Calvert County’s mysterious new trail is not hidden, but you need a map or a guide to find and follow its course. Along the trail in plain sight are 17 wooden-framed images each with a design painted in an array of color combinations. Each has its own designation, like, Mariner’s Compass, Sawtooth Star or Farmer’s Daughter. The designs are so different that, despite being mostly fashioned on 8-by-8 or 4-by-4-foot frames, they don’t seem to have a central theme.
What are these squares affixed to the sides of barns or nailed to posts and walls near places of note from North Beach to Solomons Island?
“The Barn Quilt Trail links the history of Maryland’s birthplace in Calvert County with the art of quilting, the importance of family farms and the abundance of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sue Mills of Chesapeake Beach, director of the trail and a board member of the sponsoring Arts Council of Calvert County.
The patterns you’ll see along this quilt trail are old. They’re drawn from the designs traditionally sewn from old fabric to keep beds and sleepers warm or painted onto Pennsylvanian barns since the first German-American barns went up. Quilt trails, however, are a relatively new phenomena.
The idea is attributed to Donna Sue Groves, who in 2001 replicated her mother’s quilt design on wood on the family barn in Adams County, Ohio. Since then, the idea has become stitched into the fabric of America with more than 13,000 painted quilts displayed across the country. Calvert is the first county in Southern Maryland to have a trail and the fourth in the state behind Garrett, Carroll and Harford.
“It’s the perfect public art project to promote tourism,” said Arts Council President Harriet Yaffe. “It gives all of us here a tremendous sense of pride knowing that Calvert County is now a part of this wonderful national tradition.”
Mills’ idea for a quilt trail began in 2009 when, she said, “a friend told me about her visit to the Garrett County Barn Quilt Trail and wondered why Calvert didn’t have one. I introduced the idea to the Arts Council right then, but I didn’t have the time to see it through. When I retired in 2015, I could finally focus my attention on getting it off the ground. It’s been growing ever since.”
The first square, Hole in the Barn Door, is on Fred and Esther Cox’s barn at Mulberry Hill Farm in Huntingtown. Karla Sisson, a close friend of Mrs. Cox, designed the quilt with a tobacco leaf centerpiece, echoing the Calvert County flag. Mills and sister artist Janet Jones of North Beach painted the square.
“It was a beginning,” said Mills. “Now there are 17 (and more to come) — each with a distinct design and special story. Quilting enthusiasts from across the country have already commented on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CBQT2015) about their planned visits to Calvert, and hosts have reported seeing a steady influx of people visiting their squares and asking about the trail. It’s all very rewarding.”
To follow the trail begin at the website at www.calvertbarnquilttrail.org and click on Where Are We? for an interactive map showing the locations with a picture and description of each quilt. The journey winds through the heart of the county with side ventures to locations like Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard, the quaint tea shop Butterflies and Wishes in Chesapeake Beach and the scenic shores of the Patuxent River in historic Lower Marlboro. So far, the trail stretches from Chesapeake’s Bounty at the northern tip of North Beach to Annmarie Gardens in Solomons. The site also has an FAQ that answers the questions of who can get a square and how.
“We are sure the trail will be of interest not only to the local community but to those outside of Calvert, who will be enticed to come and take a scenic drive to discover our roadside gems, eat in our great restaurants and wander our shops and galleries,” said Hilary Dailey, of the County Department of Economic Development.