Volunteers needed to help at Rodgers Tavern museum
— The new curator of the Rodgers Tavern museum hopes to have the colonial-era building ready for public tours in time for the Dec. 10 tree lighting party in town.
But to get there, Eileen Rice needs help.
“There’s much work to be done,” she said. “I really don’t know what I have. I need things to be catalogued.”
Although she has only called Perryville home for five years, Rice is familiar with the local area and with its history. She has degrees in history and teaching and experience in library sciences. She joined the Rodgers Tavern committee and suddenly found herself named its curator.
Walking among boxes full of clippings, memorabilia, framed photographs and assorted small items, Rice has a plan for how the museum will be laid out, with each room having its own purpose.
“This is not just about the colonial period,” she said of the building that includes among its claims to fame that it hosted George Washington on numerous occa-
This historic portrait of John Rodgers is one of the hundreds of artifacts Eileen Rice, curator of Rodgers Tavern in Perryville, needs to get ready in time to open the museum next month. Rice is looking for volunteers to help.
Perryville’s railroad history will also be featured.
“I remember when this was a viable town,” she said.
The tavern too has had an uneven history over the years.
In 1956, the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities bought the building in an attempt to save the historic structure. In 1972, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places due to the efforts of the Friends of Rodgers Tavern. While
restoration efforts began in this period, they were never fully finished. In 1993, the town purchased the building from the society, and the Friends of Rodgers Tavern dissolved.
“My hat’s off to (the Friends). They got this started,” Rice said. “God bless them for sticking with it until the town took over.”
As recently as a decade ago, the tavern served as a small museum and offices to the town chamber of commerce. From 2002 to 2010, however, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority awarded the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway nearly $300,000 in grants to finish the building’s longrunning restoration. Other contributors, including the town, also helped make the restoration possible.
Barbara Brown, former town commissioner, once envisioned the site as a museum of town history and an education center but also a cafe and gift shop for tourism.
For now Rice — who is a contract employee of the town — is focusing on the museum aspect.
“I need people with sewing skills to repair the replica clothing,” she said. “I need someone to work on the website and someone with framing and matting skills.”
With a desire to make the museum interactive, she is also in search of people with crafting skills, such as calligraphers and textile artists. Repair and restoration is also needed on such items as a spinning wheel and a rocking chair reportedly used by William Penn every time he visited the tavern.
“Anyone that’s got a skill, I bet I could find a way to use it,” Rice said.
She has a lot of the meeting minutes and paperwork from the friends group, which brings Rice to another project. From those records she’s discovered a number of historical items that — for whatever reason — were taken from the tavern and are being held by individuals.
“These items were being stored in homes for safekeeping,” she said.
Among them is a bedspread, a trundle bed and a cast iron silhouette of George and Martha Washington.
“Now is the time to bring them back,” she said.
The building has a new roof, modern heating and air conditioning and electric for better storage on site.
Anyone interested in helping set up the museum, offering a skill set or who may be holding onto museum property can contact Rice through Perryville town hall at 410-642-6066.
Eileen Rice, curator of Rodgers Tavern in Perryville, is looking for volunteers to help her get the museum ready in time to open when the town lights its Christmas tree on Dec. 10