Perry Point VAMC cuts ribbon on new museum
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.
Officials cut the ribbon for the Perry Point Veterans Museum at the Grist Mill on Thursday.
Visitors check out a display on the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Perry Point Veterans Museum at the Grist Mill.