$1,000 donation gives reprieve to Taney House FREDERICK COUNTY

July 15, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- The Roger Brooke Taney House, a Frederick historical landmark that nearly closed its doors last month, will remain open through October, thanks to a $1,000 donation.

Tom Summers, president of the nonprofit group that owns and operates the 18th-century home of the former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said an anonymous donor stepped forward with the money after reading about the museum's financial woes in The Sun.

Mr. Summers said the donation will allow the group to pay a docent to staff the house on weekends through October. Two docents previously staffed the house as part of a pilot program funded by the Frederick County Historic Sites Consortium.

The consortium, a group of 12 small Frederick museums, offered to continue to pay for one docent and asked the Francis Scott Key Memorial Foundation Inc. to pay for the other. The consortium needed some of the docent money for promotional and marketing activities.

Mr. Summers said the foundation could not afford to pay for the second docent. Interest from an endowment barely covers maintenance and operating costs, he said. With the donation, the foundation will be able to pay for a single docent and rely on volunteers to help staff the house, he said. The museum will operate independently of the consortium.

"We're thrilled the house will continue to be available to visitors," said Elizabeth Shatto, the consortium's coordinator. "The house is a survivor on a lot of different levels. It's a surviving 18th century dwelling, and with the personalities associated with it, it takes on new levels of meaning. We're delighted."

Taney, author of the 1857 Dred Scott Decision that said blacks had no constitutional rights, lived in the two-story brick home during the early years of his law career. The house contains family heirlooms, Taney's law books and the Francis Scott Key Museum. Key was related to Taney by marriage.

Mr. Summers said that though the immediate future of the house -- built in 1799 and one of the few in the area with surviving slave quarters -- was secure, he was uncertain about its long-term future.

"I have no idea what's going to happen next season," he said. "We're still looking for people with funds in hand that would like to help us out. We've had various calls from other people locally who have expressed desire to help us out, but we have no money in hand yet."

Two Baltimore foundations -- which Mr. Summers declined to identify -- also have offered to help the financially strapped museum. He said representatives from one foundation plan to visit the house soon to discuss financial help.

In addition, Mr. Summers said, the museum has learned that it will receive several thousand dollars from the state to repair a wine cellar. The foundation must come up with $2,000 in local funds.

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