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More staff and new facilities help to spruce up Savage Park


THE BEAUTIFUL 100-acre park in Savage becomes more popular every year. In addition to tennis courts, a playground, baseball fields, basketball courts, picnic pavilions and a horseshoe pit, seven miles of hiking trails border both sides of the Little Patuxent River.

This Labor Day weekend, the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks will be out in force to help everyone celebrate with Public Education Day at Savage Park.

The park's beauty and accessibility have made it popular. In April, the county began providing more personnel to staff the park. One of them is park ranger Neal Hollingshead, who will be on hand to greet park visitors this weekend. He will answer questions about park facilities and regulations.

Cooking is permitted only at the two grills near the pavilion and the upper playing fields. It is a fire hazard to grill anywhere else. The river is not a safe place to swim, so swimming and tubing are forbidden.

Those who haven't been to the park in a while will be pleasantly surprised by the new facilities and the condition of the old ones - the place has been spiffed up. Since April, Jessup residents Mary and Pee Wee Holmes have worked there evenings and on weekends. They walk the trails, repaint signs and generally look after the place as if it were their own.

"I love the park," Mary Holmes said. "I spent many days there with my children when they were little."

Her husband, too, spent time at the park when he was a child. Mary reports that he used to sneak off from school and go swimming in the river. They passed on their love for the park to their daughter, who occasionally works there on weekends.

"When you're happy in your work, it doesn't feel like a job," Mary said.

Information: 410-313-PARK.

Friends of Montpelier

Montpelier Mansion is an 18th-century architectural gem in our neighborhood. In the middle of parkland in Laurel, the mansion grounds feature a boxwood maze and a newly expanded herb garden. The interior is fully decorated with early American period furniture and accessories, but that is not what makes it such a wonderful place to visit. That honor goes to the many volunteers who act as docents and offer special events for everyone to enjoy.

As usual, the Friends of Montpelier will hold a series of monthly lectures on historic topics monthly this fall. The next will be at 7:30 Sept. 20 when Allen Gephardt of Baltimore will discuss Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner."

It's an opportunity to relive a bit of local lore - the Star-Spangled Banner flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812, inspiring Key to write the lyrics. The banner itself is undergoing restoration at the Smithsonian in Washington.

Admission is free.

Information: 301-953-1376.

Kitchen furnishings

The Friends of Montpelier's next project is to furnish an early American kitchen for visitors to enjoy. According to Judy Young, president of the Friends, Montpelier Mansion is unusual in that the kitchen originally was attached to the house, not in a separate building on the grounds. Because the original kitchen site is used as a meeting room for lectures and other events at the mansion, the group will furnish a kitchen in the carriage house.

The Friends have planned to furnish a kitchen for more than 20 years, but were stymied by the demands of making a functional, open-hearth kitchen. There would be no stove - just a huge, open fireplace. Last year, the group realized that the demands of creating a working kitchen were too great, but that those of creating a demonstration kitchen were not.

The Friends have spent the summer immersing themselves in the lore of 18th-century cookery. Nancy Thaiesfen organized trips to area historic houses to see what is commonly in use. Furnishings chairwoman Beverly Gunnulfsen has reviewed the Friends' previous research. It's been an education, Young says. Kitchens didn't change very much for centuries before the Civil War and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The fireplaces had a large metal arm, called a crane, from which cooks hung pots to cook the meals. Mostly, though, cooks brought the fire to three-legged pots and cooked there, much as modern cooks use electric skillets on a counter.

Many kitchens had no ovens, but cakes could be baked in red ware molds placed in a three-legged iron pot and covered with ash and coals. The pot acted as the oven.

There are other differences: Kitchens often had wig stands in them. Flea-infested wigs were put on the stands, covered in clay and baked in the hearth. The insects died from the heat, but the clay protected the hair from burning. The cook removed the stand from the oven, broke off the clay and the wig was ready for use.

Another difference was the amount of meat hanging in preparation for dinner later in the week. Sometimes, dozens of small birds were hung on the walls.

Young thinks that the kitchen will be one of the more educational rooms in the mansion. "This will give a better flavor to children what it was like to do the actual living then," she said.

The Friends are putting the final touches on their plans this month and then will begin acquiring the items. The Snowden family has been generous in the past in donating original furnishings to the mansion. In addition, the Friends plan to begin a fund-raising effort to buy items.

Drop-in tours run from noon to 3:15 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $3; $1 for students. Weekday tours are available by appointment.

The mansion is at Route 197 and Murkirk Road in Laurel.

Savage history

Local author and Savage historian Vera Filby will discuss "The Savage Story" from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 9 at Savage branch library, 9525 Durness Lane, North Laurel.

Filby is the author of "Savage, Maryland," which recounts the history of the village from its origins in the early 1800s to 1965. She has lived in Savage since 1957 and wrote the book to assist newcomers.

Registration is required.

Information: 410-880-5980.

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