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Maritime museum and nature park showcased

Larry S. Chowning

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This Saturday the Holly Point Art and Seafood Festival at the Deltaville Maritime Museum will feature a new 350-foot Pierwalk (above) on Mill Creek. Moored to the Pierwalk will be a variety of modern and historic wooden boats. Public docking also will be available at the dock on a first-come first-served basis.  (Photo by Larry Chowning)
The 5th Annual Holly Point Art Show and Seafood Festival this Saturday, October 11, at the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park in Deltaville has become one of the most highly-anticipated events for the entire community.

The festival, museum and park reflect the hard work and dedication of many who have volunteered to make a dream come true. The museum and park are good examples of how local government and private initiatives can work together to create something very special.

In the early 1980s, Gene Ruark and a group of people from Deltaville announced they were going to start a Deltaville Museum in the old Kelly House on Route 33.
The dream was to refurbish the old house for a museum center and have outbuildings and other structures to feature artifacts.

Deltaville is the self-proclaimed “Capital of Chesapeake Bay Boatbuilding” and the group felt the community needed to showcase its unique history. The Kelly House was located in a good spot right in downtown Deltaville, and it all seemed like a plausible plan.

Both dreams eventually came true, but not as planned.

The group was unable to obtain the Kelly House, but the old historical building has recently been restored by Diane Cox Basheer of Deltaville and McLean, a descendant of the Kellys.

It would be about a dozen years later that the Deltaville Maritime Museum was formed a few miles down the road on county-owned property—and it has flourished ever since.

The Holly Point property was donated to Middlesex County in 1989 by the late Pette S. Clark, who gave her home and 38 acres of property on Mill Creek, a prong of Jackson Creek.

Mrs. Clark was an environmentalist and a philanthropist, and she stipulated that the property had to be protected environmentally. The county accepted the land but did nothing with it until 2002, when the Deltaville Community Association (DCA) requested to lease the property for a park, nature trail and museum.

At a public hearing in April 2002, Raynell Smith said the DCA would use the property for a park, maritime school and refuge. “It would be a hands-on facility where we could build boats and keep our heritage alive,” said Smith.

In July 2002, the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to lease the property for $10 a year to the DCA.

The two Saluda District supervisors at the time, the late Lee Weber and Jack Miller, voted against the proposal. Mrs. Weber was concerned that this would be unfair to the Middlesex County Museum in Saluda, which had survived for years with only private funds.

The Deltaville Maritime Museum agreement was approved by supervisors Kenneth W. Williams, Fred Crittenden and Wayne Jessie. 

With the help of county funds, the Middlesex County Museum and Annex was later relocated in a building near the historic county courthouse in Saluda.

In the meantime, the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park were off and running. The museum and nature park had its grand opening on May 24, 2003 with many exhibits still being developed. In the Boat Shop, visitors could see a Wright skiff under construction.

That first summer featured Family Boatbuilding Week, which is now an annual event at the museum. The Wrights were boatbuilders on Lovers Lane in Deltaville, so the skiffs built during this week are named in their memory.

The inside of the museum featured photos and information on Deltaville boatbuilding and boatbuilders. Most of this information was provided by families of boatbuilders who had lived in the community. The display highlighted the overall role the community played in the Chesapeake Bay boatbuilding scene from 1900 to the 1990s. 

The largest wooden deadrise boat ever constructed, the 97-foot “Marydel,” was built by Linwood Price on Fishing Bay in 1927. Also, there were more wooden deadrise and cross-planked boats over 45 feet long built in Deltaville than in any other place on the bay.

In September 2005, the museum agreed to take on the restoration of one of the bay’s most unique boats, the “F.D. Crockett.” The Crockett is one of only a few log boats built in the 60-foot range specifically for motor power. There are only two such boats left on the bay. The other one is the “Old Point,” owned by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum of St. Michaels, Md.

Hundreds of volunteer hours have been put into the restoration of the “F.D. Crockett” and the finished hull is afloat at the museum dock and will be on display this Saturday. The boat has brought bay-wide attention to the fact the museum is willing to put time and money into restoration of boats that reflect the heritage and culture of the Chesapeake Bay.

In January 2006, the museum launched the shallop “Explorer,” a working replica of the boat used by Captain John Smith to explore the Chesapeake Bay region in 1608.

The launching dedication for “Explorer” was on Jackson Creek, just down the road from where Smith was nearly killed by a stingray at the eastern most tip of Deltaville—what is known today as Stingray Point. 

Museum officials have been from one end of the bay to the other using “Explorer” as an ambassador to promote the museum. It has received national attention and was invited to be part of Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Week.

“Explorer” and other boats also will be on display at the museum’s new Pierwalk this Saturday during the festival.

In July of 2008, the museum further educated the community on John Smith’s Stingray Point story with a play written by Raynell Smith. The play was performed on the beach at Stingray Point and attracted capacity audiences.

The museum’s board of directors worked hard to capture the culture and heritage of Deltaville’s boatbuilding community, but it has also worked hard to develop the grounds and gardens of Holly Point Nature Park, which is next to the museum.

Pette Clark loved nature and she looked at her donation to the county as a means to give others an opportunity to enjoy her love for plants and the environment.

Holly Point Nature Park is a testimony to Mrs. Clark’s dream of a wildlife preserve. The dream has been fulfilled by the work of a lot of dedicated volunteers.

The Children’s Garden and “Bubba,” a large flower garden shaped like a fish, are special features of the park, as is the park’s nature trail, which is decorated with bronze wildlife sculptures.

A new 350-foot long, 8-foot wide Pierwalk was completed this year and it will be lined with boats this Saturday. One of the premier displays is the “Living Shoreline Exhibit” where marsh grass has been planted as a natural shoreline design.

All are invited this Saturday to enjoy a good time at the festival and see the progress made at the museum and park over the past six years.

For more information on the 5th Annual Holly Point Art and Seafood Festival, see pages A8-A9 inside this issue of the Sentinel, or just click here.

posted 10.08.2008

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