Perry Point VAMC cuts rib­bon on new mu­seum

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - Jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

PERRY POINT — More than a decade af­ter the Perry Point VA Med­i­cal Cen­ter opened its first mu­seum ded­i­cated to life on the his­toric cam­pus, it ded­i­cated a newly ren­o­vated home for its dis­plays Thurs­day.

In 2006, the Perry Point Vet­er­ans Mu­seum opened, and for a time Perry Point’s his­tory was on dis­play in a small mu­seum in one of the houses in The Vil­lage, a res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity on the Perry Point cam­pus.

Now, how­ever, the his­tory of Perry Point — from the time of the Susque­han­nock peo­ple and first set­tlers, to the At­las Pow­der Com­pany in World War I and, fi­nally, the in­tro­duc­tion of VA sys­tem as we know it to­day af­ter World War II — will be on dis­play at the his­toric Grist Mill on the cam­pus when it opens to the pub­lic Satur­day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in cel­e­bra­tion of Vet­er­ans Day.

Perry Point of­fi­cials ex­pect the mu­seum to be open Thurs­days, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as the first and third Satur­days of the month, and by ap­point­ment. Vet­er­ans, lo­cals and school groups are en­cour­aged to come in.

Built around 1750, the Grist Mill is one of the old­est known struc­tures in the en­tire VA sys­tem, and the jour­ney to pre­serve it lasted decades. First named to the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places in 1975, it had been left to de­te­ri­o­rate for gen­er­a­tions un­til re­newed ef­forts to save and re­use the space were un­der­taken by the Mary­land VA. In the last five years, the VA has in­vested at least $2 mil­lion to shore up its walls and sup­ports, redo its util­ity lines, add an el­e­va­tor and con­vert the space into a mu­seum, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral records.

Vis­i­tors to the new mu­seum will travel through his­tory as they walk each floor of the mill. Es­tab­lish­ing this larger mu­seum has brought out more sto­ries, and a few ar­ti­facts, from the com­mu­nity and Perry Point staff. One Bal­ti­more County woman got in touch with Perry Point of­fi­cials to share two blan­kets she in­her­ited from a rel­a­tive, both used at Perry Point and fea­tur­ing the VA seal from the 1930s.

Jonathan Eck­man, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for fi­nance at the VA Mary­land Health Care Sys­tem, who first worked at Perry Point a decade ago and re­cently re­turned, said he was over­joyed to see the grist mill ren­o­vated.

“There’s been a lot of hard work, but the mu­seum looks awe­some,” he added.

Per­ryville Mayor Jim Eber­hardt, whose town sur­rounds the fed­eral cam­pus that of­ten op­er­ates as its own town, said he was thrilled with the fin­ished mu­seum Thurs­day.

“The town of Per­ryville has been linked to this prop­erty for a long, long time,” he said. “This demon­stra­tion of pre­serv­ing the his­tory of the area is im­por­tant to this en­tire com­mu­nity … We thank you for not just pre­serv­ing the his­tory of the vet­er­ans hos­pi­tal, but the his­tory of this prop­erty from the Na­tive Amer­i­can pe­riod on­ward.”

Eber­hardt and Eileen Rice, cu­ra­tor of Per­ryville’s Rodgers Tav­ern mu­seum, said they planned to work with the VA along with the Per­ryville chap­ter of the Na­tional Rail­way His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, which op­er­ates the Per­ryville Rail­road Mu­seum at the nearby MARC sta­tion, to des­ig­nate a mu­seum trail for vis­i­tors as a draw for the town. They also con­sid­er­ing plan­ning a mu­seum day next sum­mer to high­light the re­sources of the three mu­se­ums.

Rice added that the grist mill and the tav­ern likely shared con­nec­tions with flour from the mill be­ing used at the tav­ern.

“I think this is a real boon for all of us,” she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Of­fi­cials cut the rib­bon for the Perry Point Vet­er­ans Mu­seum at the Grist Mill on Thurs­day.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Vis­i­tors check out a dis­play on the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs at the Perry Point Vet­er­ans Mu­seum at the Grist Mill.

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