Alberta Stornetta loves history.
Years ago, when members of the Arnold Preservation Council said they were interested in learning about the area's history, Stornetta eagerly took on the project.
But she was surprised to find there wasn't much out there on the subject.
"I started looking around and found only wills and deeds," said Stornetta, who is a member of the preservation council. "Nothing very interesting."
She said that Annapolis had history "up the ying-yang," but Arnold's history seemed to be lost — or at least buried.
So Stornetta said she "rose to the challenge" and discovered that while the area she has called home since 1965 may only be a ZIP code, there were plenty of interesting tidbits in its past, too — enough to fill a book. And in June, after seven years of research and a year of writing, Stornetta published "Arnold, Maryland, and Neighbors on the Broadneck."
Stornetta, 82, will share some of the stories she uncovered as the guest speaker at the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society's 52nd annual dinner, to be held at 2 p.m. March 30.
She says the secret to discovering into the area's past consisted of a mix of technology and old-fashioned word of mouth. "We put the word out … in the Arundel Senior Center," Stornetta said. "People came and brought their pictures and stories."
With those first contributions, she put together a PowerPoint presentation that she shared with the center. Interest in the project grew.
She gathered several photographs of Mago Vista Beach, an amusement center that featured a dance hall, an alligator pit and a small roller coaster over the Magothy River. A segregated park since its beginnings in the early 20th century, the park became private in the 1950s when segregation ended.
Stornetta also learned that George Washington might— she emphasizes "might" — have stabled a horse at Whitehall, a plantation home owned by the Ridout family.
"It's possible," she said, of the Washington connection, though she notes there are only stories and no solid facts to back in up. "I say, 'Local legend has it.' "
Stornetta worked mostly with families and says she made another discovery about Arnold history: People tend to stay.
"That was another interesting thing. The descendants are still living [in Arnold]," she said. "Basically what [the book] is about is what people remember and passed down through their families."
"She started collecting information, and it grew," said Elizabeth Rosborg, president of the Arnold Preservation Council. "It grew into a presentation; it grew into a slide show.
"She has done a fabulous job — a lot of research," Rosborg said. "[The book] goes back quite a ways. It is very interesting to learn about. I learned quite a bit."
"She is a very dedicated researcher," agreed Mark Schatz, editor of the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society's quarterly newsletter. "It was putting together bits and pieces, and tracking down families. She did a very good job with that."
The book has been well received, Rosborg said.
"We have orders from all over the United States," she said. "People who lived here once or have relatives ... bought the book as a gift."
Stornetta is now working on a second history book, this one about her church — Asbury United Methodist — where she is the church historian. Her children also hope she will write a book on their family history.
For Stornetta, who moved here with her husband from Newport, R.I., "Arnold is a great place to retire. We like the climate. We like the people. We like the quality of life and we like the water.
"The funny thing is, Arnold is a ZIP code. Not a town — no town center. Just a ZIP code."
A ZIP code that now has a history to share.
Alberta Stornetta will speak at the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society's annual dinner, at Snyder's Willow Grove, 841 N. Hammonds Ferry Road in Linthicum, on Sunday, March 30 The event begins with a reception at 2 p.m. Dinner is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40 and may be obtained from Lillian Malkus, 410-974-6850. For more information, go to aachs.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun