent views of Baltimore's skyline. Also, it is the perfect way to enjoy a nice summer night with people who are in the mood for a good time. As it is on the other side from all the activity in the Inner Harbor, it is a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of thousands of people swarming about. You really do feel secluded. Pier 6 was a nice trip down memory lane.

I looked at the time and decided I would head over to
Miss Shirley’s Café (founded in 2005) for lunch. I have to say…..I have lived in Maryland since 1989 and have never eaten there. Additionally, everyone I know who has eaten there has given Miss Shirley’s a stellar review. 

When I arrived, I saw there was a line. Pffffhhttt……what’s a little line, right? Oh, how about an hour long wait! Wow! It MUST be good! So, I decided to stay and wait. I was given a menu to read while I waited. What to have…..what to have……so many choices!!! Roughly an hour later, I was finally called (well, buzzed - they give you a remote buzzer good for 2 blocks if you choose to walk around or shop nearby). I was seated and my order was taken a few minutes later. You have absolutely zero excuse for not ordering right away – you had a menu earlier that you got to read and re-read for an hour, right? I settled on half a salad and half a sandwich. About 20 minutes later I was served.
People…..words cannot express enough how much all of the items hanging on the wall (awards, framed magazine covers and articles depicting lead articles about the food in Miss Shirley’s) were well-deserved by this restaurant. And it was not only me with my opinion about my food, either – others had that same euphoric look on their faces that I did as they were eating their meals! I forced myself to eat as slowly as possible so I could savor every single morsel I ate. Sadly, the experience came to an end and I had to depart the premises. I walked a few blocks to where my car was parked and went home. I will MOST DEFINITELY be back to Miss Shirley’s café!!!

As I was driving home, I reflected on the day’s events. It was nice to do something a little bit different from what I normally do when I visit the beautiful Baltimore Inner Harbor. I enjoyed going back in time and trying to imagine what the Inner Harbor was like operating primarily as a seaport. In looking at the piers, I was glad to see they were improved upon, and not simply removed as the city was reconstructed. Could it be the piers were left to remind the city of its over 300 year history, and how far it has come with regards to urban development? Or could it be the city just needed the pier space to build upon?  

I hope it’s not the latter…..

Saturday, October 31, 2015

H is for Hooper's Island, Maryland

H is for Hooper’s Island AND Halloween (note the date) - an eerie coincidence how the letters lined up for this blog!!!  
This two hour drive took me to a place that is simply where big city perks are not welcome. It is a place where residents happily embrace nature and respect the resources of the Chesapeake Bay. Hooper's Island is one of the oldest settled areas in Maryland (the oldest settled in the county) and is also a place rich in history and in heart.  

Hooper’s Island is located in Dorchester County a few miles south of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. It is actually a chain of three small islands - two of which are still populated. This community has very deep roots running back to the mid-seventeenth century when Henry Hooper found it to be a nice place for a tobacco plantation in 1669. Wikipedia reports the early residents of what is now known as Hooper’s Island were the Yaocomaco People. According to some local folklore, the land was purchased from this tribe of Indians for five woolen blankets.

In total, the population is 441 and the combined span of the islands is roughly 20 miles long. The Hooper's Island chain can be found in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. The principal community, of about 400 people, is known as Fishing Creek.
Due to the geographical location of Hooper’s Island, the residents have to be self-sufficient and independent. Accordingly, the islanders maintained strong family and community ties. Once families moved to Hooper’s Island, they stayed for generations. According to one source, for 300 years the population can be traced to just 10 families.  

When I arrived at the first of the Hooper’s Island chain (Upper Hooper’s Island – Fishing Creek), I decided to drive around a bit before having lunch. I discovered quickly that there is really only one main road and the little offshoots I thought were other roads...were actually named driveways. Silly street signs! I also found that nearly every house had a hearty collection of crab pots stacked neatly in the yard. So, back in the day, President Herbert Hoover was obviously promising Hooper's Island residents, “a crab in every pot”! Haha! 

Crab Bushel Baskets
Upper Hooper’s Island is the busiest of the three islands housing a majority of the residents, churches, a general store, a restaurant, and a few businesses (mainly crabbing/fishing).

I drove a few miles and crossed a bridge leading me to the second island (Middle Hooper’s Island - Hoopersville) - same main road, but not many offshoots.  What I did see was more of the pristine water which surrounded the islands, waterfowl, and a smattering of homes.  I went a few more miles and the road quickly came to an end.  I am not sure if there was more of Middle Hooper’s Island continuing, but since I could not see beyond the brush and trees in front of me, I turned around and started the trek back to Upper Hooper’s Island to have lunch.

I found out the third island (Lower Hooper’s Island – Applegarth) is now a marshland – no inhabitants. However, it does house the Hooper’s Island graveyards, but access is only by way of boat as the bridge to the island was washed out during a storm in 1933 and was never rebuilt. The Hooper’s Island graveyards were identified as “an endangered Maryland treasure” by the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000.

The restaurant I was headed to was named “Old Salty’s”.  On the way there, I passed several businesses – The Charles H. Parks Seafood Packing House and the ever famous (at least on the East Coast of the United States) Phillips Seafood.

The Charles H. Parks Seafood Packing House is probably the oldest seafood processing company in Dorchester County and has been located in Fishing Creek since the late 1920s. Originally, the company exclusively packed oysters and later added crabmeat. Unfortunately, I was not able to tour the establishment.

Phillips Seafood (plant) was my next stop. Some history: this business dates back to 1914 as a family-owned company (started by Augustus E. Phillips) on Hooper’s Island. 42 years later, his son and wife took a surplus of crabs from Hooper’s Island to Ocean City, Maryland opening the first “crab shack”. It has since evolved into seven restaurants and a growing network of airport franchises around the country. 
The restaurant is still family-owned and operated.  It is in this plant that blue crabs are processed.  Tours are given on occasion, but unfortunately, I was not able to reach anyone to schedule a tour in advance (trend?). 

My plan was to stop by the Hooper's Island General Store as well, but not before eating lunch at “Old Salty’s”. Walking in the building (which is actually a former schoolhouse), I found the place to be warm and inviting. There was a bar at the end of a long hallway and the restaurant was located at the other end.
The hostess/waitress led the way and I was encouraged to sit by the window as it was such a beautiful day. The view of the Chesapeake Bay, azure sky, and changing leaves was spectacular. There were local artists’ paintings on the walls (a few were for sale) and several people in quiet conversation. Looking over the menu, I, of course, decided to order the broiled crab cake. How could I not?

When the plate arrived, it was clear I made a VERY good choice. My taste buds would soon be privy to LUMPS of crab with no fillers and very minimal seasoning.  I could not detect any Old Bay (sorry, not a big fan) and the taste was what a crab cake should taste like. With a happy tummy, a “top off” of water, and the bill paid, I was on my way to the Hooper’s Island General Store.      

The Hooper’s Island General Store is LITERALLY a one-stop-shop. You do not have to “want for a thing” when you are in this establishment. You have: a gas station, a Post Office (which is a mailbox next to a desk with mailing envelopes), a hardware store, a grocery, ice cream bar, café, beer/liquor, and some clothing.   As you can see, a cooler of fruit and vegetables is directly across from the spray paint!

The Hooper's Island General Store is truly a very unique place and I am glad I decided to stop in for a visit. I found all the employees very friendly and helpful, especially when I asked for directions to the Hooper’s Island Lighthouse.  Ah, the lighthouse. This was something I was anxious to see, as well. However, the lady I spoke to at the General Store said I would have to go back to Middle Hooper’s Island to see it and that it would be a speck - would be difficult to get a picture. She “did” tell me that since it was a clear day I might have a better view of it, but it would still be a speck. I thanked her for the information and left on my quest.  

I ventured back towards the bridge connecting the upper and middle islands. When I was finally able to see the lighthouse, I discovered the lady was right – it was a speck, as it was three miles away.  In this photo, the tiny speck = the Hooper Lighthouse! 
I read that this particular lighthouse was pretty unique, so it piqued my curiosity about the history of the lighthouse.  This is an excerpt taken from the Chesapeake Chapter, U.S. Lighthouse Society:

Hooper Island Lighthouse is one of only five lights constructed in the Bay during the 1900s. It is a caisson style light which was first lit in 1902. The height of the light above the water is 63 feet. The original 1902 lens was a fourth-order Fresnel manufactured by F. Babier & Company, Paris, in 1888. In 1904, the light was changed to a fixed white with an eclipse every 15 seconds. This light was automated in 1961 and the keepers removed. In 1976, the fourth-order fresnel was stolen and the Coast Guard replaced it with a solar optic. The fog bell, manufactured by McShane of Baltimore in 1901, was changed to a Cunningham air diaphragm foghorn in the late 1930s. The fog bell was retained as a backup. Hooper Island Lighthouse is the only cast-iron caisson lighthouse in Maryland with a watch room and lantern surmounted on the tower. 

It was getting late, so I decided to start my drive back home. However, I had one more place to find before I departed the area – the Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture Company. 

I already knew I was not going to see the inside of this place either as tours only run through the summer. However, I discovered this company creates artificial reefs and transplants millions of oysters from their facility into the Bay. Oysters can be grown quickly and the process will make the oysters less susceptible to diseases which have devastated natural oyster populations in years past. The stability of aquaculture is appealing as the company is creating a sustainable product through an operation that is not subject to the same regulations as public fisheries. According to the owner, Johnny Shockley, "It's a private endeavor. We're not taking from the natural brood stocks; we're creating a renewable resource" (The Star Democrat, March 6, 2011).  Additionally, the company harvested 1 million of its branded Chesapeake Gold Oysters in the first year. That is about 850,000 more than Shockley harvested yearly as a conventional waterman.

Although, the day came up short with regards to tours, I found solace in the slower pace of the day and the beauty of everything around me. The outside world has not rapidly influenced the way of life on the island.  In the 21st century, many places find it difficult to remain isolated.  However, Hooper’s Island maintains a sense of pride with regards to their independence and self-sufficiency.  

I found it to be a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

G is for Glen Echo, Maryland

G is for Glen Echo, Maryland. 

A less than 1 hour drive got me to this little hideaway along the Potomac River (click
here for map). Incorporated in 1904, Glen Echo is one of the quaint, historical suburbs of Washington, DC. Additionally, the town boasts one of finest cultural resources in the Washington, D.C. area – Glen Echo Park. This Park is managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture in cooperation with Montgomery County and the National Park Service (NPS). Glen Echo’s 255 residents are pretty much living among an educational goldmine.  

Allow me to tell you a bit more about the Park and everything else I experienced during my visit to this unforgettable place. Glen Echo Park was the” brainchild” of Edward and Edwin Baltzley, who came up with the name circa 1888. The Baltzleys were inventors, industrialists, and real estate developers hoping to build upon the banks of the Potomac River a suburban community free of the urban pollution of late-nineteenth century Washington. Their advertising booklet for the town was titled "Glen Echo on the Potomac: The Washington Rhine". 

Glen Echo Park was originally formed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly – the 53rd (an explanation of a Chautauqua will follow) and then operated as an amusement park until 1968. On 1 April 1970, it was transferred to the United States Government in a land exchange. It eventually became part of the Department of the Interior administered by the NPS. Since 1971, it has become a culturally renowned center; whereas, the NPS has been offering year-round activities in dance, theater, and the arts. The NPS resurrected the original plans for this Park making it a Chautauqua. Per
Wikipedia, the definition of a Chautauqua is:

"An adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Named after Chautauqua Lake where the first was held, Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. A Chautauqua Assembly brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Former US President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America".

Intrigued? The NPS offers park history tours and other programs. Additionally, the Park offers hundreds of classes and workshops in the visual and performing arts and is home to thirteen resident artists and arts organizations. But, aside from the Park’s Spanish ballroom, many public festivals, children’s theaters, and a social dance program, the Park houses something which became the main reason for my trip to this small town……an antique Dentzel carousel.

I love carousels. I think it is because it is one of those rides which has been around forever – it stood the test of time. Anyway, I digress – my apologizes. I was happy to read Glen Echo Park has a carousel tour, so I called ahead to get on the list. Ranger Kevin was to be my guide. My 10:00 a.m. proved to be too early for some as I was the only person on the tour (rides did not begin until 12:00). Ranger Kevin let me in the building and proceeded to give me some interesting facts about this carousel and carousels, in general:

In the early 1800s, The Dentzel Carousel Company began as Michael Dentzel’s wagon making shop in southern Germany. It blossomed into a cabinet making and carousel making business in the 1850s when Michael’s son, Gustav Dentzel, immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Glen Echo Park Dentzel was made in 1921.

The Glen Echo Park carousel is called a "menagerie carousel" because it is made up of many different animals. The 40 horses, 4 rabbits, 4 ostriches, 2 bunnies, a giraffe, a deer, a lion, and a tiger stand in three concentric rings. The Dentzel carvers were noted for their realism with carving of the veins and muscles of the animals. 

As mentioned, there are three rows of animals. The larger animals are on the outside row. They are called “Standers” and normally used for adults. “Standers” do not move up and down. The two inside rows are normally used for children. These are the animals you typically see moving up and down.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Grab the Brass Ring”? Brass ring dispensers were developed during the heyday of the carousel in the United States — roughly 1880 to 1921. At one time, the riders on the outside row of horses were often given a little challenge as a way to draw interest, build excitement, or perhaps as an enticement to sit on the outside row of horses, which frequently did not move up and down. Most rings were iron, but one or two per ride were made of brass; if a rider managed to grab a brass ring, it could be redeemed for a free ride. As the carousel began to turn, rings were fed to one end of a wooden arm that was suspended above the riders. Riders hoped that the timing of the carousel rotation would place them within reach of the dispenser when a ring (and preferably a brass ring) was available. Unfortunately, with the liability of injury associated with the game, the brass ring dispenser is no longer used with today’s carousels.

The animals are highly decorated on the side facing outwards to attract more customers. 

When the park closed, the different rides were sent to different parks. When Ms. Nancy Long (now a Councilwoman in Glen Echo) heard a buyer was going to ship this carousel to California, she asked the buyer if it could remain in Glen Echo Park if she was able to raise $80,000.00 in one month. She was successful and handed it over to the NPS with their promise they would not use it as a museum piece – it would have to continue to be operational.

The carousel moves to the music of a Wurlitzer band organ. Only 12 Wurlitzer organs of this style are known to exist. It plays like a player piano, which uses paper rolls. The Glen Echo Park band organ has over 100 rolls with dozens of songs on each.

The “Bunny” seat on the carousel played a significant role in history. Due to the timing in our history, the Park was segregated. In June 1960, five black patrons attempted to ride the carousel, gathered/sat on the Bunny seat, and staged a sit-in. They were protesting the long-standing segregation policies of the amusement park. Those five individuals were arrested and charged with trespassing on private property. It became a summer-long picketing campaign following the arrests, which involved hundreds of citizens of all ages and backgrounds. In March 1961, the park opened on a fully-integrated basis. 

So, you know the little door in the middle of the carousel which is painted to blend with the scenery of the center wall? I, seriously, have always wondered what was in the room in the center of the carousel. It has been the secret I have been unable to solve for the entire “XX” years of my life…..UNTIL NOW!!!! I had a “connection” – I had an “in”! RANGER KEVIN!!!! I completely forgot about the door until he turned around to lock up the building after the tour was over and realized he left the lights on. He walked towards the carousel and I realized what he was going to do. HE…..OPENED………THE…..DOOR!!! I turned to look in the room - to see what I was dying to see for the last “XX” years, and?

I thanked Ranger Kevin for the wealth of information he provided and de…ci…ded……what? I failed to tell you what was in the room, didn’t I? Well, I have to tell you, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I certainly didn’t think it would be a light switch, maintenance equipment, and the unpainted insides/working of a carousel. What a bummer! But then, again, what else could there possibly be, right? 

With the Nancy Drew mystery solved, I ventured over to the
Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal to visit Lock #7. If you are not familiar with how a canal and canal lock works, here is a short explanation. Canals are vital for allowing waterways to follow the terrain rather than having to cut through it. A canal lock (design from 1828) connects two bodies of water at different elevations by creating a sort of water elevator. The water inside the lock can be raised and lowered independently allowing ships to make the transition between elevations without the danger of traveling down rapids or the difficulty of motoring uphill. To raise a ship, the water in the lock is lowered to match the water in the lower canal. The ship moves from the canal into the lock, where a set of doors seals it off from the lower canal. Gates at the other end of the lock are opened, allowing water to flow down from above and raising the water level. When the water levels are equalized, the doors in the far end open, allowing the ship to move out into the upper canal. The process is simply reversed for ships traveling into a lower canal.

Some specifics about Lock #7 are as follows. The date indicates the date when the lock was completed. It often took a year to build the lock and cost about $10,000.00.

NAME. Chatuaqua Lock


DATE. September 1829

LIFT. 8 feet

Please click
here for an informative, virtual tour of the locks on the C&O Canal.

I was getting hungry, but looked at the time and realized Ranger Kevin was giving a group tour of the
Clara Barton House in 20 minutes. So, lunch was just going to have to wait! Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross and lived the last 15 years of her life in Glen Echo. She lived until she was 90 years of age. Her house was amazing. This vast, 14,000 square foot house with 38 rooms was a house for Clara and her volunteers, was the first permanent house of the American Red Cross, and served as a warehouse to hold supplies (has more than 50 closets). Ranger Kevin provided some very interesting facts about this house:

Clara Barton was extremely frugal. She used muslin cloth to put on her ceilings and walls as plaster was too expensive.

She set-up/designed six shelters (massive) to house people misplaced during natural disasters. This house in Glen Echo mirrored the design.

The front room in the house was the Living Room for people who did not live in the house. They were guests who would drop by to pay her a visit. If the individual was seated in that particular room, the visit would last no more than 20 minutes. If she wanted the individual to stay longer, they would retreat to the Drawing Room.

The two red crosses in the windows were made of stained glass and made large enough so people from a distance knew where to go in time of need.

There are 408 National parks in the United Sates. This is the first one dedicated to a woman and it was dedicated back in 1975.

At the beginning of the account of my journey, I mentioned two individuals - Edward and Edwin Baltzley. In 1899, the Baltzleys rented the park to the Glen Echo Company, who put in a carousel (not today’s Dentzel), a bowling alley, a band pavilion, and picnic grounds. But in 1903, deeply in debt and with liens against the property, the brothers finally let it fall into the hands of the building association holding the first trust. Alonzo P. Shaw, who had built the huge elephant at Coney Island, was brought in to manage the park. He installed a Ferris wheel in Clara Barton's front yard and a roller coaster which would come screeching by her window. He was hoping to drive her out of her house so he could turn it into a hotel. Clara Barton was happy to see him replaced.

I feel extremely fortunate I had the opportunity to visit this house today as it will be closed for 1 to 2 years beginning next month for more restoration. Although there was not any furniture in any of the rooms, the picture boards provided me enough insight as to how the rooms looked when the house was occupied.

This was another exceptional tour given by Ranger Kevin. I thanked him, again, and wandered over to the Glen Echo Cafe, which was located by the carousel. The sandwich and small salad I ordered definitely did not disappoint. The staff was courteous, very accommodating, and took great care in making sure every order they filled was to the customer’s satisfaction. I finished eating and walked over to the carousel where it was filled with children laughing to their heart’s content. The adults looked like they were having a good time, as well. As I was looking at the carousel and listening to the Band Organ, I found myself experiencing a bit of the past in the present. I could only imagine the crowds the park drew when it was fully functioning as an amusement park back in the 1800s.

As I made the journey home, I kept thinking about the day’s events. Glen Echo is another one of those towns right down the road, waiting to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated. Mission complete.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

F is for Friendsville, Maryland

F is for Friendsville, Maryland.  
My journey to this little gem took close to 3 hours, but it was well worth the drive (click here for a map).  And no kidding – Friendsville is one of those towns you literally enter RIGHT as you exit the highway to get gas.  So, unless you wander past the gas station, you would miss out on the big adventures this exciting town has to offer.  Seated roughly 5 miles from the West Virginia border and in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, the Friendsville residents happily embrace the quiet, laid-back lifestyle, yet still keep the basics of modern day amenities. 

Located in Garrett County, Friendsville was founded in 1765 and finally incorporated in 1902.  Friendsville is actually a Municipality – 1 of 8 in the County.  In short, Municipalities are towns or cities that are self-governing.  Most commonly, they have been incorporated by an act of the General Assembly, though sometimes by referendum.  There are 480 residents and the town proper covers .91 square miles.  Some background on the town (from the town pamphlet):

“John Friend was the first English settler who came to what is Garrett County before the Revolution.  When John Friend and his companions traveled up the Yough River from Turkeyfoot in the mid-1700s they found a lush valley with abundant wild-life and plant food.  The Shawnee Indians, who were encamped here, called it the Hunter’s Bowl.  John was able to communicate that he wanted to bring his family and live here.  Permission was granted.  There was a peaceful co-existence until the area became heavily populated with white people forcing the Shawnee Indians to the West.  In the 1820s, the iron industry brought more people, coal mining brought the railroad and lumbering brought enough prosperity to support three hotels, a department store, restaurants, saloons, and even an opera house.  The removal of the railroad when the Yough Dam was built coincided with WWII.  Many young people left allowing the Town of Friendsville to go back to sleep until Interstate 68 and the Yough River brought back new life and people.  Many of Friend’s descendents live in Garrett County today, and the headquarters and library of the Friend Family Association are in Friendsville because of this connection.”

Several months ago, a friend mentioned on social media if anyone was ever visiting Friendsville the first order of business was to have lunch at the Water Street Café and to tell his friend Chris (Proprietor) “hello” from him.  I researched the Friendsville population, found it met my criteria of small towns (less than 500 people), and decided to put the visit on my town visit in August.  So, in addition to adding Friendsville to my small town collection, I was looking forward to eating at a place one of my friends recommended. 

Once I passed the “Welcome to Friendship” sign, I immediately figured out why my friend even drove the distance to this place.  It was because…….ah, again!  You will have to wait until I finish eating for me to continue with my adventure.  Sorry ‘bout that!  Back to the café……the Water Street Café was all my friend said it would be.  Not only was it located across the street from a river (I actually might say, THE river), it had an eclectic /new age vibe, small menu, organic, and the nicest, down –to-earth owners.  My order was a veggie wrap – simple, but delicious.  I am not sure if it was the atmosphere (river scene, fresh mountain air, organic filling) making it so tasty, but, again, the recommendation was “spot on.”  When I mentioned my friend to Chris, he immediately lit up and had nothing but good things to say.  We chatted a few minutes about things to do/see in the town, I finished my wrap, thanked him for his hospitality, and said my goodbyes. 

I have not forgotten my promise to tell you about what draws visitors from all over the world to this small town.  Oh, I added the words “from all over the world”, didn’t I?  I apologize, Readers, but as it was an absolutely gorgeous day (blue sky, sunny, not overly hot), I decided to head on over to the Kendall Trail (one of Chris’ recommendations) for a short hike along the river.  So, I do not want to talk about the “draw”, yet!  Anyway, the Kendall Trail is a short, but lovely (out and back – 3 miles round trip) flat trail running along the river.  It follows a 1890s era rail bed to an old logging community called Kendall.  Little remains of the town of Kendall, but in its heyday this was a busy mining and lumber town.  As I was short on time, I only walked 1 mile round trip.  However, it was as if time stood still – I watched a father and his small son skip stones in the river; listened to only the cicadas, birds, and the flowing water; saw a couple of young boys catch fish from the back deck of a old house; and I only encountered one other person on the trail.  I kept thinking to myself I really wished I could bottle that experience. 

So, here is the scoop about Friendsville’s draw.  Do you enjoy white water rafting?  Do you like kayaking?  Specifically, World Class Whitewater?  My friend (the one who recommended the Water Street Café) does, which explains the draw to the town and explains the “no problem” drive he takes to get out to Friendsville.  And the river I have been referring to earlier?  It’s the Youghiogheny (Yough) River – specifically, the Upper Yough.   

The Upper Yough is the “one of the crown jewels of East Coast whitewater rafting.  It is the only Class V whitewater rafting river in Maryland and is the best steep, technical continuous whitewater on the East Coast.  Summer time Class V whitewater is a real treat, especially when it is available three times a week from April until October.  Water is released from Deep Creek Lake into the Youghiogheny River Gorge to make this rafting trip possible.  The important thing to remember is the Upper Yough can ONLY be run on dam release .  Releases are generally on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays but the exact days do fluctuate.  River guides and local kayakers also refer to the Upper Yough as the "Dream Stream" – people actually arrange their work schedules around these water release.  To take an excerpt from the above attached:

“The section of river we raft is eleven miles long and has five major Class V rapids that are back to back.  The river drops in gradient at 118' per mile.  The steepest section is the Miracle Mile which drops at 211' per mile.  It starts with a couple miles of the Warm-Ups.  The Warm-Ups give you, your guide, and your crew a chance to find your rhythm before hitting the more intense rapids downstream.  Then after a few Class III-IV rapids, you come up to the Miracle Mile, a solid mile of Class V rapids where the river drops over 115 feet.  This is [truly] World Class Whitewater. Our expert guides command smaller four person crafts with skill, timing and precision to navigate the endless rapids.  This is an awesome raft ride that will meet and exceed your expectations.  The Upper Youghiogheny River is a dam controlled river that is only able to be rafted during natural flows in the spring rainy season or on a release of water from the dam.  This is a unique factor about the river so scheduling your trip is a must.”

If you have not guessed already, previous rafting experience is strongly recommended.  The guides use specially designed self-bailing four-person rafts with foot stirrups to help you tackle the technical Class IV and V rapids.  One guide and three guests are in each raft – only the most experienced guides accompanying you on this tour.  Sound exhilarating?  I wish I could have witnessed people on the Miracle Mile, but alas, all I could do during my visit is witness people putting their boats in the water.  If you are interested in the Yough without so much intensity, the Lower Yough is always available, but the start point is not in Friendsville.

This town just “keeps on giving”!  There is a winery here - Deep Creek Cellars and it has been around for roughly 18 years.  Paul (Proprietor) was my “tour guide” during my tasting.  I was told this is the sole winery in Maryland making ONLY dry wines, which was very interesting.  He prides himself on not using chemicals/additives to change the taste of the wine to make it sweet.  Deep Creek Cellars does make one sweet wine (sweetened with other berries), but it’s a dessert wine.  I told him I was low on my fruit intake today so I would be interested in tasting that one, as well.  Paul had me sample 6 of his wines and all were equally lovely.  I DEFINITELY tasted the sweetness of the dessert wine after having all of the dry wine previously.  As I was the only one there for the tasting, Paul and I were able to have a nice, informative conversation about wine and the winery.  It was getting late, so I purchased two bottles of wine and left. 

Noticing the time, realizing I had 6 samples (SMALL SIPS, PEOPLE, SMALL SIPS!!!) of wine, and not having any food in my system (except for a few crackers I ate when I got back in the car), I decided to stay in Friendsville for dinner.  Nothing could have made me happier as I found a restaurant in my town research I wanted to try, but they did not start serving dinner until 4:00 pm.  Originally, when I was forming my agenda for the town, I decided not eat there because it was still a long drive home.  As it was 3:40 when I got out of the winery, and I was 15 min from the restaurant, I decided to stay. 

The restaurant was the Riverside Hotel (built in 1889).  The reason I wanted to eat there was because it was it was place serving only a Vegetarian meal, which consisted of all- you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread along with one dessert – all for $12.00.  Each course rotates on a daily basis, so the menu is always different depending on what they pick from their garden.  The nice thing about the restaurant is it was located next to the Water Street Café, which is located across from the river.  I got to sit on the porch and eat while watching the kayaks and rafts drift by.  And the gorgeous day flowed into a most beautiful evening.  I was the only customer (probably because it was 4:00 pm and everyone was still on the river).  Kate was the hostess/waitress and she could not have been more hospitable. 

Kate made the Artisan bread from scratch, which literally takes all day.  In fact, everything is made from scratch.  As I ate, a gentleman sat down at a neighboring table to eat.  I found out later he was the owner and he was waiting for his wife to pass by in her raft on the river so she could meet him for dinner.  We had a nice conversation about the river and the release of the Dam, how the water would rise and the rocks I could see at the time would disappear at the 5:00 timeframe, and how the boaters I would see soon would be because they are just ahead of the water flowing from the Dam.  We also spoke about Friendsville – how he had passed by the town’s exit for decades not even knowing the little “village of people and activity surrounded by trees and water tucked away” was even there.  I agreed it is the best kept secret.
Looking at the time, I decided I should probably start my 3 hour journey home.  I absolutely did not want to leave.  Friendsville is so much more than a sleepy little town tucked away in the mountains or just a place housing gas for a critical fill-up.  It is balance and perfection.  I will definitely be back for a longer stay.