Improved Hancock's Resolution reopens Sunday

NEIGHBORS

March 30, 2001|By Peg Adamarczyk | Peg Adamarczyk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN HANCOCK'S Resolution reopens to visitors Sunday, the public will see the results of the first phase of a major renovation conducted the past eight months at the historic 18th-century farm off Bayside Beach Road.

Well before the visiting season had ended last summer, workers from Worcester Eisenbradt, a Baltimore contractor, had embarked on the first phase of an ambitious plan by the architectural firm of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker of Albany, N.Y.

The architects viewed Hancock's as a unique and important site surviving despite generations that had called the farm home. But years of gradual decline led to decay. The main stone farmhouse, built in 1785, remained free of such modern conveniences as electricity and indoor plumbing.

While repairs had been made to the farmhouse more than 10 years ago, it was not in keeping with the current view of historic property restoration - that repairs should not intrude on the appearance. The project manual for Hancock's restoration stated that "upon completion of this project, the mark of the architect and contractor should be nearly nonexistent."

The plan called for stabilizing several areas of the main farmhouse and several outbuildings, restoring lost architectural elements and adding necessary amenities for the public.

Old building techniques were employed, along with a modern innovation from Europe. A previous attempt at shoring up the main support in the farmhouse floor - using a steel I-beam and concrete pillars - was removed, and a new technique for support originating in Europe was used. The technique uses a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer strip, epoxied inside the original wooden house beams, for support that is almost invisible.

Plaster damaged by rain and pests was stabilized or replaced in the main building. Damaged brick, stone and mortar were repaired or replaced there and in the 1785 milk house.

Interior farmhouse walls received fresh coats of historically accurate whitewash.

A new storm drain was constructed under the farmhouse foundation to help protect its stones from more water damage. A brick patio along the east side of the 1850s kitchen addition and the summer kitchen was brought back to life. A visitor path and walkway, to accommodate wheelchair visitors and create a pedestrian traffic pattern, was constructed.

Despite capricious weather, John Morrison, president of the Friends of Hancock's Resolution volunteer group, reports that most of the restoration work and improvements have been completed and inspected.

Hours are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays through October, except for April 15, which is Easter.

"We had hoped that on one of our first days open this year, we would be able to have a grand opening to show off the completed restoration of the building at Hancock's, but unfortunately a residual part of the restoration, involving the work of a historic materials conservator to several windows and doors in the farmhouse, is still waiting to be done," Morrison said.

While the first phase of the restoration is unfinished, there are still quite a few new things to see on the farmstead, Morrison said.

"We have finally found the location of the `lost' outhouse on the property," he said. "That may seem like a trivial thing to mention, compared to all the work that has been done, but you would be surprised how many visitors asked about it last year."

Another important stop on the tour is the kitchen-door garden, lovingly restored over the past few years by Trixi Nordberg. She lives near the historic site and was one of the first volunteers there. While not an expert, her years of gardening and love of plants have transformed several overgrown, neglected gardens and plantings on the property into a picture of renewed vigor and growth.

Friends of Hancock's Resolution is planning at least one event each month to attract more visitors - the first of them Lilac Day, scheduled April 8 with hope that a large grove of standard lilacs, noted in an 18th-century text about the farmstead, is in bloom.

Master gardener Nordberg has also predicted that several other old bushes, including flowering quince and chickasaw plum, will blossom in time for the event.

An added attraction on Lilac Day will be a performance by Ginger Hildebrand featuring late 18th- and 19th-century popular tunes. Hildebrand, from Severna Park, is a musicologist specializing in early American music.

The site is handicap-accessible. Admission is free, although donations to continue the restoration are accepted.

Hancock's Resolution is on Bayside Beach Road, about 2 1/2 miles from Fort Smallwood Road.

Information: 410-255-4048.

Oscars for books

Hollywood's Academy Awards are history this year, and so are the first-ever Chesapeake Bay Middle School Academy Awards for Books.

The contest, sponsored by the school's Reading All Stars club, began last month when pupils were asked to nominate their favorite books and characters.

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