The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance welcomes you
to the “Restore Handsell” project!
The NHPA was formed in 2005 to purchase and restore one of Dorchester County, Maryland’s most interesting and intriguing historic structures, an old ivy-covered brick building located in the middle of what is known as “the Indiantown”. After just a little bit of research, we knew we were on to something BIG. As the layers of the story unfolded, through research in archives, deeds, Wills and historic family letters, a better yet not fully complete story emerged of native people, licensed Indian traders, English settlers, British attacks, merchant activity and structural devastation. Much of the Handsell story is STILL a mystery, but it seems each day brings a little more light to this amazing, yet previously unknown saga of the Steele family’s mark on the Eastern Shore.
There is much here to learn about and see. So please stay awhile, explore our pages and get to know us!
The “old brick house” at Chicone, known as Handsell, located in the Indiantown north of Vienna, Dorchester County, Maryland, has been purchased by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance with a Preservation Easement from the Maryland Historic Trust. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the site will be used to interpret the native American contact period with the English, the slave and later African American story and the life of all those who lived at Handsell.
OUR Next EVENT:
January 31 2017 – “Soup and Song” Annual Meeting of the NHPA at the Robbins Center, Dorchester County Historical Society. Join us for delicious home made soups, appetizers and a special kick-off presentation for African American History Month by vocalist Karen Somerville. Learn about Handsell Preservation Progress and hear about the 2017 Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester. Please join us!
Karen Somerville performs at the Annual Meeting: The Highlight of the evening is a presentation by soloist Karen Somerville that will serve as an introduction to a special event coming up in October 2017, “Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester”. Karen Somerville is a recording artist and producer performing gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, folk, and the arrangements for the acappella trio Sombarkin’ (sum-bar-kin), a group she has organized. She worked as a background vocalist on the “Songs in the Key of Life; Stevie Wonder 2014 Tour”, and has also worked closely with New York’s Broadway sensation Mark Bramble (42nd Street), and with the Seamless Voice, Marlon Saunders and was featured songstress at the NYC Fringe August 2016. Karen delivers both subtle and explosive performances in genres from Negro Spirituals to contemporary jazz renditions. She receives high praises for her gospel performances with Sombarkin’, a group who will perform at the Slave Dwelling Project Weekend here in Cambridge in October. For the NHPA Annual Meeting, Karen will perform solo Negro Spirituals with narrative on the history of this musical genre.
The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance is owner and caretaker of Handsell, a National Register of Historic Places Site on Indiantown Road. NHPA has planned this event as a demonstration of their commitment to two of their mission statements: (1) “Cultivate and encourage the appreciation of racial and cultural diversity by the public though programming and social interaction”; and “Engage the public by sponsoring historical and cultural living history events”.
Saturday, April 29, 2017 Chicone Village Day at Handsell
Saturday, June 10 Summer Soiree at The Wilderness Farm, Trappe, MD – “Window Shopping”
October 13-15, 2017 Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester. Stay tuned for this important event.
Friday October 13, 2017 – Sunday October 15, 2017 “Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester”, a special event presented by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance and the Harriet Tubman Organization. Partnering with the Slave Dwelling Project.org, Coming to the Table.org, Harriet Tubman State Park, Harriet Tubman UGRR National Historic Park, and the National Park Service Network to Freedom. Sponsored by the Elks Lodge #223. (those who wish to add their names to sponsorship, please contact us at email@example.com)
**New Page – Handsell Before and After Photographs
** August 2015 NHPA receives a $15,000 matching grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority for brick repairs at Handsell (Total work $30,000)
**September 2015 NHPA receives a $25,000 matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Bartus Trew Providence Fund for a total of $50,000 work on a new cedar shake roof, dormers and roof trims. Work being done August-November2016.
**The Handsell Site and the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance has been honored by Preservation Maryland with the 2015 “Community Choice” Award.
**In May 2015, the Handsell project received the “Special Projects Award” and $1000 from the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage!
The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance WAS awarded the 2014 Heart of Chesapeake Heritage Areas Award for
This is the SECOND time NHPA has been given this honor!
Congratulations to all our hard-working volunteers!
A recent visitor to Handsell commented, ” The history of Handsell was very compelling. It survived all these years, standing proud and beautiful. It sat there stoically all these years, just waiting to be saved. It is the most interesting site we visited in Dorchester County today.” —Jeni Jasuta, Philadelphia, PA
HANDSELL HOURS: Grounds are open to the public 7 days a week during daylight hours with Wayside Exhibits, Longhouse Living History Exhibit and Exterior Viewing of the Handsell House. Special Group Tours by appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org During Restoration Phase, Handsell House is open for special events only: Chicone Village Day and the Nanticoke River Jamboree and private group tours.
The Henry Steele family–do you know more than we do? Please contact us with historic information about the Steeles in Dorchester County at email@example.com
Handsell History 101, the Short Version:
In 1665, Thomas Taylor was granted 700 acres of Land called “Handsell” along the Nanticoke River in the location of Chicone Indian town. In 1704 this land was made part of an Indian reservation by an Act of the Maryland Assembly. In 1769 the properties were returned to the ownership of the English families who had possessed the land grants.
Handsell is one of the last remaining 18th c. brick dwelling houses in Dorchester Co. Originally a grand, two story Georgian home, a major event, possibly a fire at Handsell gutted much of the interior and weakened the rear exterior wall, causing a partial collapse of the structure.
After a fire, Handsell was rebuilt to the one and one-half story structure we see today. The interior woodwork is all original to the period of the rebuild in 1837 by John Shehee, a local farmer.
This brick dwelling house exhibits a unique façade with a protruding pavilion and Flemish bond brickwork, indicating the builder’s knowledge of contemporary design trends.
Handsell is now listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places!!!
You can reach us anytime with questions by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-228-7458.