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Historic London Town and Gardens keeps on growing and going

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Rod Cofield has the building. Now he needs the tools.

Cofield's team at Historic London Town and Gardens has built a reproduction of a carpentry shop at the Colonial site in Edgewater. Now, to show how carpenters worked at the site in the 1700s, he has to find tools from that era.

"We have a few tools. … It's not as if we can go to Lowe's or Home Depot to find what we need," Cofield said.

Such are the challenges of running a historic site that's part museum, part gardens, part archaeological site and part wedding venue.

By the time the carpentry shop opens to the public in September, Cofield hopes to find more reproduction Colonial tools for visitors to try for themselves. "We are not afraid to put sharp tools in people's hands," he said.

The carpentry shop will join a mix of reproduction and original buildings at Historic London Town, located on the site of what was once a bustling tobacco port and ferry station that died out during the Revolutionary War.

On July 13, London Town will host one of its biggest events of the year, "Revolutionary London Town," which will include costumed re-enactors, Colonial games, hearth cooking demonstrations, cannon fire over the South River and a performance by Them Eastport Oyster Boys. Don't be surprised to see an effigy of a tax collector burned, Cofield said.

During the event, the site also will unveil its newest addition, a sound and sensory garden that will allow children to play and make music with outdoor instruments such as a xylophone, wind chimes and dried seed pods. The new garden was funded by grants from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, the Four Rivers Garden Club and private donations.

The sound and sensory garden is the latest example of Historic London Town's staff meshing old with new on the 23-acre, county-owned property.

The centerpiece of the property is the William Brown House, a grand Georgian brick building with a dramatic view of the South River. Built in about 1760, it was originally a private home and tavern, and later served as the county's almshouse.

Just a short walk away is a modern visitor center with interactive displays, such as a touch screen presentation of a ship that would have docked at London Town, with details all the way down to roast duck in the captain's quarters and a cannon that can be fired. Another display describes the discovery of a slave child's burial site, including a video of a re-enactment of the burial ceremony.

Cofield and his team have more plans for the site, which takes up about one-quarter of the original 100-acre town. The rest of London Town has long been in private hands and is now home to a suburban neighborhood.

Between the carpentry shop and the William Brown House, he wants to re-create a wooden tavern that archaeologists believe once stood at the site, after finding spots where the footers were and "tavern trash" such as plates and bowls. The tavern reconstruction would take about $500,000 to complete.

Historic London Town gets about one-quarter of its funding from the county government, and is supported by agencies including county archaeologists at the Office of Planning and Zoning. The rest of the funding comes from admission fees, wedding rentals, grants and donations.

Cofield, who has been executive director for a year and a half, said he wants Historic London Town to become an integral part of Anne Arundel County. To encourage more people to check out London Town, he's finalizing a partnership with the county libraries to allow each branch to have four passes that can be checked out by families so they can visit for free.

"We want to be part of the community," he said.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Events

Historic London Town and Gardens is located at 839 Londontown Road in Edgewater and is open during the summer on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for children age 6 and older. Information: 410-222-1919 or historiclondontown.com.

Summer Concert Series: Every Sunday in July and August, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Food and snacks, including beer and wine, are sold. No alcohol can be brought on site. The series opens Sunday with the group School of Rock.

Revolutionary London Town: From noon to 4:30 p.m. July 13, featuring costumed re-enactors, Colonial games, hearth cooking demonstrations, militia drills and cannon fire over the South River.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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