Transplanted Outbuildings Give Lift To Truck Farm Museum


November 12, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

Three rare, vintage outbuildings were moved yesterday to the Benson-Hammond House, where they become the first authentic structures in the county historical society's new truck farm museum.

The buildings-- a corn crib, wash house and tack house -- have been sitting on the George Cromwell farm in Ferndale since the late 19th century. They were donated to the Ann Arundell County Historical Society by the Circle Cos., a diversified real estate group that is helping to develop the 250-acre Cromwell site.

"We are really excited," said Beth Nowell, executive director of the historical society, as the corn crib rolled up the drive of the Benson-Hammond House. Nowell conceived the idea for the truck farm exhibit and has been working on the project for years.

To move the buildings, a four-man crew slid steel beams under them, lifted them on stilts, lowered them onto flatbed trucks and drove them two miles up the road to the Benson-Hammond site, 1.98 acres on state Department of Transportation property at the north end of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. One mover sat on the roof of the red wooden corncrib all the way up the road.

At the Benson-Hammond House, the buildings were set on jacks above a foundation. Within the next 90 days, the foundation piers will be constructed under the buildings, said Nowell. Finally, the movers will come back to lower the structures onto the piers.

Over the next two to five years, the historical society will renovate the buildings and turn them into exhibits, Nowell said.

Besides the three Cromwell buildings, plans call for a meat house, carriage house, outhouse, barn and picker's shanty. Nowell has located a meat house and carriage house, but she's still looking for the other three buildings.

Finding them promises to be difficult because, though these outbuildings once dotted the landscape, they noware extremely rare. Truck farming, in which crops were grown and shipped by truck primarily to Baltimore, began to decline after 1930. Only a handful of working truck farms still exist in Anne Arundel.

The historical society must use only authentic buildings under rules established by the National Register of Historic Places and the Maryland Historic Trust. The Benson-Hammond House, which was a truck farm in the early 20th century, is listed with both organizations.

Legum-Cromwell Joint Venture, composed of the Circle Cos. and Cromwell Farms Inc., spent $8,000 to move the corn crib, tack house and wash house.

Steve Donnelly, of the Circle Cos., said the firm views the truck farm as part of a movement to "rejuvenate attitudes" in North County. The revitalization of Ferndale and Glen Burnie are the other components of this change, he said.

"There are many wonderful things here. The issue is to make sure this area can show what it has to offer," Donnelly said.

Legum-Cromwell Joint Venture plans to build an office park on the Cromwell farm site, once a 500-acre operation where watermelons, tomatoes and other produce were grown and shipped to Baltimore. The three outbuildings would have been destroyed if the historical society had not wanted them, Donnelly said.

Architectural historian Donna Ware, the county's historical sites planner, said thebuildings can be dated sometime after 1880. The wash house is the oldest; the corn crib probably was built in the early 20th century and the tack house sometime in between.

Ware said she can estimate thebuildings' age on the basis of the circular saw patterns in the woodand the use of wire nails. Before 1880, wood was hewn with a pit sawand nails were machine-cut with square heads.

The buildings' significance is more historic than artistic, Ware said.

"They are the typical type of outbuildings that you would have seen on farms in Anne Arundel County," she said. "The problem is that this area is undergoing such intensive development that few farms survive. They are valuable because of their rarity."

Nowell and Ware hope other developers will follow the Circle Cos.' lead in preserving historic buildings. The carriage house, which now sits in Odenton, is being donated by the KMS Group Inc., a Columbia-based developer. A meat house, in GlenBurnie, also has been donated.

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