News Archive

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Charles Sumner Post #25 Renovation Team 1999 – 2014

image001(1)We are celebrating the completion of a 15-year journey that transformed an abandoned, vine covered structure into a nationally significant historic landmark.

Preservation Incorporated acquired the building in 2002 after research by Kees de Mooy and Davey mccall identified its historical significance and worked to prevent its planned demolition.  Preservation Inc.’s Tom Mack, Chris Havemeyer, Gil Watson, Davey mccall, Kees de Mooy, Joan Walker-Hunter, and Nina Johnson led the effort to clean up and structurally stabilize the building, funding the effort with Federal, State and local grants; as well as their own resources.  Kees de Mooy coordinated the structural stabilization, completed important research about the building and the Kent County U.S. Colored Troops who formed the Charles Sumner Post, and was responsible for getting the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Drs. Elizabeth and John Seidel supervised archeology at the site and completed invaluable property record research. The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College and its former Director Ted Widmer supported the restoration effort and Barbara Gannon, then a Ph.D. Student researching African Americans and the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), helped galvanize local attention on the building’s nationally significant history.

The search for a suitable use of the building led to the Kent County Arts Council, under the leadership of its Executive Director Leslie Prince Raimond, taking up the challenge of completing an appropriate historical renovation and organizing Sumner Hall operations as a vibrant testament to Chestertown’s and Kent County’s African American heritage, and to the contributions of its citizens to Union victory and emancipation.  GAR Post 25 Inc. Was formed to acquire the building and execute these tasks with the assistance of the local chapter of SCORE leaders Bill Noll and Bart Stolp; Lee Cowperthwait, Esquire; and GAR Post 25’s Board of Directors.  The Town of Chestertown – its Mayor, Council Members, Town staff, Historic District Commission, and Planning Commssion –, Kent County Office of Tourism and Economic Development, Commissioners of Kent County, State and local political leaders, Main Street Historic Chestertown, and members of Kent County’s African American community lent their support and energy to the achievement of these objectives.

Many talented people contributed their time, talent, and energy to the building’s renovation.  A series of professionals – Kees de Mooy, Robert Earl Price, Pete Weed, Alex Castro and Robert Ingersoll – directed planning, capitalization, local approvals, and building renovations expertly accomplished by Yerkes Construction.  Suzanne Street kept a steady hand on the project’s administration and financial resources.  Walter Schamu and his staff provided full-service architectural services throughout the thirteen-year process.  Stewart Barroll, Esquire contributed pro bono legal services.  Washington College’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) assisted in the creation of a web site and other marketing initiatives under the direction of Dr. Susan Vowels and working with Francesca Raimond of FIR Productions. Joe Karlik designed graphics and signage. Dr. Ruth Shoge researched and organized GAR and Sumner Post archives.

Adam Goodheart led his students to do extensive research on the original members of the Charles Sumner Post, and continues to support activities involving Washington College and the C.V.Starr Center with help from Dr. Edward Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist.

Ted Maris-Wolf also encouraged his students to be inspired by the stories involving the Civil War veterans belonging to the Charles Sumner Post.

We are grateful to all of those who contributed their time and expertise to ensure the Charles Sumner Post #25’s restoration and success.

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Charles Sumner Post #25, G.A.R Grand Opening Schedule of Events

Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic

Grand Opening
Saturday, June 21, 2014
10 am – 7 pm

206 South Queen Street|- Chestertown, MD
Charles Sumner Post Grand Army of the Republic

Events and Timing

9:00                         Buffalo Soldiers hold their quarterly meeting in the Building

9:30                         Buffalo Soldiers ride

10:00                     Festival Opens with children’s games and May Pole

MUSIC UNDER THE TENT

10:20                        Sensational Stars

10:40                        Souls of Faith

11:00                        Burke Family Singers

11:20                        Frederick Douglas – reenactor Maryland Humanities Council’s Bill Grimmett

11:40                        Mass. 54th reenactors

NOON                     Ceremonial Wreath Laying for USCT (Colored Troops)
Led by Mass 54th soldiers, and the Kent County Middle School drum corps, followed by the festival attendees March to the Memorial Park on High Street in front of the Court House. A prayer by Rev. Clarence Hawkins.

MUSIC UNDER THE TENT

1:00                        The New Gospelites

1:20                        Peter Heck & Mary Simmons

1:40                        God’s Wealth with Sunny Fassett et al

2:00                        Pam Ortiz Band

2:20                        Pilgrim Travelers

3:00                        Tribute to the elders of our community

3:15                        Poetry by Robert Earl Price and introduction of speaker

3:25                        Dr. Clara Small, Keynote speech

4:00                     Ribbon Cutting at Charles Sumner Post, plus Star Spangled Banner

MUSIC UNDER THE TENT

5:00                         The Vaughn Bratcher Project

6:00                         100 Voice Choir

More Information about The Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic Grand Opening.

 

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A Rare Civil War Veterans Post to Celebrate Reopening

William Carney, a USCT Veteran and recipient of a Medal of Honor

William Carney, a USCT Veteran and recipient of a Medal of Honor

The Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) established in Chestertown, Maryland in 1882, will reopen as an educational center, museum and performance space on Saturday, June 21, 2014 with a daylong celebration featuring music, food, games, re-enactors and a speech. Read the article from The Chestertown Spy about the event.

The newly restored building is one of only two such posts to remain standing in the United States today. The building was erected by U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) Veterans that returned or settled in Kent County at the end of the Civil War. The building was erected in 1909 and for well over half a century served as a community center for Kent County’s African American residents; hosting lectures and social events, and attracting an array of nationally acclaimed entertainers including Ella Fitzgerald and The Sweet Hearts of Rhythm, while providing area residents with a site for developing actions for the betterment of race relations in Kent County, Maryland.

The local Decoration Day Ceremony was an example of the G.A.R. motto, “Fraternity, Loyalty, Charity” demonstrating a determined steadfastness of the nation’s founding principles. The founders’ display of respect for all was accomplished with such grace that the G.A.R. ceremony became the local standard for Memorial Day ceremonies.

Founded by USCT Veterans and members of the Women’s Relief Corp this site has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003, and is expected to resume its function as a vital Kent County historic site and a center for inclusive and unifying community activities.

The June 21, 2014 event will feature food from local venders including samples of “Soul Food”. Music will range from the Pam Ortiz Band, to the 100 Voice Choir. Historical re-enactors will be featured including visits from Fredrick Douglass and the Soldiers of B Company, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

A special tribute to the elders of the community will be held, and noted historian Dr. Clara Small of Salisbury State University will deliver the keynote address. National, state and local elected officials and dignitaries are expected to be present for the 4:00 pm ribbon cutting. The daylong event will be held from 10 am – 7 pm.

One G.A.R. board member was quoted as saying, “This reopening is a strong demonstration of the area’s commitment to a diverse, forward looking community grounded in a mutual history of self determination.”

The image above is of William Carney, a USCT Veteran and recipient of a Medal of Honor. One of the 20,000 African Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War, William Carney served with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a Sergeant. He took part in the July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina (as depicted in the movie Glory.) He received the Medal of Honor for saving the American flag and planting it on the parapet despite being wounded several times.

Charles Sumner Post #25 is located at 206 South Queen Street, Chestertown, Maryland, 21620. For further information visit: www.CharlesSumnerPost.org
Email: kentcountyartscouncil@verizon.net
Tel: 410-778-1149

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