Special tours offered to save historic Port Deposit landmark

Town's administrator hopes to restore Beach Fountain

May 27, 2011|By Mary Paramore | Record staff

History buffs: this could be the best $5 you ever spent.

Port Deposit town administrator Erika Quesenbery will personally give visitors a walking tour of the historic riverfront town for $5. She'll drop that to $2 with a lunch receipt from one of the town's restaurants.

Why the largesse? Quesenbery wants to raise money to restore Beach Fountain, which sits at the corner of South Main Street and Jacob Tome Highway. The funds needed aren't yet known, but Quesenbery expects any grants for which she applies to require matching funds.

The fountain was commissioned in 1903 by Martha Beach to honor her mother, Miranda E. Beach, who operated a school for girls there in the late 1800s. Carved from a massive chunk of Port Deposit granite, the fountain is one-of-a-kind.

"It's about 7 or 8 feet high and carved from Port Deposit granite," Quesenbery said in a recent interview, noting that Port Deposit granite is gray with black flecks that turns to a blue gray when wet. "There's a horse trough in front, with drinking bowls for dogs and cats underneath, and a bird bath on top."

People could drink from the fountain using a cup that hung at the back. History has it the fountain was dedicated with the words, 'For creatures great and small, Port Deposit welcomes them all.'

"We won't restore it for drinking, but for aesthetics. It was sealed up properly by the State Highway Administration, so we need to do a complete study to determine how to restore it correctly," she said.

If history offers a glimpse of the future, Quesenbery's tours should do well. She spent 10 years as curator of Port Deposit's Paw Paw Museum, where she presented candlelight tours in Civil War costume. Quesenbery also conducted tours of the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, situated on bluffs above the town, for veterans groups and did a trial run of the tour she will offer beginning May 6.

"Last October, we did a lantern tour and with one week's notice, we got 30 people," she said.

About her commitment to offering tours to highlight Port Deposit's history, she said, "If you know the history of something, you have to share it. Otherwise, it is a memory and it won't be history."

Quesenbery has written and will soon submit a grant to Architects on Call, a free service offered by the Maryland Downtown Development Association to start the long process of Beach Fountain's restoration.

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