The powerful derecho that hit the Washington area in June of 2012 is on record as one of the most destructive, fast-moving storms in U.S. history. While the region has largely recovered, there are still traces of the storm’s destruction. For many in the MAPP community, there is no better example of the storm’s grisly aftermath than Bostwick, the historic Bladensburg site a short distance from the UMD campus. The rain and gale-force winds decimated trees and ravaged the 18th-century Georgian-style main house, which has been a second home to UMD’s historic preservation program for the past 10 years. To make matters worse, the derecho was the third in a series of “significant natural events” to hit Bostwick in the past five years; a damaging 2012 hurricane and the 2011 earthquake, which fractured the main house chimney, made quick work of funds earmarked for ongoing restoration, delaying much needed window and roof replacement.
Now, three years later, Bostwick is getting a glimpse of its former self, in the form of extensive and long-awaited reparations and restoration. Historic Preservation Program Director Don Linebaugh and Bladensburg Town Clerk Patricia McAuley are working closely with local restorers, carpenters, tradesmen and HISP students to return the home’s beauty and function, and to reconstruct a site reflective of its storied history.
“These projects are a long time coming,” said Linebaugh. “A lot of things are coming together now at once and it’s really exciting.”
Linebaugh has collaborated with the town of Bladensburg for years in restorative efforts, which has allowed Bostwick to double as a teaching site for UMD graduate students in historic preservation, anthropology and other disciplines. Repairs to the main house chimneys took place in 2013. However, the breadth of work undertaken this year, which includes restoration of 75% of Bostwick’s windows and a new roof, is the largest undertaking in almost a decade.
Government grants and town funding have made the work at Bostwick possible. Following the roof replacement in May, local window and door restorer Neil Mozer and his firm, Mozer Works, Inc., began to painstakingly remove, repair and restore 17 of the windows in July. The process is arduous—in all, it will take six to eight weeks to complete the project, which includes removing the sashes and scraping 100 years of paint from their surfaces. Mozer, who has perfected the process over the course of 20 years, also repairs the windows using old growth wood found in salvage yards and works to preserve whatever glass he can so it can be re-installed and re-glazed. When finished, the windows should perform as well as a top of the line modern version and last 60-100 years.
“Windows describe a home’s architecture from a certain place and time, so I take a lot of pleasure in saving them,” said Mozer. “Most people don’t know how well an old window can function and work efficiently. A good restored window will out-perform a high-end contemporary window any day of the week.”
In addition to repairs, five interpretive signs about the home and its history were produced for the property and erected this spring, a collaboration between Linebaugh, Ph.D. Candidate Christine Henry and Aaron Marcavitch, Executive Director of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area.
The fall will bring more work, both in and out of the classroom. A local carpenter has volunteered to restore the front porch. Linebaugh and HISP students will also begin work deconstructing the home’s buttress, which lost its roof during the derecho, to determine how it was originally built and best practices for its restoration.
"Our almost 10-year relationship with the preservation program at Maryland has greatly benefited Bostwick and the Town of Bladensburg,” said Patricia McAuley, Clerk of the Town of Bladensburg. “The students have contributed a great deal to our understanding of the site and its preservation and interpretation."
Students and faculty will be able to check out the progress at this year’s back to school event on Sunday, September 13 from 4PM – 8PM. To see more pictures of the work at Bostwick, visit the home’s website, here.