Historic London Town & Gardens
Visit a "lost" colonial town and garden sanctuary on the South River
Historic London Town & Gardens
Details of a 1970s brochure and map of London Town. The museum and gardens is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Learn more here.
ANNUAL REPORT: FY2020
Rod Cofield by Bob Peterson Photography
Thank You from Executive Director Rod Cofield
As it was for most organizations, 2020 was a challenging year for London Town. In addition to the pandemic, a fall tornado caused some damage to the site. Fortunately, generosity from donors, grantors, and the government made it possible for London Town to survive the storm.
I was proud to see how our dedicated volunteers and staff worked diligently to pivot when the site closed in the spring of 2020. Even after we reopened in May of 2020, their hard work and creativity ensured that we could continue sharing London Town's remarkable history and beautiful gardens when our community needed them most. Our summer and fall 2020 general attendance broke new records. We heard time and again how people appreciated that London Town was open, that it was a safe place to visit, and that we provided a recuperative break from the difficulties of the pandemic.
Although the pandemic limited our ability to operate as normal, it didn't stop us from celebrating our 50th anniversary of being open to the public, producing new programming, or continuing with some of our biggest projects to date. Read on to learn updates on the preservation work (and rebuilt bar!) at the William Brown House, archaeology at the Gresham Estate, and plant propagation success, among other efforts. Here are some of the highlights of a remarkable year:
Worcester Eisenbrandt works on the William Brown House roof with the South River behind
William Brown House Preservation Update
Preservation work began on the c.1760 William Brown House in August 2018. Now, three years later, we look back on the half-million-dollar, multi-phase effort to ensure the long-term sustainability of this National Historic Landmark.
The initial effort focused on repairing moisture damage to the building. Having faced the South River and Mid-Atlantic weather for over 260 years, the building required repairing or replacing rotted wood in all 38 exterior windows, as well as repointing most of the brickwork. During that first phase, we also undertook work in the attic to fix rotted joists and deteriorating brick supports. Worcester-Eisenbrandt, a Baltimore based firm specializing in historic house restoration, conducted the work. The firm had previously worked on a wide variety of projects, including those at the Washington National Cathedral, Mount Vernon, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
During the first phase, we discovered a lot of space behind most of the exterior windows’ trim. Much of that space had either been empty or just packed with bits and pieces of wood and brick. This lack of structure and support around the windows revealed why many bricks above each window were not staying in place. We also found debris like insect eggs and other trash! Something else that is interesting is that there appears to be ship-style caulking (oakum) at the top of the space, such as the photo below with the ladybugs, who had been nesting there for the winter.
We are grateful for the support of former County Executive Steve Schuh, the Anne Arundel County Council, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, Senator Pam Beidle, Senator John Astle, the Maryland Heritage Area Authority, Preservation Maryland, and our many donors who contributed funds to this project.
Students from St. Mary's College sifting to find artifacts at Gresham Estate
Update on Archaeology at Gresham Estate
In 2017, London Town began working with Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks to manage a new historic property, the Gresham Estate. Located about 10 minutes from London Town's main site, the Gresham Estate was constructed by John Gresham II in the late 1600s, the same time that London Town was beginning to thrive. Over the years, the Estate has been owned by several families, most notably William Cotter, a retired 17th century pirate, and Commodore Isaac Mayo, who lived in the house until his death in 1861. Most recently, the house was restored by Leon Johnson of Johnson Pools and his family.
Although Gresham has been in continuous ownership since the 17th century, there are many mysteries about the site. There have never been systematic archaeology investigations conducted at Gresham, nor has there been an in-depth historical report researching the different people connected to the place. There was a 1984 architectural survey, from which we know the main house that stands today was probably constructed originally after 1765. However, there have been several significant alterations and additions to the building over the years.
Thanks to a generous donor, London Town was able to contract a field school with professors Steve Lenik, PhD and Liza Gijanto, PhD and St. Mary’s College to conduct an initial archaeology assessment of the grounds. The archaeologists and students spent four weeks at Gresham between June and July 2021. During that time, they conducted a shovel test pit (STP) survey of the property. An STP survey is an efficient way to cover a large area without causing major disturbance. They laid out a grid and flagged up to every 50 feet. As they got closer to the house, they flagged every 25 feet. Much further out became every 75 feet. They then dug at each flag, going down past the topsoil and looking for artifacts and features.
Zinnias propagated by seed by the lath house
Plant Propagation Update
In recent years, the horticulture department at Historic London Town and Gardens has worked to enhance our plant propagation efforts. One year ago, London Town was hit by a tornado that ripped through our gardens. We only closely missed one again earlier this month. Fortunately, we did not lose any core collections, but it was a fierce reminder of how easily that could occur. Additionally, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of being open to the public, we recognize that many of our plants are themselves around 50 years old and coming to the end of their natural lives.
London Town’s gardens contain diverse collections, including exotic specimens and test species. Some are endangered in the wild. There are Camellias, Hollies, Azaleas, and others that were first tested here. Many are unique – at least without anything comparable nearby. To protect the gardens’ collections, we have begun working to build a reservoir of seeds, saplings, and nursery stock.
All of us are grateful to the generous donors and volunteers who have helped us improve our plant propagation program. Propagation ensures that there are always ways to replenish our most important species. Creating a seed bank and properly storing saplings and nursery stock is the best way to maintain our special collections.
Since our request for funding last year, we’ve made considerable strides towards improving our plant propagation efforts. Director of Horticulture Meenal Harankhedkar and her staff and volunteers have been excited to share what support likes yours has made possible.
Some highlights include adding a new horticulture office and storage space. Your generosity has also improved the behind-the-scenes areas with better grading and gravel.
50 Years of London Town
On April 15, 1971, the first visitors to the London Town Publik House and Arboretum signed the original registry. They toured the c.1760 William Brown House, even as it was being restored to how it may have looked originally as a colonial tavern.
Interestingly, two of the first visitors that day were Alma and Edward Larrimore. The William Brown House had become Anne Arundel County's Almshouse in the 1820s. The Larrimore family had been the last administrators of Almshouse when it closed in 1965.
Since then, Anne Arundel County and the London Town Publik House Commission had begun the process of restoring the building and turning the site into a museum and public garden. The William Brown House had been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service exactly one year before its first visitors on April 15, 1970.
Although the pandemic has impacted our efforts to celebrate this milestone anniversary, we have found ways to look back while looking forward. Thank you to everyone who joined us for our lecture series focusing on the 50th anniversary. The first lecture, an overview of London Town's colonial history with executive director Rod Cofield, is now available online here, and more will be added soon.
Join us in digging into our museum and gardens' history here with some of our 50th anniversary related posts:
And save the date! We are planning to host a 50 + 1 celebratory benefit on Friday, May 13, 2022. More details to be announced next year.
What's Coming Next?
Thank you to everyone who has supported London Town throughout this difficult time. As I have promised, London Town is going to survive and thrive, thanks to your support!
We continue to use our 2017 Operations and Capital Improvement Plan as a guideline for a great future at London Town, and there are additional exciting projects already in the works to expand and improve the visitor experience. These include:
constructing the new Phillips Education Pavilion
exploring the enhancement of the waterfront
You can check out the Operations and Capital Improvement Plan at www.historiclondontown.org/2027
We couldn’t have achieved all of this without our family of supporters. Cumulatively, your giving equaled $529,839! This included donations (restricted and unrestricted), fundraisers, grants and corporate giving. Note that this amount includes funds from Anne Arundel County and the State of Maryland. A list of donors is available here.
I welcome you to visit London Town often this year and beyond. We continue hosting great programming and will increase our efforts to preserve and share this unique history and beautiful gardens. Thank you!
LONDON TOWN BY THE NUMBERS: 2020
Net Assets: $543,578
2020 Total Revenue: $847,063
9% Program Services Revenue: $79,273
Admissions and Tours: $22,545
Museum and Garden Programs: $19,170
63% Donations, Grants, & Fundraising Events: $529,839
Donations & Grants: $239,839
Government Grants: $290,000
28% All Other Earned Revenue: $237,951
2020 Total Expenses: $933,937
80% Program Services: $754,908
14% Management and General Expenses: $128,566
6% Fundraising Expenses: $50,463
Financials for fiscal year 2020 (January 1 - December 31, 2020) are based on the draft 2020 audit.
$56,000+ Raised for London Town!
Thanks to everyone who participated in our online auctions in November 2020 and June 2021. Combined, you raised over $56,000 in support of London Town! Save the date for next year’s benefit: Friday, May 13, 2022. More details to be announced.
Even with the pandemic, volunteers still contributed over 1,200 hours with our public programs, as docents, in the gardens, with administrative tasks, and for special events. Their efforts are valued at more than $37,548! Source: Independent Sector. Maryland’s current value of volunteer time at $31.29 an hour.
Education Programs Pivot
While field trips stopped abruptly in the spring of 2020, our education team continued to find new ways to share the site's history and horticulture with students. They developed traveling trunks (such as the one seen above), virtual field trips, and limited on-site educational opportunities. They were still able to provide educational opportunities to over 2,000 students across Maryland!
THANK YOU TO OUR 2020 SUPPORTERS
This list acknowledges all donors and members who have contributed more than $500 in donations and memberships in 2020. We are grateful for their support.
Grants are listed in the year they are awarded as opposed to when the awarded amount is distributed.
Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation
Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and Maryland Historical Trust
$7,500 - $99,999
Arts Council of Anne Arundel County
Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
Maryland Department of Commerce
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
Maryland State Department of Education
$2,500 – 7,499
Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation
Four Rivers Heritage Area
Anne and William Biddle
J.J. Bernard and Victoria Lerch, III
Mr. Frank and Ms. Laura Martien
Amy Pitser Barnhardt
$1,000 – 2,499
Joe and Tessie Ballard
Dr. Margery Calhoun
Ms. Virginia P. Clagett
$1,000 – 2,499 Continued
Robin & Amber Cockey
Norma & Jim Farrell
First Break Sports Bar and Grill
Ms. Maureen Flanagan and Mr. Jack Weaver
Hank and Catriona Gundlach
J. Richard Knop & Leslee Belluchie
Bob & Karen Leib
McLefresh Family, Dayton, OH
Pirates Cove Inn & Restaurant
Margaret Ann Ross
Cyrena & Stoney Simons
Gordon & Susanne Smith
Ms. Sarah Trees & Mr. Greg Pitser
United States Marine Corps Historical Company
Worcester Eisenbrandt Inc
$500 - 999
Ms. Grit Bastians and Mr. Robert Jackson
Don Bottaro and Chris Kelley
William and Nancy Carter
Larry & Ruth Claussen
John and Barbara Church
Rod Cofield & Sara Rivers-Cofield
Ms. Christine Colvis and Mr. Michael Kennedy
Ms. Jane S. Cooper and Mr. Philip Angell
Lawrance & Kathryn Court
$500 - 999 Continued
James P. Graham
Stephanie & James Jacobs
Maureen & David Konschnik
Jackie Lavigne & Matthew Fisher
Barrett & Anne McKown
Art Little and Barbara Tymkiw
Dr. Marcella Roenneburg
Evelyn Spurgin & Gary Christopher
Nurse Jane A. Swann
John & Christine Vos
Donors to the 2020 Love for London Town Auction
Kinder Farm Park Sawmill Group
J.J. Bernard Lerch III