Elk Creek Preservation Society begins efforts to restore historic Beehive
— Following the purchase of the Beehive, the Elk Creek Preservation Society is preparing a full slate of events to raise money to fix up the historic complex.
The society purchased the Beehive in April from the estate of the late Richard “Tucker” Mackie, said Lee Hutton, president of the society’s board.
“We spent all our money buying it,” he said of the 2.2-acre tract tucked along Route 273 near Rock Presbyterian Church. “We’ve got to start raising money to fix it.”
Along with its annual Apple Butter Festival — to be held Oct. 8 at the Beehive — the board of the non-profit group is also hosting a 5K race and an open house in September.
In the eyes of the society, the Beehive is perhaps the first industrial complex in Cecil County, dating back to the 1700s.
“There was a cooper shop, a tavern; each one of those buildings was a shop so they called it the Beehive,” said George Reynolds, a founding member of the society. Pointing to one building in ruins, Reynolds said research indicates it was referred to as “The Armory.”
“We’re trying to find out what it was,” Reynolds said. “They may have stored gunpowder there.”
According to Reynolds, the Elk Creek Preservation Society was founded in 1976 when it was discovered that people were purchasing historic properties to mine the slate roof, bricks, field stone and other materials for projects elsewhere. A large portion of the Beehive was disassembled for a mansion house constructed nearby. The society secured the Beehive and various other sites including a spring house, a smokehouse, a one-room schoolhouse and the Fair Hill Inn.
“The state was going to tear it down and make it a parking lot,” Reynolds said. It was the society that led the charge to save the property, which hosted such historic notables as General Lafayette. The society added language to the deed of the property, requiring any future owners to leave its historic exterior in tact.
Hutton said the board hopes to raise enough money on its own to start the process of stabilizing the tavern. When the center of what had been a collection of shops side by side was torn away it left the western wall of the tavern without real support.
“We need to put a foundation under it and completely rebuild the west wall,” Hutton said. “The tavern, of all of them, is in the best shape.”
Hutton said the cooper’s house at the opposite end can’t be stabilized until power lines are moved. The society has asked Delmarva Power to put the lines underground or raise them 10 feet, he added, because otherwise, putting the roof on the ancient structure puts people at risk of contact with a 33,000 volt power line.
“This may be the only remaining historic cooper shop in the state of Maryland,” Reynolds said.
There are 45 members in the group, but both Hutton and Reynolds said more are needed. Anyone interested in joining Elk Creek Preservation Society or volunteering with the group can send an email to Aimee Martin at email@example.com.
For the Apple Butter Festival many hands are needed, Hutton said.
“We’ll need help peeling the apples and of course on the day of the festival,” he said.
Martin is also looking for crafters of vintage or historic-style items to be vendors for the festival.
Meanwhile, registration is open now for “Run For The Ruins.” The run begins at 8 a.m. on Sept. 17 at the Beehive. Registration is $25 in advance or $30 the day of the race. Following the race, the Open House will give the public a look at the restoration so far and what is planned.
George Reynolds points to the exterior wall of the tavern at the Beehive, explaining how it used to be an interior wall until the adjoining building was ripped away.
A date carved into the hearth above the fireplace in the tavern at The Beehive indicates how long the site has been in Cecil County.