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Arundel DAR celebrates 100th anniversary as county chapter

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The Rising Sun Inn, a small white building with forest green shutters, isn't easily spotted. The historical marker out front is barely visible from Generals Highway and, if a traveler isn't looking for it, would come and go in the blink of an eye.

This Crownsville building is home to the Ann Arundel Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution — the only chapter in the state to own its own historic building — which is preparing for its 100th anniversary next Sunday.

Nationally, the DAR is a nonprofit, nonpolitical women's volunteer service organization supporting the ideas of "God, home and country." To join, members must prove "lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution."

According to its website, the national association has over 170,000 members with about 3,000 chapters spread across the country. Most of these chapters focus on volunteering for veterans, providing scholarships to students and sponsoring history education programs.

While the Ann Arundel chapter does its fair share of volunteer work, its primary focus is the restoration of the Inn.

"The main thing our group does … is maintain this building," Susan Paige Morrison, a 23-year member, said.

According to the chapter website, the inn was given to the chapter in 1916 by R. Thomas Williams to be "maintained as a historical spot and structure or museum." The women of Ann Arundel have done just that, and say the building is in excellent condition. It began as a private residence and tavern and has passed through many hands since it was built in the mid-1700s. Because it sits along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, taken by Continental and French troops on their way to the victory at Yorktown in 1781, the inn has special meaning to the group, as most are scholars of the revolution.

Over the years, the chapter has made its primary goal to restore the inn to its original condition by, "painting, brick repairs and keeping water out of the basement," said Ellan Thorsan, 23-year member and second vice regent. "We try to make it subtle."

The group houses a large collection of historical artifacts in the basement of the building and is renovating the brick fireplaces on that level. During the process, they discovered two ovens hidden in the walls with shards of bowls, plates and bottles inside. The members are excited by this discovery because none had any inkling of the ovens' existence.

They said that this discovery gives them a little bit more insight as to how the women who originally lived there conducted their everyday cooking. The secondary ovens may have been used to cook smaller portions that didn't require the one, already discovered, large open oven adjacent to them, Thorsan said.

Besides renovating the inside of the house, the chapter maintains the grounds surrounding it, boasting a boxwood hedge as old as the one at George Washington's Mount Vernon. There is constant work to be done inside and outside the inn, the women said, and because their group is a nonprofit there are times when plans must be put on hold to make time for more fundraising.

"Most of the members in this chapter are very dedicated to this building," Thorsan said.

"It takes time," said Joyce Newman, a member since 2005. "The inn is like a boat with a hole that you pour water into."

Regardless of the challenges they might face with regards to renovation, all of the women in the chapter are intensely proud of the inn and can't wait to show it off for their centennial celebration.

"I think it's a big honor to be part of a chapter that's celebrating its 100th birthday," Newman said.

Members of the Ann Arundel Chapter spend many hours making Christmas stockings and lap robes for veterans in the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System each year and sponsor programs like the Children of the American Revolution, which promote education and patriotism in boys and girls up to age 22.

They also host educational speakers at their meetings and participate in the naturalization ceremony every year in Greenbelt, where new citizens are welcomed to the country and awarded American flags and cards printed with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The group spells its name in the traditional English way — Ann Arundel — rather than the modern spelling, which uses an "e." They also pronounce Arundel as "Erin-dale," as they say would have been more common and correct for the period.

The centennial celebration will be held at the inn Sunday, Nov., 13, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature a town crier and a speaker citing the history of the building. The inn is open on the second Sunday of every month from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for historical tours of the house, property and collection of artifacts located in their small basement display.

xcxjbaughman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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