A Hidden Gem In The Heart Of Cambridge
Hiding in plain sight in the heart of Cambridge is the Richardson Maritime Museum, one of Dorchester County's gems. Even local residents frequently walk by the classic brick building on the corner of High and Locust Streets and assume it is a bank.
Since it spent almost all of the first hundred years of its existence in just that capacity, that assumption is well founded. However, passersby are missing a treat if they don't take time to stop in and see what the former bank now holds.
Walk into the Museum and step back into the rich history of Dorchester County's influence on Chesapeake Bay traditional wooden sailing vessels. Bordering the Bay, bounded by broad rivers and laced with countless waterways, the County has been home to hundreds of boatyards since its early settlement.
The vessels created beside these waters range from crabbing skiffs and dovetails to clipper ships and schooners. Their designs sometimes went on to affect the course of history, as in the War of 1812, when privateers that were built on Cambridge Creek were highly prized by both sides for their speed and maneuverability.
James B. "Mr. Jim" Richardson
Jim Richardson (1906-1991) stands out from other late 20th century Chesapeake Bay boatbuilders for his view
to the past, which sought to rediscover, preserve and pass on methods used by craftsmen of previous generations.
Not only did he have the ability to learn a variety of skills and techniques, but he was able to teach them to
His legacy lies in the skills of those he taught, who continue to practice the craft today. After his death
in 1991, immediate steps were taken in his name, through the Richardson Maritime Museum, to commemorate the boatbuilding
industry, document its art, and praise its craftsmen.
The Richardson Maritime Museum makes this history come alive for visitors in the form of exquisite models of these traditional vessels. Some were built as replicas by local modelers, while others were crafted by the boatbuilders themselves. All contain a wealth of minute details that will leave visitors awestruck at the craftsmen's skill, while imparting an appreciation for the grace and beauty of these traditional Bay boats.
The Museum also offers a collection of boatbuilders' tools and watermen's artifacts that convey an understanding of how the boats were constructed and the history of their use. This history is not ancient. Aerial photographs in the Museum's collection, taken in the 1930s, show Cambridge Creek bustling with bugeyes, buyboats, skipjacks and schooners, even as steamboats tie up at the old ferry terminal at Long Wharf.
The Ruark Boatworks
These wooden vessels are disappearing, along with the individuals who built and worked them, and part of the Museum's mission is preservation, both of the boats and the skills. In furthering that mission, the Museum's parent organization, the James B. Richardson Foundation, has acquired a property along Cambridge Creek, at Maryland Avenue and Hayward Street, where it will build the new Richardson Maritime Heritage Center.
Here, the traditional wooden vessels will be built and restored under the supervision of master boatwrights who will pass on their skills to apprentices and volunteers.
Work is already taking place in the century-old building, once a basket factory, that stands as the only remaining structure from the Cambridge Manufacturing Company operation that once occupied the site. Visitors are welcome to stop in and watch ongoing projects or lend a hand.
In future years, an expanded facility will be constructed, complete with marine railway, and including additional museum space for special exhibitions and collections, a Research and Education Center, and rooms for educational and community functions.
For now, the historic High Street bank building and the old basket factory stand as the sentinels to the Richardson Maritime Museum's future, welcoming visitors to Dorchester County's past.
by local artist, George Wright
Print is now available at the
Richardson Maritime Museum.
Click here for more information.
|A few of the Richardson Maritime Museum’s 2005 Limited-Edition Christmas Ornaments
depicting Jim Richardson’s ship, the Maryland Dove, are still available.
Click HERE to order.
|| The James B. Richardson Foundation, Inc., is a proud partner of the LEAVE A LEGACY® program.
|| The Richardson Maritime Museum is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network
|| Visit the Dorchester County Tourism web site for information on accommodations and local attractions
|| Dorchester Chamber of Commerce
|| Cambridge Main Street