THE DISCOVERY of a surprisingly intact Colonial-era shipyard under the lawns and gardens of West River homes near Galesville is a harbinger of things to come. The more archaeologists have begun working on Anne Arundel County's early settler past, the more they are unearthing.
And why wouldn't they? Maryland's Chesapeake Bay coastline has a rich maritime history. Thriving settler ports and communities existed there. So did pirate hideaways. (The legendary pirate Hogarth reputedly hid a treasure on the grounds of "Holly Hill," the vast 17th century estate near the Anne Arundel-Calvert County line.)
The area that is now the focus of archaeologists' interest once belonged to shipwright Stephen Steward, who built long galleys as well as little schooners and warships there. The British eventually burned the place. (Steward was a supporter of the Continental Congress and participated in local political meetings.)
Thanks to a $20,000 grant from Anne Arundel County, archaeologists are trying to find the hidden treasures of the old Steward shipyard. Combing riverbanks, they are using a magnetometer to detect concentrations of metal and a ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint remains of building foundations. "It could be lifetimes before we got all the information," a state underwater archaelogist said.
Yes, plenty of hard work needs to be done. But the exciting thing is that enough relics have been found to ignite not only scholars' interest but the general public's as well.
Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary sees potential for so-called heritage tourism. "There is a good possibility of doing historic tours," he said. "Our hotels and our tourism people could do very well in promoting it."
This is an idea well worth pursuing. Recent excavations in the Slayton House, on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis, have unearthed artifacts used by slaves in African-inspired religious rituals. Meanwhile, London Town, the Colonial port town in southern Anne Arundel's Edgewater, is attracting more and more tourists. By linking these sites, Anne Arundel could have a winning critical mass of sites. It would not be about buildings only but about the mystery of recovering the past that was believed to have been lost.
Pub Date: 7/11/97