Dedicated to their museum

Town: Charlotte and William Cronin have devoted years to collecting and preserving the history of Aberdeen.

November 30, 2003|By Mary Ellen Graybill | Mary Ellen Graybill,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum Inc. at 18 N. Howard St., William and Charlotte Cronin are getting ready to celebrate an Old English Christmas with an open house from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The focal point of the celebration will be the McCormick Spice Co.'s 1934 classic Elizabethan tearoom front, which the Cronins found at the Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Belvedere Square. They purchased it as the centerpiece for the museum for $4,800.

Celtic music by musicians, including Martha Baker-McEvoy, a descendant of the Aberdeen's founding Baker family, will be featured, as well as scones and tea. Visitors then will be able to visit Christmas Street and watch Santa's arrival in Aberdeen and enjoy the Christmas parade at 3 p.m. Also planned is the city's tree-lighting at Festival Park.

The Cronins have been a part of the Aberdeen scene for a long time: William Cronin is 82, and Charlotte Cronin, 78, is an eighth-generation resident of the area.

From writing the proposal to establish the museum in July 1987 to the recent purchase and restoration of the tearoom front, they have been active in the community and have promoted knowledge of its history.

"The Aberdeen Room was incorporated Feb. 25, 1991," Charlotte Cronin said. "My husband and I went down to Baltimore, and we incorporated it. And we paid the $70. We wanted to have an identity."

She and her husband also have donated part of their families' storehouse of artifacts. Charlotte Cronin's family left her Indian arrowheads and other relics, and William Cronin's father, John Wilmer Cronin, left a legacy of documents and collectibles from a long career as a lawyer in Aberdeen, honorary mayor and editor and publisher of the Harford Democrat.

Charlotte Cronin started her search for Aberdeen's history in 1957, when she first heard of the oldest plat of the city in the attic of a local home, but it took until July 1987 for a formal recognition by the Historical Society of Harford County to be made. That was the month she prepared a proposal to Andrew Bristow, director of the historical society, for a location for the museum.

On Oct. 12, 1987, she received a call from Bristow. He had a place for her collections: the basement of the old Aberdeen Elementary School, which she had once attended. Within a month the Cronins had a little museum, she said.

"We were in there three years when we had a chance to take over another building that had been vacated by the city fathers, and it was into the sunlight, and we got moved in a year before [the town's] centennial of 1992."

The name was changed from Aberdeen Room of the Historical Society of Harford County to the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum Inc.

The museum tells the story of the immigrants and professionals who played important roles in the early days of Aberdeen, first called the Halls Crossroads Village.

But one of the most interesting stories is the one that Charlotte Cronin tells about herself in 1957, when as a young woman, she found an old plat - or map - to the town of Aberdeen in the house where she practiced violin for a quartet.

"I used to go up to Mr. George Washington Baker's house, which is now the Baker House Bed and Breakfast," she said. "I used to go up there to practice [violin] in the music room with Mr. Baker for our group."

One day, Baker told her that he had found something puzzling in his attic - an original 1852 plat of the layout of the town of Aberdeen, with the streets on it - including Edmund, Law and Rogers - that had been drawn up by an Edmund Law Rogers.

"Edmund Law Rogers was born in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, and he came from a wealthy family, spoke five languages, graduated from Harvard as a lawyer, but didn't have to work at it, because he was wealthy," Charlotte Cronin said. "Edmund Law Rogers, who drew up the plat, named the streets, and wouldn't he also name the town? And why would he name the town? He just happened to be a cousin of the earl of Aberdeen, who in 1852 was the prime minister of Great Britain. And so it is named after Aberdeen, Scotland, for sure."

A replica of the plat of old Aberdeen hangs on one wall of the museum; the original is safely archived. Other maps and historic documents showing the owners' family names of farms now included in Aberdeen Proving Ground are also on display there.

"I think it's an obligation to keep the public apprised of what we have left of our beginnings," she said. "If a child knows something about the history of the community in which they live, if they know something about that by the fifth grade, that they value that, and then maybe they won't litter, or maybe they won't throw down candy wrappers, if they know something about history, that they feel as though it's more their community, and it should be kept looking good."

`Aberdeens Around the World'

Fred Bull, a retired professor of art at the University in Scotland, lives in Aberdeen, Scotland - the original Aberdeen, for which Harford County's Aberdeen was named by Edmund Law Rogers.

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