Union Mills Homestead chose one of its own to open its bicentennial celebration yesterday.
Pam Shriver, six generations from the original founders of the mill and an international tennis star, is serving as the honorary chairwoman of the 200th birthday party.
As Shriver gave the audience a brief history of the site, a restored water wheel whirred softly through the stream running along the brick building.
"As a direct descendant of the brothers who originally cranked the mill, Pam connects history to today," said Barbara Beverungen, director of the county office of tourism.
Shriver may have come by her tennis prowess naturally, she told a crowd of about 50 state and local officials. While browsing through family archives, she found an 1891 picture of the Shrivers playing tennis on the lawn at the Homestead. The players clutched wooden rackets. The women wore long skirts and the men were in suits.
"There were no swooshes or Nikes and as long as the grass was, they would have to put the ball in the air," said Shriver.
She is looking on the bicentennial events as an opportunity to learn "more Civil War history and family stuff."
"It is incredible how one family stayed continually involved here through six generations," she said.
As a child, she frequently visited the Homestead. In recent years, tennis tours have kept her away, but she has marked all the 1997 events on her calendar.
A $2,000 grant from the Maryland Tourism Development Board paid for 30,000 brochures to tout those events, which include a flower mart, an art show and photo exhibit, a Civil War encampment, the traditional August corn roast, guest lecture series and an old-time Christmas celebration next year.
The schedule is included in the Maryland calendar of events, distributed at tourist spots throughout the state.
"There are a lot of undiscovered nooks and crannies in Maryland," said Shriver. "This celebration may help Marylanders discover Union Mills."
R. Dean Kenderdine, state assistant secretary for tourism, called Shriver a state ambassador who is "unabashedly bullish" on Maryland.
"Pam brings celebrity to this celebration and draws immediate attention to what is going on," he said.
State tourism has become a $5.5 billion industry that annually draws 21 million people to Maryland and employs 79,000.
"Tourism succeeds by putting new products on the shelf," Kenderdine said. "The bicentennial will bring people back to Union Mills."
Pub Date: 12/12/96