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Stories of a Past Worth Repeating

Bayside History Museum

Museums like the Smithsonians we visit in Washington show us the wonders of the world. Little community museums tell us our own stories excavated from the sands of time.
    In North Beach, the Bayside History Museum takes threads of families, activities, and places over the last 130 years and presents them in a wonderful quilt of fun, tradition and culture.
    The story spins out of the place it’s rooted.

A Story Worth Telling
    In the 1890s, the town of Chesapeake Beach was conceived and constructed as a Bayside resort. On June 9, 1900, the fun began. Thousands of tourists ventured to the Bayside towns for swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, picnicking, dancing and games of chance. One of the major attractions was the Great Derby roller coaster constructed of wood over the Chesapeake.
    Visitors from Baltimore disembarked from steamboats on a mile-long pier and boardwalk. From Virginia and D.C., tourists traveled by train to the depot that now houses the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.
    Amusements and waterside activities lasting into the 1960s built the far-reaching reputation of the twin beaches, North and Chesapeake.

Telling the Stories
    The Bayside History Museum tells those hayday stories as well as the stories of other local spots that drew people from far and near. Two new exhibits are dedicated to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America in honor of Camp Roosevelt, the first permanent Boy Scout camp in the country, which flourished a bit farther south from 1914 to 1967.
    The stories are documented with objects donated by people whose names — Plummer, Brady, Rymer, Stinnett, Donovan and more — are woven through the towns as watermen, charter boat captains and restaurateurs.
    “Our collections are based on what we can find and what people donate,” says Gracie Brady, whose army of volunteers built this museum in a decade.
    Paleontology and archeology are documented with pieces from the Chesapeake Bay, Patuxent and Potomac rivers and Stratford Hall, Virginia. Local exhibits illustrate amusements with part of the park’s original merry-go-round; slot machines, the one-armed bandits that helped put North Beach on the map; Company 1 North Beach Volunteer Fire Department; Camp Roosevelt reconstructed in models and artwork from the late Bay bard Tom Wisner’s collection; the War of 1812, and water activities with bathing suits and a crabbing skiff.
    As collections grew, so did the museum. Starting in a Bay cottage in 2004, it moved in 2013 to the two-story former home to Company 1 North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, later the Twin Beaches library.
    With plenty of room and even a gift shop, exhibits change every month.
    “We want exhibits that are fun and educational to keep the museum from getting stale,” Brady said. “One of the new things we are doing is a collection of cottage names. Weekenders or locals had some crazy names for their places, like The Nut House.”
    To give shape to names, next March the museum plans to build a beach cottage circa 1898-1930, furnishing it with an old ice box, hand-crank washing machine, rope bed, outhouse, hurricane lanterns, dishes, utensils, games and mannequins in period clothes.
    In keeping with the old tradition, the Bayside Museum brings people back to the Bay.
    “They come, even from out of state,” says Brady, “because they recall the train ride, the slot machines, the fishing or the cottages of their youth.”
    Locals come, too. Each month features two children’s programs, and Scouts visit the site to earn merit badges.
    From oysters to the history of candy to an old-fashioned sock hop, the Bayside Museum makes local history fun for all ages.

Open Wednesday thru Sunday thru Oct. 31, 1-4pm (when times change) at 4025 Fourth St., North Beach. Free: