Colonial tavern’s story will be brought to life
By Steve Adams
A major grant awarded to Historic London Town in Edgewater will help the organization tell the stories behind its William Brown House. This National Historic Landmark began its life in 1760 as a tavern on the bluffs of the South River before becoming Anne Arundel County’s Almshouse from the 1820s all the way through 1965.
The London Town Foundation recently announced it was selected as one of just six cultural organizations in Maryland and 292 in the country to receive a Sustaining the Humanities grant through the American Rescue Plan from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
London Town will use its $49,500 grant to reinterpret the William Brown House, specifically, the cellar level of the house, which will become a commemoration to the enslaved people of London Town, with signage and artifacts focusing on the stories, humanity, and perseverance of those whose forced labor made it possible for the colonial port town to flourish. The main level, meanwhile, will be reinterpreted to highlight different classes of colonial society. The tavern room will be filled with items like colonial games, eating and drinking implements, and historical newspapers. In addition, one room will tell the long-untold story of the building’s time as an almshouse that commissioners called “an abode of misery” due to the deplorable conditions it provided to the poor, mentally ill, and disabled.
“As we approach the country’s 250th anniversary, we believe it is critical to explore a more holistic and honest local history without shying away from its uglier parts,” says Deputy Director Lauren Silberman. “In reinterpreting the entire building, our goal is to showcase the lives and stories of all the people who lived and worked here. People like Mehitable Pierpont, a female tavern owner; Michael Connoway, a boy sent here as a convict servant from Ireland; and Sal, an African American enslaved girl who worked for years without pay and whose life was forfeited by her enslaver when he went bankrupt. They are not only deeply worthy of remembrance, as they did a great deal of the work in making Anne Arundel County a successful place, but will also allow our visitors to connect more deeply with local history by showing them people like themselves reflected more fully in the American narrative.”
The work this grant makes possible will not only enhance visitors’ experience once it’s complete (hopefully by the spring of 2023), it will also allow London Town to achieve the primary goal of NEH: retaining staff and recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“As nonprofits, we rely on a variety of revenue sources, most of which were slashed during the pandemic,” said Silberman. “And while we have received federal support before, it has been around 15 years since our last federal grant, so this is a big deal for us. It’s also incredibly important because while most grants do not fund staff this one will be incredibly helpful in sustaining our public programs department, which was reduced from 11 staff members to just three due to the pandemic. Our hope is that this grant will get us over the hump of 2022 until programming can return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.”