Kent County Public Library Exhibit on Anniversary of ADA


Kent County Public Library front entrance – Chestertown Branch

In celebration of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) has been hosting a traveling disAbility History Tour throughout Maryland.  The tour wraps up with a final exhibit at Kent County Public Library’s Chestertown Branch August 22-26.

Advocacy: A History of People Speaking Up for Themselves is on loan from the Museum of disAbility History, which is dedicated to advancing the understanding, acceptance, and independence of people with disabilities. The Advocacy display traces the advocacy movement from early educational facilities to the development of organizations established for and by individuals with disabilities. In addition to the loaned panels, the MDOD will add a fifth display designed by the Maryland Association of Centers for Independent Living outlining disability history in Maryland.

On Wednesday, August 23, the public is invited to a reception and resource fair at Kent County Public Library where they can view the exhibit, learn about local organizations that support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and enjoy light snacks, including cookies provided by Kent House Kitchen.  The reception begins at 5:30 pm and will be followed by a special film showing at 6:45 pm.

For more information about the event, visit the Kent County Library website or call 410-778-3636.

For more information about the exhibit or to view images of the panels, ASL translation, audio files, text only, text image descriptions, and large print versions of the displays, visit the Maryland Department of Disabilities website ADA 27 event page.

Blue Heron Cafe to Close



The Blue Heron Cafe at 236 Cannon St. will be changing hands.

Owner Paul Hanley, in a FaceBook post Aug. 14, wrote:

Dear Friends and Family,

I want to bypass the rumor-mill so that you can hear it directly from me. After 20 years of building friendships and memories, Blue Heron Cafe will be closing in late October.

In late June, I received an offer to purchase my building and business – my beloved Blue Heron Café. It was the offer I had hoped would come one day. I had wished for it to happen five years from now, but it came this year and I accepted. The offer was a solid, generous one that I could not refuse.

To all my current and former staff: Thank you for making my life dream, of owning my own restaurant, come true. You are the best of the best.

To my kitchen staff and, especially Chef Eugene Bethel: I’d be nothing without your talent and pure dedication. You’re as close to my heart as family.

To our patrons, guests, friends, and neighbors: Thank you for allowing us into your lives. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, business meetings, and so many other fun times and memories. I’ve watched your toddlers grow up and graduate. We’ve talked food, business, politics, cars, boats, airplanes, grandchildren, fishing and pets – all while enjoying the culinary art of casual fine dining. I am so grateful for your two decades of loyal support.

We will still be here for another few months. So come on over, say hi, and get a last round of our famous Sweetbreads, Oyster Fritters, Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops, Crab Cakes, Soft Shells, Double Duck, and all the rest.



Open Auditions for “Carrie the Musical” at Church Hill Theatre and Chesapeake College


Calling all performers, no experience necessary! Carrie the Musical, a musical based on the unforgettable Stephen King novel with book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, will be coming to the Church Hill Theatre and Chesapeake College’s Cadby Theatre stages. This collaborative production will be directed by Dr. Robert Thompson, instructor of theatre at Chesapeake College, and will run October 27th through November 12th, 2017—just in time for Halloween! Performances will play opening weekend at the Cadby Theatre at Chesapeake College, then travel to the CHT stage for the remaining two weekends.

This chilling musical tells the story of outcast Carrie White and the bullying she faces not only with her high school peers, but also from her unstable mother. Catchy and sometimes haunting music and an unsettling story make Carrie the Musical a Halloween treat. When a young woman confronted with social pressures discovers hidden powers fueled by her emotions, her senior prom is bound to be “A Night We’ll Never Forget!”

Open auditions for Carrie the Musical will be held at Church Hill Theatre on Saturday, August 19th at 12:30 p.m. and at Cadby Theatre at Chesapeake College on Wednesday, August 23rd at 6:00 p.m.

Casting needs will include 2 female leads, 4 supporting roles (2F/2M), 2 male feature roles, along with at least 3 male and 3 female parts in the ensemble. Please note that the script does involve mature themes and some language, and parents should consult with the director prior to auditions to discern if their child should audition.

Please come with sixteen bars of a prepared song and sheet music if possible (two copies). Sides from the script will be available for cold readings—no audition monologue required. Technicians for the production are also needed and should attend auditions to submit their interest.

Carrie the Musical will play weekends from Friday October 27th through Sunday November 12th, 2017. For more information, email the director Rob Thompson at For more information on auditions, performances, and membership opportunities, please contact the Church Hill Theatre office at 410-556-6003, via e-mail at, or visit the  Church Hill Theatre Facebook Page.

It Happened on Queen Street


David and Anne Singer of Chestertown were out of town for a few days at the beginning of July.  When they returned, they noticed a puddle in the driveway but thought nothing of it.  Maybe it had rained.  But the next day, the puddle was still there.  Was it a little larger?  Long story short, a pipe under the driveway from the house had sprung a leak.  They turned off the water to the house and called their plumber.  However, it was now in the middle of the July 4th holiday.  Their plumber was out on a job and not available.  They called several other plumbers but each was either busy or didn’t have the large equipment necessary to dig down to the pipes. The Singers had now been over 24 hours with no water in their house.  Finally, they found Doug Nicholson, Sr, plumber and electrician, who had the equipment and was willing to come in over a holiday for an emergency job.  After excavating the full length of the driveway to a depth of about five, Nicholson unearthed something the Singers had never seen before – “tar-paper” pipes.

The Singers’ house is one of those wonderful old brick homes on Queen Street. Built around 1790, number 109 N. Queen Street is listed as “The Chambers House” in Michael Bourne’s Historic Houses of Kent County (p 350). According to Bourne, it was probably built at the same time (1788-90) as the Nicholson House, next door, with which it shares several architectural features including a molded Doric cornice, one of the earliest documented in Kent County.

The plumber-to-the-rescue, Doug Nicholson, Sr., is not related to the next-door Nicholson House family from the 1790s, – as far as we know. But then again, it’s Kent County, so who knows!

The Chambers house is not known to be listed in any official records until 1811 when it appeared on a deed. The land was acquired in 1786 by Benjamin Chambers, a prominent attorney in the town who served as Clerk of the Court and later as a general of the militia at the Battle of Caulk’s Field. His prominence can be measured by the fact that in 1810 he moved to Widehall. At that point, he transferred the house to his son Ezekial Chambers, a prominent attorney in his own right and later a judge. The younger Chambers moved to Widehall in 1822, and the North Queen Street house became a rental property until 1865, when Chambers sold it to a local contractor, John Greenwood.

Then Greenwood sold the property just a year later to the Vestry of Chester Parish, who converted it into a residence for the rectors of Emmanuel Church. It remained in the hands of the parish until 1910. During that time, the house was expanded to add a pantry and dining room on the first floor and two bedrooms upstairs. Thereafter it had several owners until 1994, when the Singers bought it and began restoring it.

The tar-paper pipes were a surprise to the Singers but not to Nicholson who said that he had seen them often in the older parts of town. They looked like hollowed out logs.  Not at all like today’s plastic pipes. The tar-paper pipe is made of wood pulp and pitch. It represents a less expensive alternative to classic clay piping which has been used throughout history, in ancient Rome, through Chinese dynasties, and into modern times, and is usually referred to as terra cotta.

In addition to tar-paper pipes being used as sewer pipes, they were frequently used as conduits for electrical wiring – notably in the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers. Tar-paper pipes were also adopted by the oil industry to pump salt wastewater out of drilling sites. Its use as sewer pipe was very common during World War II and into the 1950s, which fits Nicholson’s estimate that the pipe at 109 N. Queen St. was “about 70 years old.”  The pipes are commonly called Orangeburg pipes from the name of the upstate New York town where they were manufactured by the Fiber Conduit Company, which later changed its name to the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company. Orangeburg pipes were widely used from 1860 until 1970, when plastic pipe such as PCV came into common use.

Bob Sipes, Utilities Manager for the town of Chestertown, said the sewer system on Queen Street was installed in the first decade of the 20th century, so it’s conceivable that the Orangeburg pipe, which is a lateral line leading from the town sewer mains to the house, dates back to that period. However, that would be unusually long for that sort of pipe to last.  The town’s water and sewer systems were not built using Orangeburg.

Orangeburg pipe’s main liability is its tendency to flatten under pressure. The layers of rolled-up tar paper can also begin to separate, creating “bubbles” or humps.  While its normal life expectancy was listed at 50 years and some can last considerably longer, Orangeburg was often known to fail within 10 years, usually due to the pressure of the soil in which it was buried. So this one, at 70 years old, did pretty well.

While we were there taking pictures and talking to the Singers and several neighbors who came by to see the progress, we noticed a steady stream of cars come slowly up the one-way street, carefully negotiating the speed bump and the construction.  David Singer sighed and said that for some reason many GPS systems give this narrow, one-lane, one-way, residential street as the preferred route to downtown Chestertown rather than the wider Cross or Spring streets.  At least, he noted, the drivers first view of Chestertown is the beautiful, historic homes of Queen Street.

Well, now the pipes are all replaced with modern longer-lasting pipes.  The water is turned back on. The Singers can heave a sigh of relief. Until the next time.  That’s the joys of owning an historical home – you never know what’s in the attic, under the stairs or the paint or even the driveway.  But you learn a lot of fascinating history along the way.

(This article, “It Happened on Queen Street,” is the first in an irregular Spy series on the homes and history of Chestertown and Kent County.  Please contact us if you have an idea for a future subject in the series, either below in the comments or by email to

All done! But then it’s never all done with an old house, is it?

First Friday: See the Luminous Art of Steve Bleinberger at The Artists Gallery


Port Tack” watercolor by Steve Bleinberger

On First Friday, August 4th, the Artists’ Gallery will present the work of Steve Bleinberger in “Water, Water, Everywhere,” with a reception to meet the artist that evening from 5-8 pm.   The show will hang in The Artists’ Gallery throughout the month of August.

Growing up as a teenager on the shores of Thomas Point, Maryland, Steve was surrounded by water and within the sight and sound of an active lighthouse.  It was there that he experienced firsthand, the waters of the Chesapeake in all forms- from capping waves to beautiful glassy calms and everything in between.  “Painting in the most wonderfully fluid of mediums – watercolor – I strive to capture the look and most importantly, the feel of an authentic Maryland treasure:  The Chesapeake Bay.”

“Bay’s Magic Light” watercolor by Steve Bleinberger

Steve Bleinberger holds a BFA degree with advanced art studies from Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University.  He is a member of local, regional and national art clubs, conducts watercolor workshops and demos, and judges creative competitions.  His work is exhibited throughout the mid-Atlantic region and has gained respect and admiration for depicting Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Chesapeake Bay waterscapes, Bay work boats and the dwindling ranks of those that man them.   Steve’s paintings can be found in private collections as well as the homes and offices of Chesapeake racing skippers, “Tall Ship” captains, Bay Pilots, tugboat owners, naval officers, a noted marine historian and a President of the United States.

First Friday, August 4, exhibit and reception for artist Steve Bleinberger from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. The Artists’ Gallery is located at 239 High Street in Chestertown and is open daily from 10-5, Tuesday through Saturday, and Sundays from 12:30-4:30.  For more information, please see the Artists Gallery website or call 410-778-2425.  

“Skipjacks” watercolor by Steve Bleinberger

“Dawn Patrol” watercolor by Steve Bleinberger

“Cap’n, We are Flyin’ Home!” watercolor by Steve Bleinberger


“Orlando Rising” by Earl Lewin at Church Hill Theatre


Cast of “Orlando Rising”: Back Row – Alyson ( Jean Leverage); Orlando (Tom Dorman); Police Officer (Eddie Dorman); Jack, (Howard Mesick) Seated – Wally (Chris Rogers); Ruth (Christine Kinlock); Nana (Kathy Jones) In Front – Young Wally (Aaron Sensenig ), his friend Dick (John Crook).

Do you remember the day John Kennedy was killed? “Orlando Rising,” a new play by Earl Lewin, depicts what happens in one family whose own domestic drama starts to unfold on the day the president is assassinated.

Based on a true story, “Orlando Rising” represents a change of pace for Lewin, whose previous plays have been predominantly light-hearted whodunits with a generous splash of humor. As he observes in his director’s note in the play’s program, this one examines the bottling up of “emotional dynamite” characteristic of the Victorian era. Those taboos began to break down in the late 1800s as shown in the plays of Henrik Ibsen, who shocked his contemporaries with his treatment of sexuality and equality. But many Victorian attitudes survived into the 1960s, when Lewin’s play is set. It is the survival of those taboos that fuels the drama of “Orlando Rising.”

When the play opens, it is the morning of Nov 22, 1963. Ruth and Wally are a young couple. Wally is getting ready to leave for his job at the local college where he teaches literature. Wally’s grandmother – his Nana – has come to stay with them for a few days. Her arrival stirs memories of Wally’s childhood, especially of his uncle Orlando, whose very name is painful for him to hear.

Wally and Ruth discuss ways to get Nana to talk about family secrets

Ruth pushes Wally to tell her about this mysterious uncle, asking what causes him so much anxiety and fear. We learn that Orlando is in a veterans’ hospital where he is being treated for mental illness – attributed by the family to a blow on the head he received while serving in World War I. She says there must be more to the story for the family to have erected the wall of silence and secrecy it has maintained about Orlando. Ruth urges Wally to confront Nana so they can know the truth.

Nana – played by Kathy Jones

Nana is predictably reluctant to tell the family secrets, even to her own grandson. A woman in her 90s, she holds fast to the belief that some things are best left unspoken. But under pressure, she reveals enough to make Wally begin to question many things he has taken for granted.

Finally, Wally has to leave for his classes, where he is teaching the plays of Ibsen. Shortly after his departure, Ruth receives news that Kennedy has been shot – and the whole emotional tone of the day changes. But that is only the first shock, as the next phone call comes with the news that Orlando has walked away from the hospital – and may be on his way to the old family home where Wally and Ruth now live. With that revelation, the trauma level rises dramatically – and the remainder of the play traces the consequences of the two physically unrelated but emotionally synchronous events of the assassination and the escape.

Chris Rogers, a familiar figure from Shore Shakespeare and local theater, plays Wally. He is just right for the academic earnestness of the college professor who loves his Nana but is frustrated by her old-fashioned reticence in discussing important family issues.  This makes it very believable when his surface calm begins to break under the emotional strain of the events.

Christine Kinlock, who was a delight as Hermia in this summer’s Shore Shakespeare production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is cast as Ruth.  She is very convincing as the socially progressive woman of the early ‘60s.  Somewhat more liberal than her professor husband, Ruth is embracing the evolving values of the new era and patiently encourages Wally to ask Nana for answers.

Kathy Jones, another veteran of CHT, takes the role of Nana.  Jones quickly establishes the dual character of Nana.  On the one hand, she is clearly a good, loving, kind, outgoing matriarch of the Victorian era.  On the other hand she is very insistent on hiding all the shameful family secrets and preserving respectable appearances as good Victorian matriarchs must.

Tom Dorman, who has numerous credits in local productions, takes the role of Orlando, the crazy uncle and Nana’s son.  The intellectual calm of the household vanishes and the energy level takes a quantum leap when he walks onstage.  He lives up to the label of “crazy” uncle, moving with ease from manic and scary to calm and apparently reasonable, but always manipulative.  Dorman has been good in previous roles but he has risen to a new high here.

Howard Messick plays Wally’s father Jack, and he makes the role memorable. He is a take-charge guy.  Clearly affectionate to his wife and children, Jack takes no nonsense from anyone outside that circle.  He handles the emergencies created by Orlando with swift practicality. A good job in a small role.

Young Wally (Aaron Sensenig) and his friend Dick (John Crook)

Aaron Sensenig and John Crook take the role of the young Wally and his friend Dick, seen in a flashback. The kids play and argue like normal kids, calling each other names in a way any parent will recognize.  But young Wally’s life is not just fun and games. He is terrified of his Uncle Orlando.  Jean Leverage comes across as a typical caring housewife and mother of the era in the role of Alyson, Wally’s mother. Both Leverage and Sensenig do a good job of switching from the happy mother and child to the scared child and frightened yet protective mother. Nice job. The cast is completed by Jan Eliassen and Eddie Dorman who do a credible job as two local policemen, swinging their billy clubs.

At dress rehearsal, the play seemed a bit slow starting, probably because of the large amount of back story being laid out in the first scene. There were also a couple of points where the dialogue seemed anachronistic – I’m not sure “share” or “lifestyle” were being used in their modern meanings at the time the play is set. But these are minor problems.

On the whole, Lewin has done a very good job of dramatizing the clash between the Victorian values Nana holds and the more open viewpoint of Ruth, while Wally’s viewpoint is somewhere in the middle.  This is used to good effect when Wally wants Nana to be open about Orlando’s condition and says there is no shame involved, but says that he feels uncomfortable about the emerging societal openness toward homosexuality.  Ruth calmly points out that you can’t have it both ways.  Here and at other points, Lewin’s play makes trenchant comments about life on the cusp of sweeping social change. After the dress rehearsal, Lewin said that, with only one exception, the events of the play and the reactions of the family members are true to the real-life story the play is based on.  We’re lucky to have talented playwrights such as Earl Lewin in our community.

The comfortable-looking set, stretching the entire width of the CHT stage, shows the main room of Wally’s family home. Unlike many productions at CHT, there’s nothing fancy here – just a solid, believable setting for the play. It’s an old family home – lived in for many generations – and the set conveys that well. Similarly, Barbi Bedell’s costume designs bring back the look and feel of the early sixties.  This is not yet the tie-dye, headband, and fringe-jackets with blue-jeans era.  It is more the buttoned-down tailored suit and middle-class version of the Kennedy style.

This is a mature play, with intellectual themes and dialogue, that will appeal to fans of serious drama.   However, young theatergoers will probably fidget.

“Orlando Rising” opens tomorrow, July 28, and runs through August 6. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 – cash or check only – and can be picked up at the box office before the performance. Reservations are suggested. Call Church Hill Theatre at 410-556-6003.

Annual Crow Farm Vineyard Walk is August 12


Harvest season will be here before you know it and at Crow Vineyard & Winery that means it is time for the Annual Vineyard Walk.  Every year the start of harvest is marked by opening the vineyard to the public for a guided tour with vineyard manager, Brandon Hoy.  On August 12 at 6 p.m., guests can enjoy the beauty of the vines and grapes on foot or in the comfort of an antique horse drawn carriage, tour the winery with winemaker Michael Zollo, taste Crow’s award winning wines and enjoy appetizers featuring smoked Crow Angus Beef.  Entertainment will be provided.

Each year Roy and Judy Crow, owners of Crow Vineyard & Winery, choose a local non-profit organization as a beneficiary of the event with a portion of the proceeds donated to them.  For 2017, Bridges at Worthmore has been chosen.  Located in Kent County, Maryland, they are committed to using horses to foster personal growth and learning.  Their programs include equine assisted activities such as adaptive riding, psychotherapy and learning.

Tickets are $30 ($25 for Crow Wine Club members) and are available online at or by calling the tasting room at 302-304-0551.  For more information on Bridges at Worthmore please visit

Located in the rural heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Crow Vineyard & Winery is Kent County’s first winery.  Family owned and operated, they embrace the heritage and traditions of Crow Farm and their wines embody the simple elegance of a working pastoral landscape. The family also runs a farmstay B&B and sells all-natural grass-fed beef. For more information visit, email at or call Judy Crow at 302-304-0551.

First Friday: History Happy Hour at the Bordley Building


Elmer T. Hawkins

The Historical Society of Kent County will hold the latest installment of their History Happy Hour Lectures at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 4. Join us at the Bordley Building as  we discuss African American Teachers in Kent County presented by Airlee Johnson, Bill Leary, Susan Kenyon and George Shivers, members of the Community History Committee of the Historical Society of Kent County. They will present the results of their recent research into the experiences of African American teachers in Kent County prior to integration.  Interviews with retired teachers and relatives of deceased teachers reveal that they were well prepared, shared a special sense of mission to educate black children to be competitive with their white contemporaries, and were understandably proud of the work they did.

A related new exhibit at the Bordley Center presents the results of interviews with teachers and close relatives, including their recollections of the legendary principal of Garnet, Elmer T. Hawkins, and their comparative assessment of segregated and integrated schools.  It also includes an annotated map of Kent County showing the locations of over 30 African American schools in the 1920s. Information from school board records illustrates the growth of segregated public schools from their beginnings in 1872 to the consolidation of schools in the 1940s. Short biographies of 32 teachers also can be viewed at the Bordley History Center at 301 High St. in Chestertown.

The former Afridan American schoolhouse in Worton Point

Johnny Cash Comes to the Garfield!


The Roots at the Garfield concert series continues July 22nd at 8 pm with David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience.

Stone takes the audience through the late country legend’s career, covering Early Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash & June Carter, and the Folsom Prison Concert Era. Those who see his performance will know what it must have been like to see the real Johnny Cash in concert — his voice, mannerisms, and his band are wholly true to the legend. Come to the concert dressed in black to add to the fun!

David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience is the only Johnny Cash Tribute ever to be selected by the State of California (even over Johnny’s original band) to play the 40th anniversary commemorative concert at San Quentin State Prison on February 24, 2009, celebrating the historic performance of Johnny Cash at the facility in 1969.

This concert is the fourth in the five-part Roots at the Garfield series, sponsored by Andy and Leslie Price, which brings early blues, bluegrass, folk, r&b and rock music to Chestertown. The final concert will be Hannah Gill and the Hours on September 9th, as part of the Chestertown Jazz Festival weekend. Tickets are $25 general admission and $15 for students. Tickets are available by calling 410-810-2060, online at or at the box office. The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown.