The Captain Avery House shows Shady Side history

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 xTC 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" to reflect its history. A simple two-story structure when Captain Avery moved in, the home was enlarged considerably by the fishing and country club. The porch reflects the look of the home in the 1920s. The kitchen and living areas reflect the home as it would have looked in 1860, when the Averys first moved in.

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.

The upper floors include a child's room.

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.

The Heritage Society also has created a museum to display Shady Side's history on the water.

Elliott Crowner, whose family has been in Shady Side "at least 150 years," pointed out the hand tongs and patent tongs oysterman have used to bring in their catch. Mr. Crowner who has spent all of his 54 years in Shady Side, said he has seen his town undergo many changes, yet retain its small town feel. "Twenty, 30 years ago you knew everyone in your immediate area," Mr. Crowner said. Now you might not know your neighbor across the street, "but there are still little stores you can walk into, and if you forget your wallet, you can pick up a few things and pay for them tomorrow."

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