Manchester Historical Society to unveil renovated space

Why was the town of Manchester once nicknamed Noodle Doosey? Who owned the first automobile in the town and how many cigar factories were located there? What tools and technologies were crafted hundreds of years ago by Native Americans in the area?

The answers to all of these questions are contained within the Manchester Historical Center in its newly renovated space filled with more than 3,000 items. On Sunday, Oct. 7, they will open to the public for a grand reopening from 1-4 p.m. at 3208 York St., the former Manchester Municipal Offices.

It will be open on the first Sunday of each month, or by appointment. Guests should come to the back door.

When the building on York Street still housed town offices, the Historical Society was located in the basement. The new space is larger and better lit. A big improvement, volunteers said, is the accessibility of the building, which now meets ADA standards with an entrance ramp, renovated bathrooms and other features.

The Manchester Historical Society was founded in the 1970s by local historians Charlotte Collett and Julia Berwager.

When interviewed by the Times in 2012, Berwager said the collection began with “ a small amount of donated pictures and artifacts,” and expanded to five rooms of artifacts before she retired from her volunteer position there. She died in January 2018 at the age of 99.

The town offices and police station moved to a newly constructed building at 3337 Victory Street. It was opened to the public in October 2016.

Today, four volunteers make up the society, Belva Lamotte, Karen Wilhelm Betty Smith, and Bradley Martin. They are looking for more volunteers, which will help them cover shifts and accommodate visiting groups like the Boy Scouts and school field trips.

“If they know a little about history, that’s fine. If not, we can teach them,” Lamotte said, laughing.

Artifacts that chronicle the town’s history back to the 1800s (and a few before that) are organized by room into six sections.

The schools room collects the history of schools both present and closed. A portrait of the first Manchester High School class from 1926 class is displayed not far from yearbooks from North Carroll High School, located in Hampstead, but the alma mater of generations of Manchester students.

Display cases in the business room are chock full of artifacts, from cigar boxes and labels to the measuring instruments and medicine bottles used at the pharmacy.

“There’s a lot of history on these walls,” Lamotte said. “When you go through and read what’s on the signs, I think Manchester starts to come out.”

The library space is equipped with a desk and a selection of local books. The main attraction are filing cabinets full of records. Lamotte said this will be of interest to genealogists especially.

Another room displays history of the fire department and the various societies that have operated in town from the Masons to the Lions. A photo album recorded the construction of the fire hall on Main Street after the former location was destroyed. A hand-painted parade drum from the fire department’s band sits on display, still vibrant.

Civil War buffs will want to view the military room, which includes information about troop movements in the area. The 37th Massachusetts Infantry VI Corps moved through on their way to the Battle of Gettysburg. Military uniforms of Manchester residents are also displayed. The Society received a grant from the Heritage Areas Authority Grant Program.

The hallway is lined with a timeline of the history of Manchester. Above it, portraits of the towns mayors are displayed chronologically. This leads to the largest room, which contains every day objects from children’s toys to a working phonograph cabinet to a beaded wedding dress and the accompanying sepia-toned wedding photo of it’s wearer.

To contact the society, become a volunteer or to make a donation, call 410-239-3247 or email historicalcenter@manchestermd.gov.

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