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Sailing Into The Future:
The New Richardson Maritime Heritage Center

Take an idea for a boat and create a half-model or start setting the lines down on paper and there is that sense of excitement at seeing a vision beginning to turn into reality. So it has been for those of us who have had a vision for the new Richardson Maritime Heritage Center on Cambridge Creek and have not only finally seen our vision set down on paper but are taking the first steps to make the vision real.

Site Plan
Richardson Maritime Heritage Center - Site plan
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In 2003, we began working with local architect Jay Corvan, describing our vision and goals so that he could use his skills to distill our ideas into the designs and plans you see here.

Our plans are not to tackle this major undertaking in one step, but in at least two phases of construction.

Richardson Maritime Heritage Center - Architectural sketch of phase one features
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The Facility

Phase I of the Richardson Maritime Heritage Center will include three buildings:

The exhibits facility will be our signature building topped by a cupola echoing that which graced the old ferry terminal at Long Wharf in Cambridge in the days before a bridge linked Dorchester County to points north.

However, the Center's emphasis will be on boatbuilding. To that end, along with the exhibit building will be a new boatbuilding facility and an additional workshop area linking the two.

Here we will build and restore the traditional Chesapeake Bay wooden boats for which Dorchester County has long been noted. A Wooden Boat Center of Excellence, it will be a teaching facility, where new boatwrights will be trained and individuals will be taught to sail these traditional vessels.

East elevations of Richardson Maritime Heritage Center Buildings
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The Design

Jay Corvan did extensive research into the history of the area and its architecture and distilled the commercial buildings that had evolved on the site into two archetypes: the brick factory warehouse with clerestory and the agricultural mill building. When all phases are completed, the boatbuilding facility and school will be housed in buildings of the brick factory style, while the museum activities will take place in a taller structure designed along the lines of classic agricultural mill buildings, complete with an echo of a grain elevator. All will be connected with catwalks that will allow visitors views of the boatbuilding above all the action and a downward spiral circulation throughout the complex.

South elevations of Richardson Maritime Heritage Center Buildings
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A Tour

A tour through the new complex will begin at the reception area in the museum building facing Maryland Avenue and Hayward Street. An elevator will take visitors to the second and third floor exhibition areas, floors that will also house classrooms and administrative offices. A smaller fourth floor, the top of the "grain elevator," will have administrative functions only.

From the third floor, visitors will be able to look down on an open atrium area with an expanse large enough to have entire boats, rigged with masts and sails, on display. Proceeding along an elevated catwalk into a two-story building with timber-framed ceiling, there will be a sense of walking into an upside down wooden boat, with the framing of the hull above you.

This building will be topped with a large belvedere, similar to that which once adorned the Maryland Ferry Terminal Building at Long Wharf in Cambridge. Accessible to visitors, it will provide a 360-degree view of Cambridge Creek, the Choptank River and the surrounding city.

Continuing a tour will lead to the action in the Ship Building Shed. Above all the activity, visitors will look down on a huge space with a large glass clerestory overhead, giving natural light and ventilation.

From this point, visitors may be invited to enter workshop areas at ground level or proceed back to the main building for a snack from a small cafe with a terrace overlooking the water. Other features will include a gift shop, an amphitheatre where open-air entertainment and instruction will take place, outdoor display areas, and a small bandstand for community concerts at waterside.

West elevations of Richardson Maritime Heritage Center Buildings
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A Part of the Community

An important part of our design considerations has been to be a good neighbor within the community. Of critical importance to us has been to maintain lines of sight and access to the water. In style and design, we have tried to meet all the heritage and historical objectives that have been established for the City and will continue to work with those interested in design issues as our plans evolve.

This is a prime waterfront location, in demand by developers, and we are a small organization with limited resources and big plans. However, we are serious about our goals and intend to see them through with the help of the community and other interested individuals and organizations.

What we foresee for this site is not just about a museum. It's about Cambridge. It's about Dorchester County. It's about the boatbuilding history of this area. It's about the people who made that history. And it's about carrying the history into the future and making it come alive for generations to come.

A destination for tourists, scholars and craftsmen, this will be nothing less than a cultural jewel for Dorchester County.

We welcome your participation as we sail into the future!

Designs for the new Richardson Maritime Heritage Center, by architect Jay Corvan.

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