What does it cost to save a piece of history? Try around $60,000. That is the amount of money Still Pond Preservation, Inc. hopes to raise before October to buy the Still Pond Store.
The store, which was built more than 100 years ago by George Washington Covington, was damaged in a fire in September. Damage to the structure was mostly limited to a rear addition and the property was put on the market a few months later. Residents of Still Pond didn’t really start moving to buy the property until January when they received word that the owners had applied for a demolition permit from the county. Still Pond Preservation Inc. had officially been formed by March.
The decision to purchase the property was not something that was undertaken lightly. It was done, according to Walter Bowie, president of Still Pond Preservation Inc., to save what makes Still Pond special.
“Everybody in Still Pond was really devastated by the fire. It really ripped the heart out of the community. (The store) is where everyone went to see other people. … It’s like someone died. Little villages have one place and when it’s gone it’s gone and you can’t get it back.” he said in a phone interview Monday. “You start to realize what it’s like to live in a suburban environment because you don’t see your neighbors as much.”
When the nonprofit organization began researching the idea of buying the property, the initial thought was to find a third party buyer or to partner with other nonprofits to save the store. However those attempts proved to be unsuccessful. The organization has no interest in running a store, Bowie said; it simply wants to preserve a vital piece of the community’s history for future generations.
“Our purpose is to provide a mechanism to save a building which is of large community interest … and find a way to do that and to make the owner whole again … giving them what they want to get out of the property,” he said.
One of the first things the organization plans to do is place the property under the county’s Historic Preservation District to save the building from being torn down in the future. As a village Still Pond is listed as a National Register Historic District, but individual buildings are not automatically included in a historic district.
Still Pond is widely recognized as the site where women first voted in an election in Maryland. According to the village’s historical marker, Mary Jane Clark Howard, Anne Baker Maxwell and Lillie Deringer Kelley cast their ballots in the 1908 municipal election, 12 years before the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote, was passed.
When asked how he would respond to people who shrug their shoulders at Still Pond’s plight, Bowie said, “I think the ‘who cares’ attitude is indicative of loss of community fabric throughout United States . If you say ‘it’s just a convenience store’ you’re missing an important aspect of the community. A community is not just a place to sleep; it’s a place to build relationships.”
The community feel of Still Pond is what drew Bowie to the place 12 years ago. After looking at more than 200 homes throughout the Eastern Shore, he and his wife, Lotte, settled on the small village in Kent County because “it embodies a lot of things that the Eastern Shore has to offer. It’s a rural community with a real independent spirit.”
He hopes that someone will purchase the property and locate a small business there, taking advantage of the ample living space located above what was the store
“I think given the right person and the right touch, there is enough to give a livelihood to someone,” says Bowie, who with his wife works out of their home.
Still Pond Preservation Inc. will begin a large fundraising push in the near future, Bowie said. The organization is still working through all the legal paperwork to receive its 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
In the meantime for more information people can visit www.stillpondmd.com. Donation checks can be made payable to Still Pond Preservation Inc., and can be mailed to Rob Ditmars, Treasurer, Box 89, Still Pond MD 21667. Donations are also being accepted on the website through PayPal.
“A lot of people understand what we’re trying to do, but because of the economic situation people feel they are unable to help. People can help a little; they don’t have to give a lot. A lot of little donations go a long way,” he said.