Self Driving Tour of 12 Kent County Museums set for May 5

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A self driving tour of 12 museums in Kent County MD, will be held on Saturday, May 5 from 10am to 4pm. Appealing to all ages and interests, they exhibit the culture, lifestyles and history of this Eastern Shore county.Knowledgeable guides, some special events, and free admission await visitors. Brochures with a map available at Visitors Center, Kent Library, Sumner Hall and The Bordley Building in Chestertown. Supported by the Kent County Tourism Department and the Kent County Arts Council.

Massey Aero Museum: A living airport-museum reminiscent of rural airports of bygone eras. Vintage aircraft, artifacts and touch and feel exhibits. A restoration shop operates most days. Frequent fly-ins. Open 10-4 33541 Maryland Line Rd Massey MD 21650

Kent Museum: Farming equipment representing the rural heritage of agriculture and domestic life. Charley’s House c. 1840, last surviving dwelling of a small black community. Open 10 – 3 13869 Turners Creek Rd Kennedyville MD 21645

Knocks Folly 1796 Federal style brick home houses exhibits which highlight the history of farming, the native American Tockwogh tribe and visit of Captain John Smith during his voyage on the Chesapeake Bay. Open 10 – 4 3761 Turners Creek Rd Kennedyville, Md 21645

Betterton Heritage Museum Betterton Fishing Ark open for tours. Speed Joiner decoys on display. Photos show fishing and hunting as main occupations. Popular beach in early 1900’s with photos of the grand Rigbie Hotel. Gift Shop. Open 10 – 3:30100 Main St Betterton MD 21610

Bordley History Center Headquarters for the Historical Society of Kent County. Many resources are available to the researcher within the library, genealogical and archival spaces. Historical exhibits and shop. Open 10 – 3 301 High St Chestertown MD 21620

Sumner Hall Restored and listed on National Register of Historic Places, it honors African-American Civil War vets of Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic and features historical roles of African-Americans in Kent County. Open 10 – 4 206 S. Queen St Chestertown Chestertown MD 21620

African-American Schoolhouse Interpretive panel and exterior viewing only. Still in its original location. St. James Newtown Rd, north of Worton MD 21678

Cliffs Schoolhouse One room school with seven grades and one teacher served families of rural southern Kent County from 1878-1939. Furnishings, books and artifacts of the era. Blackboards with lessons. In its original location. Open 10 – 4 Cliffs City Rt. 289 S 8.5 miles south of Chestertown MD 21620

Rock Hall Museum Hand crafted boat and ship models, decoy carving shop replica, seafood processing, boat oystering rig, ice buoy, representing the marine culture of Rock Hall. Open 10 – 4 5585 Main St Town Building, Rock Hall Md 21661

Waterman’s Museum Artifacts and a fishing shanty from the early days of oystering, crabbing and fishing. Photographic documentation of past and present watermen. Next to Haven Harbour Marina. Open 10 – 4 Rock Hall Avenue, Rock Hall MD 21661

Tolchester Beach Revisited Presents and preserves the history of this amusement park 1877 to 1962. Pictures, artifacts and memorabilia of the most popular resort along the Chesapeake Bay. Open 10 – 4 Oyster Court off Sharp & Main Rock Hall MD 21661

Rock Hall Marine Restoration and Heritage Center Located in the historic Clam House on Rock Hall’s harbor. “Steamboats on the Chesapeake and Chester River” exhibit shows the history of recreational and working vessels on the ‘Bay. Open 11-4 21083 Chesapeake Avenue Rock Hall MD 21661

For more information please contact Carol Cordes (cordescarolb@gmail.com) or John Schratwieser(john@kentcountyartscouncil.org)

Fun and Fellowship at First “Unity Day”

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Kids loved the bouncy castle in the Garnett schoolyard.     Photo by Jane Jewell

The first “Unity Day” was held from 1:00-4:00 pm, Saturday, April 14, on the grounds of Garnet Elementary School and Bethel AME Church and on College Ave, the street in front of the  church and school.  Food trucks lined the street along with booths and tables from community organizations. Among those taking part were several Washington College student groups, the WC Graphic Information (GIS) Center, CV Starr Center,  Washington College Admissions, Sumner Hall Grand Army of the Republic Post #25, National Alliance for Mental Health, the Diversity Dialogue Group, and the Kent County Democratic Club.   There were also booths for Arts by Alan Johnson, the Garfield Center for the Arts, Kent County Arts Council, the Kent County Humane Society, Kent County Library, Maryland American Beauty Pageants, and Kent County Indivisible among others.  Chestertown farmers’ market manager Owen McCoy even brought a baby goat for kids–the human kind–to pet!

Photo by Jim Block

For several years, members of the Diversity Dialogue Group and other community members have talked about the need to bring together the various communities within Chestertown and Kent County.  Plans began to firm up when Washington College officially signed onto the project last year.  The college is right down the block from Garnet Elementary School.  The Garnet building, now Chestertown’s integrated elementary school, was, until the early 1970s, the segregated Black  High School.  Now the surrounding neighborhood is mixed racially and ethnically though still predominantly African-American. Quite a few of Washington College’s off-campus students live in the area.  One of the goals of the day was to help forge links between the college and the neighborhood and the community as a whole.  It all came together in a well-attended event Saturday — and Mother Nature brought it all to perfection with a warm, sunny Spring day.

Photo by Jim Block

Bethel Church provided a Fish Fry. Also present to feed the hungry were food trucks by Papa Smurf and Crazy Rick’s.  Hot dogs were provided by the KCHS Band committee, tacos were from Los Jariochos and cookies from Washington College.

There were activities for both kids and adults, including free face painting, crayons and coloring pages, a dance contest, and a “mural-in-the-making” by KidSpot.  Two large “bouncy castles” in the Garnet schoolyard drew crowds of kids all afternoon.

And there was music all afternoon — both live and recorded.  The Chestertown Ukelele Club played several songs.  Guitarist and vocalist Fredy Granillo was accompanied by drummer and CPA Bob Miller. There was also a drum circle.

Exact attendance was hard to determine with people coming and going throughout the day, but event organizers estimated the crowd at 5o0 to 1,000, noting that some people came and left and then returned again bringing friends and neighbors.

Many community leaders came together to make the day possible– with committees working hard over the past year.  Organizers included Elena Deanda, Washington College professor of Spanish language and Black Studies; Larry Samuels, Armond Fletcher and Lolli Sherry of the Diversity Dialogue Group, Ruth Shoge, Lynn Dolinger, Rosemary Granillo, Michael Buckley, and Jamie Barrett, among others along with many volunteers.   Planning is now in the works for the second annual “Unity Day.”

Photo Gallery by Jim Block and Jane Jewell

Barbara Foster standing) and Carolyn Brooks (seated on right)  helped run coloring activities for local kids.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Photo by Jane Jewell

Organizers of Chestertown chapter of Maryland American Beauty Pageants Photo by Jane Jewell

Photo by Jim Block

Photo by Jim Block

Fredy Granillo (left)                                                                    Bob Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jane Jewell

Photo by Jim Block

Armond Fletcher with cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jim Block

Photo by Jim Block

Photo by Jim Block

 

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Good Stuff: Garfield’s Annual Gala Raises $15,000

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This past Friday the Garfield Center for the rts held their annual gala fundraiser, “Broadway by the River.” Hosted by New York’s drag queen sensation, Marti Gould Cummings (formerly of Kennedyville) brought Broadway stars to Chestertown for an evening of intimate performances and conversations. Christine Dwyer from Wicked and Rent, Marty Thomas from Wicked, Xanadu and the Secret Garden, and Katrina Dideriksen from the Voice, Hairspray and Finding Neverland, all performed, while Blake Allen accompanied on the piano.

The evening was a resounding success, raising $7,000 for the Garfield’s programming in ticket sales, and an additional $8,700 to fund Playmakers and MUSICAMP, the Garfield’s summer camps for children ages 8-15.

Photos by Jeff Weber

Breaking News: Washington College to Move to Talbot County

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In a major shock to both Kent and Talbot County residents, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation issued a short press release over the weekend announcing that an anonymous donor has agreed to make a transformational gift of $1 billion to Washington College over the next ten years on the specific condition that it relocate its main campus to Talbot County.

The agreement, which has not been made public yet, describes a lengthy and complex process which moves the 236-year-old liberal arts college thirty miles south of its present location to a tract of land on the Miles River now owned by the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School on the outskirts of the town of Easton.

Artist Rendering of the Moving of William Smith Hall on Route 213

Reached for comment by the Spy on Friday, Washington College president, Kurt M. Landgraf said, “The Board of Visitors and Governors and I unanimously agreed some time ago that for $1 billion, we would move the school anywhere in the country. That being said, we are delighted that the College will be situated in beautiful Talbot County where some of the school’s original donors lived and worked. And our students are thrilled that future student bodies will finally be able to walk to a Target. It’s one of those win-win things for all.”

Landgraf also expressed gratitude to Chestertown and Kent County for its three centuries of hospitality. “Look, this was an excellent ride. It’s hard to beat 236 years being in the same town.  And I suspect some in town will be relieved that our stay is finally over.”

Future view of the moving of George Washington to his new home in Easton

According to preliminary plans, the College will only be moving the iconic William Smith Hall to Easton along with the school’s various statues of its namesake, George Washington. It is also predicted that the College’s president will reside in Perry Hall, the 18th-century plantation house on the new property, and that the head coach of WC’s men’s lacrosse team will take up quarters in the other historic home, Kirkland Hall, as part of the transaction.

Reaction in Talbot County was predictably upbeat. Ship and Print owner, and Talbot County Council member, Laura Price, commented, “To tell the truth, scout’s honor, we had no knowledge that this was taking place. But having said that, this news comes at a time when the County had been looking for new sources of cash, including adjusting our property tax revenue cap, so the timing could not be better. Of course, there will be some real downsides. I’m not wild about having all those liberal college professors moving here. On the other hand, all colleges need a good copy store, so it balances out.”

There was also immediate speculation in and around Talbot County on who the anonymous donor or donors might be. One scenario in that he or she are the direct descendants of those who originally invested in the school’s creation, particularly the family members of the Goldsborough and Tilghman clans given the disproportionately high number of those families on the original list. Others speculate that one of Talbot County’s many wealthy “come-here” residents made the spectacular offer to complement their existing or planned development projects.

The orginal donors from Talbot County to Washington College

Chestertown citizens responded with dread, anger, and confusion. The community, having recently lost its movie theatre and a popular downtown restaurant, and who nearly lost its local hospital a year ago, seems to indicate it will not let the move go forward without a fight.

Margie Elsberg, one of the founders of the “Save our Hospital” movement, immediately established a “Save our College” advocacy group. She remarked to the Spy, “First, the hospital, now this! I think it’s obvious who’s really behind this move, and I think the public needs to know.”

Chestertown also hinted that it would more than likely take the matter to court. Mayor Chris Cerino made it clear he was not going to be intimidated by what he considers to be an act of grand theft. “I don’t like it one bit, but, like so many times in the past, this community will rally and come together and fight this good fight.”

The Mayor was less forthcoming about what the town planned to do with the approximately 200 acres the College will vacate. He did not, however, rule out that the Sultana Education Foundation, where he serves as the education director, may use the WC campus for a new venture now under consideration by the organization’s board which would lead to the establishment of Sultana University.

The Campus of Calhoon MEBA Engineering School

It appears that the administration of the Calhoun Engineering School were caught totally off guard by the announcement. The education center, which has been in its present location since the mid-1970s when its parent, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, purchased the 656 acres just outside Easton from the now-defunct Kirkland Hall Junior College.

The only school representative the Spy could reach over the weekend found the news incredulous, but stated he was not authorized to speak on the record. He did, however, want to remind the community that the campus is not open to the general public.

Other unnamed sources familiar with the school’s plans suggest that the MEBA has been making discrete inquiries as to the future of the now vacant Russian Embassy retreat property just outside of Centerville, which they see as a more central location for their faculty and stuff.

In many ways, the Calhoon campus offers Washington College a almost turn-key transition since the school made extensive capital improvements starting in 1979, when the farm and estate buildings were converted to school use, including a refurbished dining hall, spacious residence units, a gymnasium, a modern classroom-administration building and an Olympic-sized pool.

The Mid-Shore community will undoubtedly be hearing more details about the move when President Landgraf holds a reception for Washington College alumni at the Talbot Country Club later this month.

Editor Note: Dear gentle reader, if you have been able to suspend your disbelief to the very end of this article, we must make it clear that this is entirely fake news to honor April Fools Day. 

A Neurosurgeon Treats a New Patient: The Chesapeake Skipjack

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In this new world of redefining what “retirement” means, it probably comes as no surprise that a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would retire to the Eastern Shore and start an entirely new vocation related to the skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s precisely what Dr. Randolph George did when he eventually retired from the operating room and embarked with his brother in law, Allen Rawl, on the restoration of a skipjack named Martha Lewis.  And as Allen was doing much of the physical work on the boat, Dr. George began to explore and document the boat builder, his family and the many stories that surrounded the Martha Lewis.  It also led him on a journey to discover every remaining skipjack on the Shore.

All of this is now documented in a new book that Randy has authored entitled “Memory of the Skipjack,” published by SaltWater Media.  It not only records the unique history of the Martha Lewis but documents the fifty-two remaining of what was once a fleet of 700 iconic examples of the Chesapeake Bay’s distinctive heritage.

The Spy spent some time with the author at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to chat about the book.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information or purchase “Memoir of a Skipjack” please go here 

A Neurosurgeon Treats a New Patient: The Chesapeake Skipjack

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In this new world of redefining what “retirement” means, it probably comes as no surprise that a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would retire to the Eastern Shore and start an entirely new vocation related to the skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s precisely what Dr. Randolph George did when he eventually retired from the operating room and embarked with his brother in law, Allen Rawl, on the restoration of a skipjack named Martha Lewis.  And as Allen was doing much of the physical work on the boat, Dr. George began to explore and document the boat builder, his family and the many stories that surrounded the Martha Lewis.  It also led him on a journey to discover every remaining skipjack on the Shore.

All of this is now documented in a new book that Randy has authored entitled “Memory of the Skipjack,” published by SaltWater Media.  It not only records the unique history of the Martha Lewis but documents the fifty-two remaining of what was once a fleet of 700 iconic examples of the Chesapeake Bay’s distinctive heritage.

The Spy spent some time with the author at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to chat about the book.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information or purchase “Memoir of a Skipjack” please go here 

Profiles in Spirituality: A New Temple Rises for the Mid-Shore

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There are many ways in which people can serve their church or synagogue. They can direct music programs, help with Sunday school, volunteer to assist those in need of food or shelter in the community, or sign on to take charge of flowers for weekly services.

But there is nothing comparable to the extraordinary feeling that comes with building a new scared place to serve the faithful. Whether it be a temple, a cathedral, or a small rural church, to be involved intimately in its design, its concept, its fundraising, and overall leadership is a typically once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That certainly is the case with Rabbi Peter Hyman with the Temple B’nai Israel’s construction of an almost 10,000 square-foot temple just off the Easton Bypass.

But luckily for Rabbi Hyman, one of his most key partners in this endeavor has been around the block before. Arna Mickelson,
who currently is serving as the president of the temple, had already been directly involved in another temple construction project in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Spy sat down with both Arna and Rabbi Hyman for a brief introduction to this valuable new addition to the Mid-Shore that should open its doors within the next few months.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Temple B’nai Israel please go here

Cool Outdoor Stuff with Andrew McCown – Winter on the Shore

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Editor’s note: It is with unusually great pleasure for the Spy to publish the latest installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff with Andrew McCown. After a rather lengthy sabbatical, the naturalist, musician, Chesapeake storyteller, and director of the Echo Hill Outdoor School, has once again returned to celebrate the natural world of our region and we, like his countless fans, could not be happier.

It seems particularly fitting that Andrew picks up the ongoing series by celebrating the remarkable natural wonders found locally even in the dead of winter.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Echo Hill Outdoor School, please go here.

 

A Visit to the African American Museum

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National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. The building design was based on a traditional West African hat style.

Saturday, Feb. 17, 55 local residents traveled by bus to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, on a trip organized by Sumner Hall. It was a striking and memorable experience – a powerful reminder of the stark history of African Americans and of the enormous contributions they have made to our nation.

The bus pulled out of the parking lot in Chestertown a little after 8:30 a.m. The weather was good — cold but sunny with a blue sky– and we were at the museum in less than an hour and a half, arriving in Washington in plenty of time for our 11 a.m. appointment.  That gave the group  over five hours to explore the exhibits – and eat lunch – before the 4 p.m. return trip. While that may seem plenty of time, it was barely time to scratch the surface of this incredible rich institution.

The museum was packed – like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free, and the African American museum has been enormously popular ever since it opened not quite a year and a half ago in Sept, 2016. Going to the museum will give you a clear indication just how rich and complex the African-American contribution to our society has been. To draw on an area I happen to know a fair bit about, my first reaction in walking around the musical exhibit that occupies much of the top floor was astonishment at just how much the museum has packed in. Here’s Chuck Berry’s bright red Cadillac convertible, as well as one of his guitars; here’s footage of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing “Hot House” on a 1952 TV show; here’s the gown Marian Anderson wore at her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial; here’s the Mothership that the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic used in stage shows; here’s Leadbelly’s 12-string guitar; here’s a photo of Robert Johnson I didn’t know existed – and that’s just scratching the surface. The mind boggles!

Dizzy’s horn

Then I began to notice what wasn’t there – or at least what I didn’t find in the hour or so I walked through the musical exhibits. Was there anything about Lester Young or the Mills Brothers or James P. Johnson or Nina Simone – or did I miss it? And then I realized there just isn’t room for all that – they’d need a building bigger than the one they have, just dedicated to the music, and they’d still have to pick and choose to get in a representative sample of the subject matter – and there’d still be gaps in the coverage. That brought home even more powerfully the impact of black Americans on music. And if that’s true of one area, what does it say about the museum as a whole? The same has to be true of its coverage of writers, athletes, painters and sculptors, and all the other areas where African Americans have made an impact on our national culture. Ultimately, I came away even more impressed with what the museum has done.

That was especially true of the historical displays, which make up the bottom three floors of the museum, covering a range from the earliest days of slavery through the modern era. The exhibits present detailed, often intense, documentation of the African American experience in the New World – full of historical maps, documents, archaeological artifacts from Africa, Europe, and the Americas, with ample audio-visual material to put them all in context. An entire slave cabin from the Carolina coast sits in the middle of one floor; one of the Tuskegee Airmen’s planes hangs from the ceiling as you go up the ramps between floors; life-sized statues of historical figures are spread around the exhibit. Seeing it all in a single visit is literally impossible – even if you take in only the surface aspects. A good idea on your first visit – an opportunity we missed, but will probably take up next time we go – is to follow around one of the docents guiding tour groups. But again, to really appreciate it, you need to plan more than one visit. It’s well worth it.  There’s even a section on African Americans and the Chesapeake Bay with a display about the Eastern Shore of Maryland including black watermen and the seafood industry.

Upon our arrival at the museum, the group split up into smaller groups, each exploring on their own, at their own pace. A few who had been to the museum before were helpful with their recommendations of things to seek out. Many groups met up again around lunchtime in the museum cafe, where the menu features dishes from the various African American communities — catfish, fried chicken, grits, gumbo, the whole range of American soul food –an important aspect of the culture the museum documents. (Also note — outside food can’t be brought into the museum, so you might as well enjoy the cafe.)

Even in our five-hour visit, we saw far more than one article can possibly include (we plan to do several follow-up stories in the Spy to try to do the museum justice). But a few vignettes stuck out, A young man stood by the statue the  of the 1968 Black Power protest at the Mexico City Olympics, raising his fist in emulation; a group of Naval Academy cadets in uniform toured the museum, solemnly taking in the history; teenagers took in the exhibits, for once looking at something other than their cell phones. And at almost every turn people could be heard responding to what they were seeing.  It wasn’t a loud crowd. People were speaking quietly, respectfully.  And they were polite and considerate, moving aside for people, offering to take pictures for each other.  Neither was it a completely somber atmosphere.  The history exhibits were unflinching in their stark and honest portrayal of slavery, segregation, and oppression but they also showed how enslaved peoples managed to find love and joy in their lives, despite the constant hardships. The culture sections on music, arts, and sports literally had people dancing around, excited and laughing as they came across artists they remembered from their youth or saw some new, beautiful work of art.  Displays on African Americans in the military and as entrepreneurs were inspiring and enlightening.   A truly involving experience for everyone!

Airplane flown by the famous Tuskegee pilots in World War II

We noted above that the museum is crowded. This is good, in that people are making an effort to learn about and understand this vital element of our history and culture. But it makes for a challenging experience at times. For some displays, standing in front of the exhibit long enough to absorb all the information felt awkward when there were lots of other people waiting to get a look. When that happened, we just walked ahead or dropped back to find an uncrowded exhibit. Be aware that there’s a lot of walking to see everything but there were also frequent benches where you could take a quick break as well as escalators and an elevator. You’ll definitely want to go back several times to really get all this museum has to offer. Several people on our tour had been before and still were eager to go this time and commented on how much they enjoyed a repeat visit, seeing things they hadn’t before. The next time we go, we’ll try for a week day, when crowds are likely to be a bit smaller.

The weather had been very good in the morning when we left, but snow and sleet had been  predicted and it showed up right on time for the trip home.   Joe, our Jor-Lin bus driver, was an excellent driver and guide.  The trip back took over two hours and we saw several cars in the ditch on 301 on this side of the Bay Bridge.  But we made it back to Sumner Hall without incident – thank you, Joe! – where most of us trooped inside to feast off a sumptuous spread of hors d’ouvres, desserts, and some fabulous chicken salad with  wine and other drinks on  hand.   All this in honor not of the bus trip but for the reception before author and Patrick Henry Fellow Will Haygood’s speech at 7 p.m., which some of the more indefatigable members of the bus trip stayed to attend. (More to come on Haygood in future Spy articles.)

All in all, it was a wonderful day at the museum.

Tickets for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, though free, must be ordered in advance — go to the museum’s website. The museum is sold out until June, so plan ahead — and try for a weekday, if you can, to reduce the crowd pressure. It’s well worth waiting for.

Photo Gallery by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chuck Berry’s Cadillac Eldorado – a favorite place to get your picture taken

The P-Funk Mothership AKA The Holy Mothership – a key feature of the stage act of the Funkadelic and Parliament bands’ concerts.

Statue of 1968 Olympic Protest

Henry Highland Garnet – born in Kent County – escaped slave, civil rights activist, and first Black minister to preach in congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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