Kent County Arts Council, Inc. and its new partner organization, G.A.R. Post #25, Inc. proudly announce the acquisition of the Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The building, located at 206 South Queen Street in Chestertown, MD, is nearing full restoration. Contractors will soon begin the final stages of painting, carpentry, and outfitting the historic building to house a cultural center with a museum and performance space which will be open to the public in 2013.
Built by Veterans of the Union Army (United States Colored Troops USCT) after the Civil War, and used as a community center until the 1970s, this building was abandoned and near ruin when its historic significance was rediscovered in 2001. Thanks to the efforts of local historians and preservationists, especially the non-profit organization Preservation, Inc. members, Tom Mack, Chris Havemeyer, Gil Watson and Kees deMooy, it was renovated and saved from collapsing. In 2010, Kent County Arts Council began a second effort to continue the renovations to make this historic structure ready for building a program to support a vibrant center of performance, display, education and research that honors local African American culture and the country’s Civil War heritage.
Many people, agencies and organizations have contributed to this effort. Funding has been provided by a generous grant of $100,000 by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development through its Community Legacy program; a matching gift from an anonymous local resident; Maryland Historical Trust’s Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (Stories of the Chesapeake) ($25,300); The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust ($15,000); Preservation Maryland ($2,500) and The National Trust for Historic Preservation Bartus Trew Providence Preservation Fund ($22,500). Matching funds have been contributed by private donations.
This effort which is headed by Project Director Pete Weed, Kent County Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Prince Raimond, Construction Manager Steve Payne and Fiscal Manager Suzanne Street, is supported by leaders in the African American community, The Town of Chestertown, Kent County Department of Tourism and Economic Development, Main Street Historic Chestertown, Preservation Incorporated, The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, Washington College students in SIFE, The Commissioners of Kent County, Stewart Barroll, and many other interested citizens from near and far.
Academic and community scholars and interested citizens who have contributed expertise and research include Marge Fallaw, Kees deMooy, Davy McColl, Ted Widmer, Adam Goodheart, Jill Ogline Titus, Liz and John Seidel, Armond Fletcher, Rev. Mary Walker, Milford Murray, Bill and Sylvia Frazier, Larry Slagle, Marc Dykeman, Calvin Frazier, Rev. Clarence Hawkins, Robert Earl Price, Allan and Ruby Johnson, and many others. Barbara Gannon, whose 2011 book “The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic,” was an early proponent for saving this structure as she recognized how special and rare it is.
Work continues to raise the profile of this unique place which is one of only two such buildings left standing in the United States. The other remaining G.A.R. Hall, the David Hunter Post No. 9 is located in Beaufort, South Carolina. Fund-raising for construction, program and operations continues. This project is seen as a major economic driver for tourism development, an educational opportunity for Kent County schools, and a chance to celebrate our experiences – past, present and future.
For more information contact Leslie Prince Raimond at 410-778-1149 or email.