Chestertown Culinary Renaissance: Enter 98 Cannon Street with Joe Elliott


While opening dates remain far from confirmed, it is quite likely that over the next 18 months Chestertown will have four new restaurants in its historic district to call its own. After a few years of suffering the loss of several popular dining venues, including the beloved Brooks Tavern, Blue Heron, and the Lemon Leaf, a culinary renaissance is starting to take place.

The very first of this new wave will begin with the opening this spring of 98 Cannon Street, former home of the Fish Whistle and the Old Wharf restaurant, located at the town’s new marina.

As one might imagine, the Spy was beyond curious to this extraordinary explosion in culinary options. So much so that we tracked down the new owner 98 Cannon Street to understand what he and his team have planned for this iconic site on the banks of the Chester.

A financial advisor by profession, with a successful firm based in the Philadelphia area, Joe Elliott and his wife made the very deliberate decision to find a more rural environment for the couple and their three young daughters to gather on weekends. That’s what led him to Kent County a few years ago, but there was no desire to have any commercial interest in the town at all.

That started to change as Joe began to fall in love with his family’s new hometown. Going against a lifetime bias against owning businesses like restaurants, including his consistent advice to his clients to stay far away from these “opportunities,” Joe started to see a waterfront dining establishment as a personal challenge rather than a return on investment.

We caught up with Joe a few weeks ago at the Spy HQ to learn more.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. The new 98 Cannon Street design work is being done by M3 Architecture of Rock Hall

The Future of Independent Films in Chestertown: A Conversation with Alicia Kozma


Not so long ago, Chestertown faced a challenge of epic proportions. There had been no catastrophic fire, the Chester River Bridge had not collapsed, nor was this the aftermath of a one hundred year storm. No, the crisis at hand, which impacted almost every soul in Kent County, was that the community had not only lost its only movie theatre but there no indicators that it would be replaced anytime soon.

Fast forward a year or so, and all of that has changed now. To Kent County’s collective relief, the new Chesapeake Movies now offers five state of the art screens. The seats are filled, young parents are relieved that they don’t need to drive 4o minutes for kid matinees, and once again this college town can say they have this critical quality of life amenity.

But given that Chestertown is the home of Washington College, with a student, faculty and retirement community with a passion for independent film, how does the town fill this gap? The answer is starting to emerge in a terrific way.

With the establishment of the RiverArts Film Society, a core group of passionate film aficionados has begun making their mark with  monthly screenings of critically alamcined art house flicks. More importantly, the Film Society has forged a partnership with Washington College, and recently added Alicia Kozma, the College’s professor of Media Studies, to its volunteer oversight committee, and that is when things became really exciting for Chestertown.

It turns out that Alicia has done this before. While attending the University of Illinois for her Ph.D., she volunteered to help form the Champaign-Urbana Film Society in Urbana, now a beloved part of the town-gown film world there. And not missing a beat, she has already arranged with Chesapeake Movies to use one of their theaters for Film Society screenings.

The Spy was delighted Alicia agreed to a Spy interview on the subject of film in Chestertown and caught up with her at the Spy HQ on Queen Street last week.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the RiverArts Film Society please go here.








A Chesapeake Charities Case Study: Public Transportation and Kent County


“What is the difference between your organization and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation?”

It is quite likely Linda Kohler has been asked that question over one million times since she started working at Chesapeake Charities in 2005.

Throughout her day as its executive director, she graciously points out the Charities early mission of working with individuals or small groups, mostly with no resources at all, to create organizations that serve the public good.  And now, with close to one hundred nonprofits under the Chesapeake Charities umbrella, this story is compelling.

Yet, it is the other work of Chesapeake Charities that is equally impressive. Linda and her staff collaboratively work with those same organizations and others on mission delivery and funding.

A case in point has been Chesapeake Charities’ work with the United Way of Kent County. It took on a partner role with the United Way’s goal to identify the most serious challenges facing Kent County, and they successfully found funding for a professional assessment of needs. The results were four areas of major concern, including public transportation, generational poverty, senior care, and the implementation of Dial 211 public services hotline.

The Spy thought it would be interesting to drill down to the issue of public transportation as an example of this works.  Now that the United Way could confirm that getting to work, to health care, to school, or a community center was a problem,  the next step was to find transportation professionals to identify economically realistic solutions. And once again, Chesapeake Charities was there to help find the funds to do that critical first step.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Charities please go here.

Spy History: Adam Goodheart on Washington College and the Mid-Shore


Every year in February, the United States goes out of its way to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. And every year, Washington College uses this opportunity to remind the country that the first real monument to America’s founding father was the establishment of a liberal arts college in Chestertown in 1782.

It is a story worth telling. With Washington’s specific approval, accompanied by a significant donation, William Smith, the college’s first president, set out to create an entirely new curriculum dedicated to training its students to prepare for leadership and citizenship in a very new country. So new, in fact, that it had only completed its formal separation from Britain just months before Washington College opened its doors.

But what gets lost all to0 often in the narrative of the founding of Washington College is the fact that its genesis was much more the result of some of the country’s best and brightest living in Maryland making an extraordinary investment in what they considered to be an essential resource for the Eastern Shore.

With landowner names like Goldsborough, Lloyd, Paca, and Tilghman, many of whom served as Maryland governors, representatives to the Continental Congress, or signers of the Declaration of Independence, these families generously donated for the new college’s founding despite the considerable distance Chestertown was by land or water from their homes.

That is one of the many rich takeaways from the Spy’s recent conversation with historian and author Adam Goodheart, Washington College’s long-serving director of the Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. In addition, Adam talks about the remarkable backgrounds of these Talbot and Queen Anne’s sponsors (who donated almost two-thirds of the funds needed to launch the college), their vision for the Shore, as well as frank discussion on their slaveholder past.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information on Washington College Starr Center please go here

ESLC’s Jim Bass Reports on Eastern Shore’s Preparedness for Rising Seas Levels


Given the nature of things – literally – it won’t be surprising for the Eastern Shore to have several studies prepared in the decades ahead that record and evaluate the dangers facing its rural communities as sea levels continue to rise throughout the century.

With the Delmarva Peninsula being one of the country’s most vulnerable landscapes for flooding and erosion as the result of global warming, there is an ever growing concern on the part of local government staff, conservation organizations, agricultural associations, and state agencies on what is being done, and what could be done, to prepare the Shore for this extraordinarily dramatic shift in climate.

One of the first of these has just been prepared by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with a new study to assist local governments to plan for the impacts of sea level rise. Titled “Mainstreaming Sea Level Rise Preparedness in Local Planning and Policy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” the study is centered on sea level rise projections for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the years 2050 and 2100.

This report was written on behalf of the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership  – a regional workgroup of local government staff, partners from the State of Maryland, academic institutions, and nonprofits for that very reason.

The ESCAP assists communities in reducing climate vulnerabilities and risks; collects and shares information among communities and decision makers; and educates members, residents, and elected leaders on risks and adaptation strategies. It also serves to raise the visibility and voice of the Eastern Shore and rural regions in conversations about adaptation and resilience.

The Spy sat down last week with Jim Bass, ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Specialist, who helped manage the study, last week to find out what the significant takeaways were and what must be done in the future to protect and defend the Mid-Shore from this dangerous new future we face.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information regarding this study, ESCAP, or ESLC’s coastal resilience program, please contact ESLC Coastal Resilience Specialist Jim Bass at study is available to view and download at

Building Legacies out of Wood with the Help of Bob Ortiz


Mid-Shore craftsman Bob Ortiz calls his program a “vacation workshop” but that might be a bit misleading for a few reasons.

The first is that while his workshop is indeed fun for the inspiring woodmaker, the “vacation” actually describes five, eight hour days working in Bob’s Chestertown woodshop to produce one piece of furniture during that time. The second is that while the word”workshop” may imply that you will have fellow students, the reality is that it only includes one pupil working side by side with this master craftsman to create an exquisite dinner or side table that the student can honestly say, “I made this.”

These are also perhaps the reasons why Bob’s workshops have grown in popularity since he started offering the program two years ago. From an NPR journalist to a top executive at Facebook, twenty-four students of all ages have now graduated with a legacy of craftsmanship that can be passed on for generations.

The Spy sat down with Bob at the Spy HQ in Chestertown to talk about this remarkable program.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Robert Ortiz Studios and Vacation Workshops please go here



A Health Check Up with Shore Regional Health CEO Ken Kozel


While it is recommended that one should check in with their primary physician once a year, the Spy thought it might be a good idea to extend this strategy to include a annual chat with Ken Kozel, the president and CEO of the Mid-Shore’s largest healthcare provider, UM Shore Regional Health, to get a impression of the state of healthcare in its primary care communities of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot Counties.

With close to 2,000 square miles of health service to cover, with each county having their own needs, any CEO would have his/her challenges, but in the case of Ken, it is also important to note that these complexities come with extra dynamic of operating in the state of Maryland, with its exclusive waiver with the federal government to control its own health costs. It is safe to say he has had his hands full.

In his Spy interview, he talks about the impact of this difficult environment in which his organization must operate, and the successful completion of the first phase of a state-wide, long term strategic vision to keep the quality of health high, its costs low, and without compromising access. Ken also talks about Shore’s expansion plans, the impact of urgent care facilities, and the unique position of Kent County.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about  UM Shore Regional Health please go here


Cecil Circuit Court Judge William Davis Talks Justice on the Eve of MLK Day


If there is a good example of what Martin Luther King Jr. was hoping for in America, it might be found with Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. The product of a mostly white high school in Delaware, followed by a primarily black college experience at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and now as the first elected black judge in a county that is made up of 90% white residents, Davis understands first hand the importance of diversity, as well as how America has changed since Dr. King poetically asked that Americans be judged by the quality of their character and not the color of their skin.

Davis also understands the importance of fair justice.  And while he is the first to admit that the American legal system has a long way to go before “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he faithfully believes that he and his fellow judges in Cecil County are making that a reality on the Upper Shore.

As the judge prepares his remarks for his keynote address at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast in Rock Hall next week, the Spy ran up to Elkton last week to talk to him between his court cases, about MLK, his thoughts on young people in the African-American community, and the mighty stream of justice in Maryland.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For information on the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast please go here.



The Road of Photographer Constance Stuart Larrabee: A Conversation with Author Peter Elliott


For those who remember Constance Stuart Larrabee, particularly those living on the Mid-Shore, it will always be gratifying to know that at the very end of her life Constance knew there was a high degree of attention paid to her photography.

While the native South African had been living on the Mid-Shore for more than forty years, she was intentionally reserved on talking about her work as a documentary photographer in the years before marrying a former military attache, Colonel Sterling Loop Larrabee, in 1949. If locals knew anything about Larrabee, it was for her reputation as a successful breeder of Norwich Terriers, not as South Africa’s first female World War Two correspondent. She clearly preferred it that way for reasons still not entirely known.

It was only when she was seventy that a close friend, Ed Maxcy, convinced her to share her portfolio of images from her visits to rural South African villages, the war, the streets of Johannesburg and, later, Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay. She began working with such distinguished institutions such as the Corcoran Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Yale’s Center for British Art, Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, as well as our own Washington College and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, through much of the eighties and early nineties on several well received exhibitions. All of which gave Larrabee the certain knowledge that her lifetime contribution to photography had been well-noted before she died in 2000.

But for those who have never heard her name, or seen her stunning images, there is good news to be had. Almost twenty years after her passing, fellow South African and author Peter Elliott has just completed a new biography of Larrabee after two years of extensive research.

Elliott, retiring to the South of France after a distinguished career as a London-based corporate attorney, began his new vocation as a writer on history and art, and had stumbled on Larrabee’s war photography while researching South Africa’s role in World War II.

Awed by their composition and warmth, Peter has meticulously tracked down every one of Constance’s documentary projects as well as applied a critical appraisal of her work, including a few myths she created along the way on her technique, in the newly released Constances: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee published by Cantaloup Press.

Through the wonders of technology, the Spy interviewed Peter via Skype from his home in Languedoc, France to talk about Constance, her photography, and the lasting legacy of her work.

This video is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. Constance: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee can be purchased at the Book Plate in Chestertown or on Amazon here.



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