|Deale Area Historical Society opens doorways to the past|
Published August 28, 2008
During the South County Festival, the Deale Area Historical Society opened the doors to its new facility in the historic village at Herrington Harbour North in Trac ys Landing.
The opening, held in June, began the more public phase of the society's work, but it was also a kind of showcase for the cluster of historic buildings brought to the site from throughout southern Maryland.
Later this summer, the historical society also began opening its doors to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. each Sunday, to view the buildings and collection of historic artifacts.
According to Hamilton Chaney, the relocation of those buildings was begun more than 15 years ago by his father Stuart Chaney.
"Both my mother and
father, Stuart and Dottie, have had an interest in vernacular architecture," Mr. Chaney said.
As the senior Mr. Chaney saw pieces of property being developed, he would make an effort to acquire the older buildings rather than see them razed.
The first building to be brought to the site was the African American Society Meeting House. It was in severe disrepair at the time it was moved, but Mr. Chaney said the Chaney family worked during the renovation process to keep the period details accurate.
As an adjunct to the building, the society also collected the membership roster of the group, known as the "United Sons and Daughters of Holland."
The roster, covering the dates from 1931 to 1961, has more than 200 names. During the time period of the group, which was operational from 1905 to 1983, African Americans joined by paying monthly dues. If a member became sick and unable to work, the society would pay the member a stipend, which decreased in amount until the member could return to work.
For African Ameri
cans who joined the society, it was a kind of insurance plan. Many such beneficial societies, created for both blacks and whites, evolved into large insurance companies, some of which are Fortune 500 companies today.
Other such societies evolved into credit and trade unions, and still others, such as the United Sons and Daughters of Holland, endured a slow and quiet demise.
According to Professor Joe Trotter of Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, the rise of such African-American societies was closely linked to fraternal organizations, which were popular in America from the earliest days of the Revolution. But during the Jim Crow era, many such groups, including the Freemasonry, might have excluded blacks, forcing them to look to their community to create support networks.
Mr. Trotter has writte
n extensively on the topic and said that a number of scholars now look to the role of such organizations in the transition of African-American society, and as a sort of stepping stone to the Civil Rights movement.
The next building to be moved to the site was the Nutwell Schoolhouse, which was brought over from Franklin Gibson Road, also in Tracys Landing. The schoolhouse was the first building to undergo a complete restoration.
"First my father, and then my father and I have worked on and overseen the repair of the buildings," Mr. Chaney said. They have hired people to help and have used marina staff.
"We have tried to
do it in a way that is historically correct. It takes a lot of time when you start to repair things, you have to find the proper hinge and door handle and the wood has to be the proper age," he said. "We've gained a lot of knowledge over the years."
After they began restoring the Nutwell Schoolhouse, Mr. Chaney said that either Ruth Hazen or Lois Nutwell of the historical society approached him about getting involved. "They were looking for a place where that could host their collection," he said.
Little did they know what they were getting into. Mr. Chaney said that after they came on board, the women became very involved in the restoration of the buildings, from plastering to painting.
Inside the schoolhouse, which the historical society uses as its headquarters, are cases filled with artifacts from Deale's past. Things such as sailcloth from the 1920s, and sunbonnets. There's also a map of Anne Arundel County dating to 1860, and books, pictures and other artifacts.
When the historic society opened its doors this summer, both the schoolhouse, the meeting house, and two outhouses had been fully restored.
Next up is a reside
nce that the Chaneys brought from Prince Frederick in Calvert County.
Walking into the old home with its decaying lath and plaster walls, crumbling ceiling, and defunct old stove gives visitors an idea of just how hard the restoration must have been on the other buildings on site.
Across the street from the village is an historic tobacco barn and an old slave quarters, which are being restored. The barn is from the 1700s, but the previous owners had built another barn on top of the old one, so that the historic barn inside was kept more intact than if it had been exposed to the weather.
The slave quarters
, which has one room with a loft, dates from the early 1800s, and was moved from Lothian.
After those projects are complete, Mr. Chaney and his family plan to work on the residence. When asked how much all of these restorations have cost, "Let's just say tens of thousands," Mr. Chaney said with great understatement, since moving one of the buildings to the site can cost $10,000.
On his wish list is an authentic country kitchen - an outbuilding to accompany the residence. Such a kitchen shed would have been used during the 18th century because cooking inside the house would have not only been hot, but also a fire hazard.
The village is a site on the Maryland Department of Transportation's "Maryland Trails" program, and Mr. Chaney said the buildings can be viewed at any time.
For more information on the historical society, visit www.dahs.us.
For more information on the historic village, the address to Herrington Harbour North is: 389 Deale Road, Tracys Landing.
Mitchelle Stephenson is a freelance writer living in Edgewater.