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The Historical Society of Kent County, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the collection and preservation of documents and information that aid in the interpretation of all aspects of Kent County’s history. The Society shares this information through its research library, museum space, programs, publications and website in order to foster a knowledge and understanding of the shared heritage of the community. The Society supports and encourages the preservation of historic buildings and sites throughout Kent County.
The Historical Society is the only organization dedicated to keeping the record of all aspects of Kent County history. The Society is determined that the history of Kent County remain an integral part of its future, and seeks to not only preserve but promote local history in such a way that it enhances the sense of place for both residents and visitors of Kent County. The organization also engages in facilitating preservation efforts whenever possible.
The Society offers resources for local history through its museum, research library and programs, publications and website. We also offer a venue for history lovers to support history keeping and to become an active and integral part of the community.
The Historical Society was founded in 1936 to preserve and disseminate information pertinent to local heritage; in 1958 the organization purchased the Geddes-Piper House, beginning a rehabilitation project that ushered in the significant restoration effort that led to the establishment of the Chestertown Historic District, now a National Landmark District. Through contributions and volunteer efforts, the Geddes-Piper was decorated and furnished with period pieces, and was until 2015, the only Kent County historic house open to the public on a regular basis. In 1970, the Society organized the first walking tour of Chestertown’s Historic District, opening up the doors to historic homes and buildings on an annual basis, the first Saturday in October.
In the 1980’s, the Society partnered with Kent County and Chestertown in conducting an extensive site survey of many of the historic buildings throughout the county, primarily built before the 1860’s. In the 1990’s, the results of the survey were expanded upon, and the Society produced and published Historic Houses of Kent County, written by Michael Bourne and edited by Eugene Johnstone. Now in its second printing, the book remains an extraordinary work of architectural history.
In 2006, as the Society entered its 8th decade, it reevaluated its mission, and the products and services that it offered its community. A long range plan was developed in which the need to establish an accessible and comprehensive resource for Kent County history was emphasized.
A significant private grant enabled the Society to begin a major emphasis on its library collection, the only library dedicated to local history. Items in the collection were properly encased in archival preservation materials by volunteers and student interns. A grant from the Hedgelawn Foundation made possible the purchase a cataloging software program. Through the efforts of staff, volunteers and interns, a major portion of the library’s collection has been cataloged, and the catalog is searchable from this site.
Beginning in 2007, the Society began publishing The Key to Old Kent, expanding upon the tradition of local history writing begun in the Society’s newsletter, Old Kent (now published simply as a newsletter).
In 2011, the Society produced The Key to Kent County History, a significant web resource for local history funded by the Maryland Historical Trust. Containing an overview of the story of Kent County by time period, with links to other websites, relevant holdings in the Society’s collection, essays and other resources, this site serves as a framework to offer continually expanding resources on local history.
The organization continues to collect oral histories, nurture research and writing, and develop projects and programs that preserve, promote and make accessible the record of local history.
In 2015, the Society opened the Bordley History Center at 301 High Street, in the heart of downtown Chestertown, as the new location for the Kent County Historical Society and sold the Geddes-Piper House.
We take very seriously our role as history keepers; after all, if a place does not keep its own history, then no one else will.
Please visit us, and be certain to join us for our annual Historic House Tour on the first Saturday in October. This tradition is one of the oldest historic house tours on the Eastern Shore.
Stephen Frohock, President
Barbara Jorgenson, First Vice-President
Kurt Smith, Second Vice-President
Jane Nevins, Secretary
Roger Brown, Treasurer
Bridget M. Cahall
Erik T. Gulbrandsen
Robert L. Bryan- Immediate Past President
Amanda Tuttle-Smith, M.A.
Carol Roe Combs
History Lovers! We are in need of volunteers for a variety of tasks. You can become involved in our mission of keeping Kent County history! Some of our ongoing volunteer opportunities include:
Docent at the Bordley History Center: You don’t have to know about Kent County history to be a regular docent – you can learn as you go. You just have to enjoy meeting people of all types and welcoming them to the Historical Society.
Tour guides: Do you enjoy learning history and telling stories? You might enjoy being a tour guide for regular walking tours or for our fall Ghost Walk of Historic Chestertown.
Library tasks: We are in need of all library skill levels, from cataloging (easier than you may think, but does require computer skills) to indexing serials and publications to clipping articles.
Genealogists Cemetery research: Our volunteers are updating cemetery records.
Research: If you have experience in conducting research, we are always in need of qualified volunteers to explore and document information on various topics.
Special events and programs: planning and assistance.
Project Coordinators: For those who have experience and time to take on project management, we are in need of a coordinator for an oral history project.
Outreach: volunteers to staff a table for the Society at events.
Or, think of a project of your own that you would like to pursue! Please call us at 410-778-3499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Historical Society always welcomes new members. You do not have to live locally to join, a number of our members support us in our efforts from afar. If you are a resident, however, we hope you will not only become a member, but join us at our events and activities, or consider volunteering. We offer a welcoming venue for community involvement for all ages.
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Students can receive a free, complimentary membership to the Historical Society. To attain membership, please fill out the student membership application.