Historical Society members pitch in on Benson-Hammond House cleanup


Will Mumford disappeared between a giant bush and the side of the Benson-Hammond House, lost among the overgrown branches he was cutting down.

When the president of the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society finally emerged, he was drenched, from his black boots to his blue T-shirt. A morning of rain will do that.

"I would rather have a day like this than the hot days we usually have in August," Mr. Mumford said, preparing to stop for a lunch break. "I'm having a great time. It's nice and it's cool out."

The Benson-Hammond House serves as the Historical Society's headquarters. Already, the society has three original produce farm buildings on site -- including a summer kitchen and a tool shed.

The plan is to clear out the woods, plant grass and add many more structures so people can take a tour of what used to be the pride of Anne Arundel County -- once the busiest produce farm county in the nation.

But in the meantime, more routine maintainance must be done. On Saturday, Mr. Mumford worked in the basement, trying to stop water from seeping up through the walls and ruining the inside.

Apparently, most people who were supposed to help Mr. Mumford do a bit of August spring cleaning didn't appreciate the weather as much as he did. By noon Saturday, only six people had shown up to help do chores and keep the 167-year-old historic site in pristine condition.

"I'll bet most people thought it was canceled," Mr. Mumford said.

But the lack of helpers didn't mean the day was lost. Mr. Mumford kept busy trimming hedges, pruning trees and cleaning out the basement.

Others, like volunteer Becky Stoll, concentrated on interior details.

"This house has a lot of windows," she said as she polished another pane.

Ms. Stoll usually volunteers to run the store -- but no customers showed up. The society treasurer, Harry Greenwell, took care of the other side of the glass.

Mr. Mumford said he hoped at least 20 people would show up, so that a nearby one-acre section of overgrown woods could be cleared to make way for a planned truck farm exhibit.

In the parlor, plaster walls are buckling and crumbling from water damage. Mr. Mumford said professionals will have to be hired to make repairs. He will clean the basement to get it ready for a new floor.

This was the first time a work day has been scheduled, and if the estimated number of people had shown up on Saturday, Mr. Mumford said much of the basement and yard work would have been completed.

"We've had unorganized ones," Mr. Mumford said. "Usually what we have done is just do the work as it is needed."

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