Posts Tagged 'heritage'

Staff Blog on Stewardship: Carol Benson

I recently attended a very inspiring conference in Gettysburg, the 7th Annual Conference of the “Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area,” which had such an intense focus this year on sustainable growth and heritage tourism that I and a number of my fellow heritage area directors decided to set aside the time to attend. This turned out to be a great decision!

The best takeaway for me was about getting the Stewardship message across. More than one speaker told us that the biggest threat to preservation is not really the factors you expect (economics, developer greed, somebody wanting to make a fast buck), but it is lack of awareness. If made aware of the real meaning and value of our precious historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural landscapes, our unique built environment, the incredible wealth of our natural resources, our decision-makers want to do the right thing. It is our job to highlight what is important and valuable and irreplaceable about our heritage, to watch out for the threats, and to educate one another — the public, our students, our stakeholders, decision-makers and legislators — to help us all gain a heightened awareness of the roles we all must play in the Stewardship of our heritage. Thanks to the conference organizers for sharing this powerful Stewardship message, and the examples of precious resources lost and others saved : awareness will make the difference.


Guest Blogpost on Stewardship: Donna Ware

Donna Ware, Senior Vice President for Preservation at Historic Annapolis, Member of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and Chair of the Four Rivers Stewardship Committee, begins our dialogue with the following:

What Is Your View?

  What is your view? This blog will explore the importance of stewardship of our heritage and landscape. Stewardship is an action and belief that we are all responsible for preserving and perpetuating the legacy that has been given to us. Who cares? We are all caretakers of this legacy. Rachel Carson, the great conservationist, challenged us with the responsibility of caring for our environment when she asked, “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

Created in 1996, the Maryland Heritage Areas Program was designed to be an economic tool for enhancing the heritage tourism industry in our state. Since its inception, one of the integral elements of the program has been stewardship of our cultural, historical and natural resources. If we are to draw increasing numbers of tourists to the many state heritage areas with the promise of a engaging and quality visit, then we must be able to provide that memorable experience. The state program calls upon us to sustain our regional identities, use our resources wisely and protect historical, archaeological and natural resources. We want future generations of visitors and residents to “view” and to see or experience again and again the compelling legacy of our area – one that has been well cared for by good stewards of the past, present and future.

So, what is YOUR view? Please join our dialogue! You may comment here or submit your own blogpost with your own viewpoint and/or statement on a stewardship issue important to you.
To submit a post for consideration to be a part of this blog, send your text to heritage_are at and we will contact you, thank you! We look forward to hearing “Your View”!

A Story Quilt and a Spirited Ceremony

Apparently it was a well-kept surprise to Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither that she, along with her extraordinary documentary story quilt, were the honorees at a spirited dedication ceremony this past Wednesday. The artist received various accolades, too many to enumerate, celebrating her Black Watermen of the Chesapeake quilt. Imagine being asked to show up for a “small” dedication ceremony to find a hundred friends, family, local students, community members, and other supporters there to tell you how much of an impact you have had on their lives. Music and poetry framed the ceremony, including a rendition of Ave Maria by Banneker-Douglass Museum’s own Gen Kaplan, winter and water-themed selections by Bates Middle School choir, and a capella spirituals. Oh yes, there were tears.

 Let me back up a little; when I say her quilt, what I mean is her vision, her expertise, and her talent. But Dr. Gaither did something remarkable: She shared all this with the community and allowed anyone who wished to add their story, their photos, and their stitches to the quilt. She is the first to say that this was a community project. This particular documentary story quilt, as there are quite a few more, tells the stories of African American men and women who spent their lives working the water of the Chesapeake: Their struggles, their triumphs, their families, their LOVE of the Bay. As Jeff Holland, Director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum said, “this is our history,” no matter who you are. If you live by the Bay, you will be touched by these stories.

If you haven’t seen the quilt yet, well, you have to wait until March when it returns to its home state – this piece is traveling! Its first stop is in Hartford, Connecticut then back to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Reflecting on this past Wednesday, though, I can say what a great way to start the day! If you weren’t able to attend the dedication ceremony, check out some of my photos below. Then get in the car, and go to Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis to check out some of her other pieces while they’re still on exhibit!

— Aleithea W.

The Bates Middle School choir sings for the audience

Karen Rowe and Olivia Gray from the organization Quilt: Art to Mend the World (from my hometown, Riverale, MD!) lead the audience in a spiritual

Dr. Gaither stands in front of (only a small section!) of the Quilt

Mr. Ted Mack prepares to present Dr. Gaither with an accolade with the entire quilt in the background

In Memoriam, Roberta Cassard

The sign at the Galesville Heritage Museum
The sign at the Galesville Heritage Museum following Roberta’s passing

Roberta Cassard, who passed away unexpectedly on September 30 after a brief illness, was a lovely person who will be greatly missed.

Back in 2007, Four Rivers honored Roberta, together with another Galesville Heritage Society founder, Jack Smith, with our highest honor, our Heritage Award. The notes from that night cite their tireless efforts to preserve, interpret and share the heritage of Galesville. “The Galesville Heritage Museum stands as testimony to their vision and their determination to secure a place in which to house the artifacts, manuscripts and oral history collection that helps document and tell the rich and diverse history of Galesville to residents and to visitors. Roberta Cassard’s tireless dedication to the community is also evident in the moving Veterans Day program that she coordinates for local veterans every year. Both have served as Presidents of the Galesville Heritage Society, and as board and committee members.” Soon after, she was awarded a Community Service award by Leadership Anne Arundel.

A tribute to Roberta reads in part: “A longtime resident of Galesville, Roberta became a founding member and first president of the Galesville Heritage Society. She was instrumental in calling the first organizational meeting at the Galesville Memorial Hall on September 11, 1991. Being one not to dally, the morning after the meeting Roberta began a video series of the waterfront, historic houses, businesses, and, especially, taped interviews with local longtime residents such as watermen, farmers, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs.

“She initiated the museum collection with donations of her personal historical artifacts. Not to be dismayed by the lack of a display area, she started out storing the collection in the trunk of her car. As the collection grew,  it was moved to a shed behind the TopSide restaurant, then to the attic of Memorial Hall, then to the back room of the West River Market. Eventually Roberta served on a site selection committee to find a permanent home for the burgeoning collection. In the process, the house of a beloved local teacher was purchased with a grant that Roberta helped obtain.”

Citations for Roberta call her the “heart and soul of Galesville,” and that she truly was, for many of us who were privileged to know her. She seemed to be an unstoppable force, always just a phone call away, devoted to the museum and determined not only to keep it going, but to constantly improving it; and it is hard to think that she will no longer be waiting just inside the door for our knock as we bring another group for a visit. Our last visit with her was August 27th and was blogged by Aleithea (see “A Day in Anne Arundel County,” below), and there she is in one of our photos, as gracious and welcoming as ever. Upon hearing of her passing, Donna Hole, former Chair of the heritage area’s Coordinating Council, said, “Indeed, sad news.  Roberta was with us from the very beginning as we got the Heritage Area going.  A lovely, gentle woman. I will miss her.”

So will we all! Roberta lives on, I know, in the great work of her life, the Galesville Heritage Museum. If you’d like to visit this unique local museum and take part in their upcoming programs, check their website,, for more information.

–Carol Benson

1812 Star-Spangled Conference, part deux

I grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, so attending the Star-Spangled 200 Conference at the historic Riversdale Mansion in Prince George’s County last week was somewhat of a homecoming for me. The last time I visited Riversdale I was collecting information to write a paper for a grad school class (the docent, by the way, that gave me the house and kitchen tour was so good!). This time around we didn’t do the house tour, but got some great information from the War of 1812 historians, Dr. Ralph Eshleman and Vince Vaise.

Why the War of 1812? In 2009? We have to plan ahead, of course. The State of Maryland played a pivotal role in the conflict (which began when the United States declared war on Great Britain 30 years after the American Revolution) and commemorative events are being planned state-wide. Lest the nation, and especially Marylanders, forget – our National Anthem was derived during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814. As an aside, a significant piece of information I gathered during the conference came from local music historian, David Hildebrand, who told me that the description of the music to which Key’s poem, the Star-Spangled Banner, was set to was not a rowdy English drinking song, but more of a lilting “gentlemen’s club” kind-of tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Go ahead, give it a hum…O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light…

I really enjoyed the rest of the day too. I was able to visit historic Bostwick in Bladensburg, where Don Linebaugh of the University of Maryland (and one of my former professors!) gave us  a tour and talked about the various preservation programs taking place at the house. We then drove over to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park for lunch and a walking tour of the 1814 Battle of Bladensburg area, took a drive through  historic Fort Lincoln Cemetery, then made our way to Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park in Upper Marlboro where an archaeological excavation was in progress.

In difficult times like those we are in now, I tend to avoid using the word “celebrate” regarding past conflicts. However, we should remember that the legacy of the War of 1812 is the enduring friendship among the U.S., Canada, and England where there once was rancor.

To learn more about the War of 1812 and Maryland’s role in the conflict, I highly encourage you to visit The Four Rivers Heritage Area also supports organizations and sites that are seeking ways to commemorate 1812 events that took place in the heritage area. For more information, visit or send us an email:


Historic Bostwick in Bladensburg. Notice the asymmetry between the dormers, second floor windows, and portico. Interesting...

Historic Bostwick in Bladensburg. Notice the asymmetry between the dormers, second floor windows, and portico. Interesting...

At Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a lone egret. Gorgeous!

At Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a lone egret. Gorgeous!

Panoramic view of Mount Calvert (far left) and the adjacent Patuxent River. The mansion houses a multi-room exhibition.

Panoramic view of Mount Calvert (far left) and the adjacent Patuxent River. The mansion houses a multi-room exhibition.

A Day in Southern Anne Arundel County

Last week, Four Rivers Heritage Area was so pleased to host a tour of one of the region’s “hidden” treasures – Southern Anne Arundel County – for the staff of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau (the “CVB”). South County really could be considered Maryland in microcosm with its rural and agricultural landscapes, water front communities, horse farms, fruit and vegetable farms, marinas, wildlife, and, of course, historic places. It was such a treat to spend all day touring this part of the county that we want to share some of the images from these special places with our readers.

We began the day by heading down to Historic London Town and Gardens where Executive Director Donna Ware gave everyone a tour of the Visitors’ Center, Archaeology Lab, gardens, and reconstructed and original historic buildings.
We then drove down Muddy Creek Road to Galesville’s historic Main Street where Roberta Cassard and Norman Hazard of the Galesville Heritage Society shared the town’s rich maritime history with a tour of the Galesville Heritage Museum.
Executive Director Laurel Fletcher met us at the Captain Salem Avery Museum where we took a walk on the pier leading down to the West River and checked out a crab trap. Laurel also gave a tour of the inside of the museum where fantastic family heirlooms and other historic artifacts are neatly curated.
A delicious lunch, incorporating local peaches and rockfish, was provided by the staff of Herrington Harbour South, a local marina and resort. Anna Chaney Willman, the marina’s catering director, gave us an inside look at the “greening” initiatives of the marina and resort, such as wash water recycling, energy efficiency, and the creation of marsh land for wildlife habitat. We hopped over to Herrington Harbour North where Ruth Hazen of the Deale Area Historical Society gave a tour of the Historic Village situated at the entrance of the marina.
Last stop was the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) during which Karen McDonald talked about SERC’s education and public programs. John Parker of the Terrestrial Ecology department also took the group up to the ruins of the Contee Mansion, on top of a steep hill, to share a spectacular view of the Rhode River.
Thank you to all of our hosts and to the CVB for allowing us to share the rich heritage of South County with them. Visit the Four Rivers website to download a variety of brochures to help you create your own tour of South County. Explore, Experience, Discover Four Rivers and Landings (for all you boaters) are available online! Give us a call at 410-222-1805 or send a request to and we will send you a copy of our large History Explorer’s Map with detailed information about dozens of historic sites in the Heritage Area.
 Happy trails! – Aleithea
View of one of the gardens. Can you spot the tobacco?

View of one of the Historic London Town gardens. Can you spot the tobacco?


The gang talks with Roberta Cassard on the steps of the Galesville Heritage Museum (photo by Susan Steckman)

The gang talks with Roberta Cassard on the steps of the Galesville Heritage Museum (photo by Susan Steckman)


Laurel Fletcher pulls up the crab trap (Photo by Susan Steckman)

Laurel Fletcher pulls up the crab trap (Photo by Susan Steckman)


This sign post marks a segment of Herrington Harbour's mile-long eco-trail.

This sign post marks a segment of Herrington Harbour's mile-long eco-trail.


We spent some time at the Nutwell Schoolhouse at the Herrington Harbour Historic Village

We spent some time at the Nutwell Schoolhouse at the Herrington Harbour Historic Village


The pier at SERC overlooks a canoe/kayak ramp. I took this photo from a relaxing gazebo.

The pier at SERC overlooks a canoe/kayak ramp. I took this photo from a relaxing gazebo.

Heritage Awards Recognize Our Heroes

It’s that time again!
Four Rivers has again announced that we are accepting nominations for our Sixth Annual Heritage Awards, which will be held in early November. The award categories this year include Heritage Tourism Product, New Initiatives, Heritage Partnership, Heritage Professional, Public/Private Initiatives, Legacy, and the most prestigious award, the Heritage Award. Nominations are due to the Heritage Area office by September 28, 2009. Nomination forms are available on our website.

In the four years that I have been a part of these award ceremonies, I can recall quite a few highlights and very special moments, and I’ll share some photos of past ceremonies here:

Marion Warren2

The late Marion Warren addressing the audience after receiving the Heritage Award in 2005.

Below left, John VanAlstine with Anna Milbradt and Cecilia Capuano, two junior docents from Captain Salem Avery Museum, after receiving the Legacy Award in 2005, and right, Pam Offer, the recipient of the Legacy Award in 2007.




Pam Offer

The full list of past awardees is on the Four Rivers website.

The reason these awards are important is that they recognize our heritage heroes, those people (and sometimes institutions too) who have done so much to understand, preserve and share the legacies of our region’s past.

If you would like to nominate another of our area’s heroes for this year’s awards, please take the time to fill out the nomination form, send it in and/or call the office — 410-222-1805– so they can be considered by our committee for this significant community recognition. Thank you! — Carol Benson

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