A new face for Navy Point
Three exhibit buildings will make way for a safer Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Two of the buildings that will be demolished date from the fledgling days of the museum, which began 53 years ago as part of the Talbot County Historical Society.
ST. MICHAELS — Three public exhibit buildings at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum are slated to be demolished to make way for a higher quality, climate-controlled, more secure facility that will be elevated above the town grade and floodplain to protect against storm surges on Navy Point.
The demolition tentatively will occur in early 2019 and will be the first part of Phase 1 in a Master Plan developed to address some of the museum’s most pressing problems.
“The real reason for this is the major increase we have had with our programming, with our capabilities that we have had over the last three to four years,” said CBMM President Kristen Greenaway.
Greenaway made a presentation of Phase 1 of the museum’s Master Plan to the St. Michaels town commissioners Wednesday evening, May 9.
During the past year, museum officials, volunteers and the public have teamed with the architectural firm Ann Beha Architects of Boston, which was chosen through competitive bidding, to develop a Master Plan with several phases that will occur over seven or eightyears.
“We have basically run out of space at the museum,” Greenaway said.
Two of the buildings that will be demolished date from the fledgling days of the museum, which began 53 years ago as part of the Talbot County Historical Society.
The “Waterfowling on the Chesapeake” building was built in 1975, and the “Bay of the Chesapeake” building was built in 1980, both under the direction of then-museum director R.J. Holt.
The third building is the visitors entrance building or gate, which is reminiscent of a large pilot house from a Chesapeake buy boat, located in the museum’s courtyard, where visitors pay their fee to enter the museum grounds and get information.
“These three buildings are the biggest bane that we have at the moment,” Greenaway said.
She said the museum’s chief curator, Pete Lesher, had made the comment that “the best renovation we could do for that is a bulldozer,” particularly with regard to the Waterfowling building.
Lesher also is the chairman of the St. Michaels Historic District Commission and a member of the Easton Town Council.
“All these three buildings you can pretty much poke your finger or a pencil through,” Greenaway said. “They are rotting out.”
In those early days of the museum, a shoe-string budget ruled the day, and any way to cut costs was applied in every aspect of running the fledgling institution.
“They were built very, very cheaply,” Greenaway said. “They have well past their ‘sell by’ date.”
The buildings also are meant to house invaluable collections, Greenaway said, and their decayed state combined with the fact that they are well within striking distance of a storm surge makes it imperative that something be done.
The new building that will replace them will be a long, two-story structure with features that solve some pressing problems and add more access for the public, particularly in the museum’s role as an educational and research institution.
Downstairs, there are two exhibit halls planned, each about 2,500 square feet. One will house temporary and rotating exhibits, and the other will be a permanent waterfowling exhibit that houses the museum’s extensive collection of decoys and hunting memorabilia.
“This will be the best waterfowl exhibition in the world,” Greenaway said, adding that the visitor’s experience will be enhanced by views of the Miles River and the large flocks of ducks and geese that feed in Fogg’s Cove during the winter months.
Upstairs, a secure, climatecontrolled facility will house the museum’s archival collections and librar, and, for the first time, will provide a comfortable reading room for students and researchers who come to the museum to access rare materials.
“Anybody will be able to come into that room and request information,” Greenaway said. “Any of the audio recordings that we have — your grandmother, your grandparents, your parents who were watermen or worked or played on the bay, you are writing an article for your local historical society, your own family tree, school children working on school projects.”
“It will be public, accessible space for that reading room,” she said.
An aerial view of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Navy Point from November 2016. The museum has announced the completion of a new Master Plan, which will create increased space for CBMM’s core museum offerings, including exhibitions, education and shipyard.
Phase I of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Master Plan calls for the construction of a new building for changing exhibitions, a long-term waterfowling exhibition, CBMM’s library and archives and landscaping upgrades on Navy Point. The new facility will replace CBMM’s current Bay History and Waterfowling exhibition buildings, with the buildings’ artifacts being relocated, and demolition of the buildings anticipated to begin in spring 2019. With full funding, the new library and exhibition building is anticipated to open in 2020.