Snow Hill, Salisbury offer alternative to beach


August 22, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

Gentle surf and cool sea breezes may be the main attractions at the seashore, but after a few days of paying homage to the sun gods, even the devout may need a breather from Ocean City.

Then it's time to head over the U.S. 50 bridge to nearby Snow Hill and Salisbury, where the beach-weary can visit a re-created 19th-century town, sightsee on a river, take a canoe trip or check out the local zoo.

Snow Hill, the county seat of Worcester County, captures the ambience of a small town with its historic homes, one-room schoolhouse and even a few ghosts. The Snow Hill Inn is among the area buildings that claim a resident spirit.

Chance to stroll quiet streets

Tourists can stroll quiet streets and see 18th- and 19th-century homes. On Market Street, the Julia A. Purnell Museum houses a collection of items that date from Colonial days. The exhibits include dental tools from 1850, baby bottles, toys and vintage clothing.

The Mount Zion One Room School Museum, which was a school until 1931, was moved to Ironshire Street in 1979. It features period furnishings, including desks, textbooks, writing slates and old-fashioned stove in the middle of the room. There are also class photos of town residents.

Visitors can also take a guided tour of the Pocomoke River on Tillie the Tug or rent a canoe from Pocomoke River Canoes. The company offers several three- to four-hour canoe trips that are designed even for novices. Canoers and their gear are taken by a van upstream and then paddle back to Snow Hill.

"In a canoe, you see 100 percent of the wildlife," says marina manager Chuck McCoy. He says paddlers might see bald eagles, turtles, blue and white heron, and deer.

Furnace Town

One of biggest attractions in the Snow Hill area is Furnace Town, an historic site located five miles northwest of the town. The former industrial town has a 30-foot furnace stack that was built around 1832 and stands as a focal point.

A small museum explains the iron-making process and how iron ore was discovered in the nearby Nassawango Swamp in 1788.

Furnace Town is in the process of being refurbished to its glory days from 1832 to 1847. Visitors can see a functioning blacksmith shop, the Old Nazareth Church, a broom house, print shop and ruins of several other buildings.

The town's boom days started to dwindle in the 1840s when iron buyers looked elsewhere for better-quality iron at cheaper prices, and by 1850, the town's main company, Maryland Iron Co., went bankrupt.

Artifacts from the early days are being unearthed by archaeologists of all skills. At previous digs, people have found ceramic shards, window glass, nails and a smoking pipe, says Kathy Fisher, executive director of Furnace Town Foundation Inc. The program will continue from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. today and next Sunday. Call Furnace Town at (410) 632-2032 for reservations.

Also at the Furnace Town site is a nature trail that winds about a mile through the swamp forest bordering the Nassawango Creek. Along the nature trail are identification markers for bald cypress and explanations of bog iron that bubbles in nearby springs.

While visiting a modern-day museum may not be on the agenda of a lot of beach vacationers, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury is worth the trip.

The bright, airy museum, which moved to its current location on Schumaker Drive last year, attracts local and foreign visitors. "In a 48-hour period, I ran into people from nine different countries," says Vaughn Baker, executive director of the museum.

The museum offers some of the best bird carving around. Exhibits explain the history of bird hunting in America, and there are replicas of decoys used about 2,000 years ago and a gallery of wildfowl carving highlighting award winners from competitions sponsored by the Ward Foundation.

"When you study the artwork, you can't help but appreciate the birds," Mr. Baker says.

Checking out the zoo

After checking out the carved birds, take a look at real wildfowl and other animals at the Salisbury Zoological Park. The zoo is home to 400 mammals, birds and reptiles, including brightly colored macaws, lumbering bison and frisky spider monkeys.

The inhabitants of the zoo are most active in the mornings and early evenings, advises James Rapp, educational curator for the zoo.

Salisbury has its share of history, too. North of the center of town on Route 13 is the Newtown historic district, where there are several large homes and mansions. One of the most impressive is the Poplar Hill Mansion at 117 Elizabeth St., which was built around 1805 and is open for tours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

The city also offers boat tours of the Wicomico River aboard the Maryland Lady. Several days a week during the summer, there are luncheon and dinner cruises that take passengers on a narrated tour of the river that focuses on the stately homes along the shore.

IF YOU GO . . .

Directions to Snow Hill from Ocean City: U.S. 50 or Route 90 to Route 113 south. Take Route 394 into town.

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