Captain Avery House redone, opens as museum

September 28, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Joseph Thomas Atwell squinted and peered at the glass-encased Bible. His finger traced a list of names, births and deaths.

"I'd like to get a closer look and turn through the pages," Mr. Atwell said. "I bet there's some interesting things to be found in those pages."

No doubt many people would love to thumb through a Bible dating back to the 1860s. But Mr. Atwell's interest may be a bit more intense, since the Bible contains records of his family.

Mr. Atwell, 71, was one of about 200 people who ventured to Shady Side this weekend for the opening of the restored Captain Salem Avery House, his great-grandfather's home, now a museum of Shady Side history.

"Mary Lucinda Avery was my grandmother," Mr. Atwell explained, scanning the visible pages of the opened Bible. "She married Joseph Atwell and they moved to Annapolis. We used to come down [to Shady Side] once or twice a summer, but we didn't visit that often.

"I've lost track of a lot of people," he added. "I bet I could find some of them in this Bible."

While Mr. Atwell couldn't flip through the pages of his family Bible, he was anything but disappointed. "This is really great what they've done with this place," he said.

The Shady Side Rural Heritage Society is the "they" who have managed to restore the house and turn it into a museum of local history.

"Captain Avery moved here to Shady Side in 1860 and built this house," said Mavis Daly, a member of the Heritage Society. "It has been through several uses since then."

Salem Avery came to Shady Side to continue his family tradition of working the water. The owner of two schooners, his status among community members grew when he was named treasurer for the building committee of the new Methodist church.

A descendant of Captain Avery sold the home to a group of Washington, D. C. businessmen in 1923. The men, who formed a group called the Masonic Fishing and Country Club, turned the house into a summer vacation place for themselves and their families.

When the country club members decided in 1989 to sell the Avery home, they insisted it be sold to a non-profit group, Mrs. Daly said. The Heritage Society, which had been seeking a site for a museum to display the history of Shady Side, decided the house was the perfect place.

Overlooking Parish Creek, which feeds into the West River, the Captain Salem Avery House underwent a major refurbishing. A new roof and gutters were added; windows and plumbing had to be updated.

Mrs. Daly stressed, however, that all the displays in the home are "historically correct."

A brick doorstop, engraved with the dater "1860," sits near the living room door. A washtub, cooking utensils, plates and a pie safe decorate the kitchen area. All are original items from the 1860 home.

The upper floors include a child's room. Inside is a vintage leather teething doll that was passed from child to child in its day -- a tradition that would have most modern-day pediatricians in a frenzy.

A portion of the wall has been left exposed to show those touring the house how it was constructed. Plaster containing horse hair holds many of the beams together. Pieces of peeled wallpaper reveal pieces of newspaper plastered beneath to show a type of insulation foreign to most people today.

In addition to refurbishing the 1860 portion of the house, the Heritage Society also has created a museum to display Shady Side's history on the water.


The Captain Salem Avery House, 1418 East West Shady Side Road., is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Information, 261-5234.

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