UNION MILLS - The Union Mills Homestead has seemingly run into one stumbling block after another in its efforts to restore a bee hive bake oven on the outside wall of old mansion's kitchen fireplace.

When the project was suggested a year ago, the board of governors had already received a partial donation from the Silver Run-Union Mills Lions Club for the estimated $3,000 cost of rebuilding the oven.

"It was something that was there and was removed and we're trying to bring it back as it was to make it authentic," said Esther L. Shriver, executive director of the Homestead.

But bureaucracy, it seems, has called a halt to the restoration project, at least temporarily.

Getting permission from the county, which owns the property, was no problem, said Shriver.

The problems started when the Homestead sought permission for the project from the Maryland Historic Trust.

"The Maryland Historic Trust has an easement on the property and they have to make sure everything is done properly according to the time period," Shriver explained.

"They have requested that a professional archaeologist do a dig to see exactly where the foundation was and to tell what kind of oven to construct from the foundation."

So Shriver and the board are taking bids from archaeological firms for a dig at the site, which has posed yet another major problem: money.

From the first bid received, Shriver is estimating the dig will cost $7,000 to $10,000, anamount the Homestead does not have.

"We're applying for a grant from the Maryland Historic Trust for the dig," Shriver said. "We have to submit two bids from professional firms and they have to approve whoever we use."

Shriver is waiting for the grant application forms, but the deadline isn't until Jan. 1, 1991, meaning she won't hear anything from the Maryland Historic Trust until sometime after the beginning of the year.

"If we don't get the grant, we can't do the project," Shriver said. "We'd have to wait till we got a large donation from somebody."

In the meantime, she added, the board of governors has gotten the go-ahead to do one project inside the house that will be started when the Homestead is closed for the winter on Oct. 29.

"We're going to refurbish the breakfast room to original condition," she said. "Elizabeth Shriver Kemp, the last resident to live at the Homestead, hand painted the room with grapevines and an arbor with bunches of grapes, and somebody painted over one small corner of the room."

Kemp painted the room in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Shriver said, and her grapes are still there under the yellow paint, which needs to be removed in order to expose the hand painting.

A paint conservationist has been brought in to do that job. Additionally, some plastering must be done and matching trim put around the fireplace.

"We hope to have the room re-opened next spring when we open for the season," Shriver said.

Anyone interested in helping the Homestead with the bake oven project can call Esther Shriver at the Homestead at 848-2288.

Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990

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