Living on the Chesapeake Bay, our communities are surrounded by rich natural resources. In Calvert and Anne Arundel counties, we have streams running through our backyards, neighborhood beaches on creeks and rivers and towns fronting the wide-open Bay where the big fish bite and you can’t see the other shore. We have swampy marshes and dramatic cliffs. We have woodlands and farmland.
Early native tribes, colonists and today’s Bay communities have used these same natural resources in vastly different ways. However, all parts of human history have needed one thing to sustain life here: manmade tools. It took tools to hollow out a log canoe; it takes tools to dredge a silted-in creek.
This issue of Bay Weekly compiles a group of local stories whose subject matter spans hundreds of years. Despite their obvious differences, tools play a pivotal role in each story.
In our feature on Historic London Town & Gardens’ Immersion Day, we meet the rare breed of history enthusiasts who voluntarily chose to spend last weekend—one of the coldest all winter—living in a colonial town circa 1771. The reenactors slept in the cold, wore hand-made clothes and carried all their water from a well, using buckets and a yoke across their backs. The key to their wintertime survival—and the survival of the real colonists 250 years ago—is one of the most primitive tools humans ever used: fire. All the London Towners’ activities centered around the hearth, lit before dawn and stoked all day long. It’s where folks cooked and kept warm on bitter wintry days. This up-close look at colonial life gives a new appreciation for the tools the 20th century brought us, like, say, central heating.
It is those 20th-century tools we celebrate with a look at the legacy of John Hechinger, owner of the Maryland hardware chain that grew to 131 stores before it closed in the late 1990s. Hechinger saw art in utilitarian tools like a hammer and nail or a paintbrush, and his unique art collection, on display now at St. John’s College, inspires us to do the same.
Of course, the tools of today are modernizing so rapidly that seemingly-futuristic concepts are already in practice. Space tourism and self-driving cars are poised to go mainstream. And if self-driving cars can be used, why not unmanned ships? This week we talk to a local engineer about the autonomous vessels already in use overseas and his conviction that “ghost ships” will change the shipping industry. He makes it seem entirely possible that unmanned ships could traverse the Bay’s deep channels in years to come.
As we all make our lives in Chesapeake communities, we can glean wisdom from the tools of our past, present, and future. We can watch history come to life at London Town, take in the beauty of everyday home-improvement tools, and even imagine a day when self-piloting vessels carry freight up and down our waterways. We hope that Bay Weekly itself is a tool for you, our Chesapeake readers, to get pertinent news and happenings in your own backyard.