The Story Project


NOTE: THIS PROJECT WAS CARRIED OUT UNDER OUR PREVIOUS NAME, “FOUR RIVERS HERITAGE AREA,” BETWEEN 2018 AND 2022, FUNDED BY TWO MARKETING GRANTS FROM THE MARYLAND HERITAGE AREAS AUTHORITY. WE HOPE TO RECEIVE FUTURE FUNDING TO EXTEND THIS REMARKABLE PROJECT. Executive Director, Carol Benson, said: The entire enterprise of the heritage area has been developed to share people’s stories. Grant projects, large and small, aim to “unearth” important stories and share them with a greater audience. All our activities are all designed to help our stakeholder organizations and attractions “get the word out” to more people and to explain how the visitor experience will be deeply resonant and relevant for them.

Have you ever said, “I don’t care about history, that’s not about me,” and then found out what your grandfather’s occupation was, or learned about an inspiring leader who lived in your neighborhood? These stories are often far more relevant to audiences than they expect. This area is a remarkable place, and we are excited to bring new stories to light.


Tony Spencer was born and educated in Anne Arundel County. A renowned performing and vocal recording artist, composer, poet, model and storyteller, Tony was surprised to discover the impact his great great grandfather, James Spencer, had in founding this important community as a safe haven for African-Americans in our community.  This is Tony’s story of discovering his family’s ties to Freetown and the significance that it has in our history and the heritage of our area.

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Sharyn Martin is a docent and member of the Deale Area Historical Society.   When she discovered the African-American Meeting House (1895) at the Herrington Harbour North Historic Village, it became especially close to her because of the significance of that building in the African-American community in the Deale area.  This is Sharyn’s story of the special place this building has in our history and the heritage that is still relevant today.

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Tatiana J. Klein is a Costa-Rican-born and an American citizen and she began studying music at age 10 with piano and flute at age 14.  She has been teaching High School Spanish at the Key School in Annapolis since 2008 and as a volunteer, she is passionate about helping the Hispanic community embrace their heritage while exploring the heritage in the surrounding Annapolis area. She is involved in many volunteer organizations and often partners with after school programs that bring students to the Chesapeake Children’s Museum in Annapolis, MD, where students participate in a wide variety of educational and cultural experiences.

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Ben Secundy grew up in the community of Highland Beach. The experience so profoundly impacted him that now he is the volunteer Highland Beach Commissioner and docent at the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center located in Highland Beach. This is Ben’s story and some of the history of Highland Beach.  In 1892, Major Charles Douglass, youngest son of Frederick Douglass, and Charles’ wife Laura, were turned away from a restaurant at the Bay Ridge Resort and Amusement Park because of their race. In the spring of 1893, they settled on the purchase of twenty-six and two-thirds acres of the land adjacent to that same property (across a small inlet), that would become Highland Beach. The Town of Highland Beach became a gathering place and beachfront community for educated African Americans, and hosted visits by many well-known African Americans of the day, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and more.

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The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center and Memorial are part of a $27 million dollar complex called The Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park which opened in a public celebration, September 2006. Pamela Browne, longtime volunteer and now Executive Director, shares her story about what drew her here which started with her fathers attendance as a high school student. The Legacy Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Wiley H. Bates High School, formerly (1932 to 1966) the only high school for African Americans in Anne Arundel County. It is a unique cultural arts heritage center displaying historical documents and collections that preserve the African American experience.

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The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) provides science-based knowledge to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century. Hear the story of Steve Myers and Dave Norman, who both volunteer at SERC, as both educators and citizen scientists who are helping to preserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay. SERC leads research on coastal ecosystems—where the land meets the sea—to inform real-world decisions for wise policies, best business practices, and a sustainable planet. Its 2,650-acre campus spans forests, wetlands, marshes and 12 miles of protected shoreline. The site serves as a natural laboratory for long-term and cutting-edge ecological research.

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Watermen have long been an integral part of life in Southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and the boats they used for their trade go hand-in-hand with their way of life on the water. A few months ago, several organizations from South County came together to showcase the intricate, hand-made wooden boat models that bring to life this key element of a waterman’s life and livelihood. This video features those boat models, as well as interviews with Dorothy Whitman of the Galesville Heritage Society and Peggy L’Hommedieu of the Deale Area Historical Society.

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The Historic Annapolis’s Hogshead at 43 Pinkney Street (Downtown Annapolis) is an early 18th-century building similar to the modest wood frame structures that housed many colonial Annapolitans and new recruits to revolutionary service.  Today, it serves as an interactive, hands-on museum and historic landmark, offering visitors the opportunity to experience what life was like during the 1700s in Annapolis. Hogshead visitors will see, hear, and touch what life entailed for frontiersmen, colonial doctors, soldiers in the Revolutionary War, and enslaved or indentured workers. Here, you can pick up the heavy weight of a musket and feel what it would have been like to go hunting centuries ago, or learn about early medical practices by handling physicians’ instruments.

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Dottie Byerly is a volunteer at the Hammond-Harwood House, a historic site in downtown Annapolis where her mom happened to be raised as a baby. In addition she shares about how this house is truly a work of art as it was carefully crafted by one of our areas famous Architects. She talks about her experience and the power of history in our Four Rivers Heritage Area.

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Bob Stevenson is a volunteer at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark and icon that is actually located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Built in 1875, it is the last “intact” lighthouse of its kind left in its original location and is a wonder for all to see. Bob shares his story of how this lighthouse captivated and motivated him to now volunteer to give tours to the public as well as work with the U.S. Lighthouse Society to restore and preserve this great National Historic Landmark.

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Jim Cheevers is the former curator of the US Naval Academy Museum, for 50 years. He oversaw countless exhibits and installations involving US Naval history including the famous “Dont Give Up The Ship” flag. He talks about his experience and the power of history in our Four Rivers Heritage Area.

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Gertrude Makell is Director of Galesville Community Center, and one of the first students to voluntarily integrate Southern High School when she was a teenager in South County Maryland.

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To carry out The Story Project, we secured funding to tell the powerful stories of the volunteers who work at our heritage sites, to discover how and why they do what they do, knowing that our history is critical to understanding our future.  To do this we asked our stakeholders to share their meaningful stories about the importance of preserving our heritage, and why they volunteer.