At Waverly Mansion, a touch of the past Re-enactors will make 1860 come alive Sunday

April 18, 1996|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Howard County's Antebellum History" will come alive inside the stucco walls of historic Waverly Mansion Sunday when 18 re-enactors portray life in 1860, just before the Civil War.

Within the 10-room main building on Marriottsville Road, the "militia" will be meeting in the parlor to discuss a declining political situation, food will be cooking on the hearth in the kitchen and hoop-skirted women will be tending to the house.

"We are trying to educate folks," said Steve Bockmiller, who is coordinating the event, sponsored by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.

Such living history programs are old hat for Mr. Bockmiller, who is a member of two groups, the 4th North Carolina regiment in Baltimore and the Metropolitan Athenaeum, based in Alexandria, Members from both groups will be presenting Sunday's program.

The groups serve as educational resources and their members refer to themselves as "living historians," Mr. Bockmiller said. They often re-create history in events sponsored by the National Park Service. Because Mr. Bockmiller, a planner with the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, is always looking for places that are conducive to living history programs, he talked to Barbara Lett and Ann Combs, special events coordinators for the Department of Recreation and Parks, about the idea of presenting one at Waverly.

"We think it's a wonderful opportunity for the residents in the county to see Waverly and to learn about what life was like during that period," Mrs. Lett said.

Additional attractions at Sunday's event include a fife and drum corps and an artist who does pen and ink drawings of historical buildings. Refreshments will be available. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children under age 12.

For the program, Mr. Bockmiller spent about 40 hours researching the history of the Waverly house during 1860. He discovered that the owner of Waverly at that time was Joseph H. Judick, a 63-year-old livestock broker. The German immigrant had a 48-year-old wife, Mary, and six children.

Because of conflicting records, historians aren't sure exactly when the house was built. The county's Department of Recreation and Parks indicated that recent studies suggest that Col. John Eager Howard purchased the property that was later given to his son and daughter-in-law as a wedding gift.

Waverly -- named after the novel "Waverley" by Sir Walter Scott -- was believed to have been built in 1820 by the Howard family. The second "e" in Waverley was dropped when mansion was named.

Ultimately, Waverly -- comprising the main house, caretaker's cottage and a storage building and sitting on 3.4 acres of land -- was acquired in 1989 by the Howard County government and is available to rent for meetings, workshops, wedding receptions and other functions.

The living historians will not be portraying the actual people who lived in the Waverly Mansion. Instead, they will be depicting the general lifestyle of an upper-middle-class family in rural Howard County before the Civil War.

John Haas, 45, and Tina Horvath, 40, will step into another century when they don their period clothing -- sewn by Ms. Horvath -- for the Waverly event. The two Ellicott City residents, members of the 4th North Carolina regiment, say a transformation occurs each time they participate in living history programs.

"The minute you step into that costume, you change," said Ms. Horvath, who is a computer programmer. Mr. Haas, also a computer programmer, agreed. "We are totally focused on what we are doing, which is teaching," he said. "We leave all of our troubles behind and step back to a harder time, but one which is much simpler."

For information, call Barbara Lett, (410) 313-4632 or Ann Combs, (410) 313-4635.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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