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, was 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 People’s contact period with the English, the slave and later African American story and the life of all those who lived at Handsell.
COVID 19 NEWS: 2020 has been a difficult and disappointing year for events at Handsell. We had to cancel Chicone Village Day, Summer Saturdays, our fundraising Soiree and now the Nanticoke River Jamboree. Through all of this we have used our time to do more research into the lives of the owners of Handsell and those who were enslaved by them. New information has been uncovered and for that we are glad. PLEASE continue to support our efforts to tell the story of three cultures through living history events and hands-on workshops. Any donation greater than $35 will make you an member of NHPA. Larger donations will assist us in the continued restoration of the brick house.
EVENTS Planned for 2021:
April 24, 2021 Chicone Village Day
including a Basketry workshop held by the Center in Research for Basketry at 11 a.m. in the Handsell parlor. Hand weave your very own Native-inspired bracelet. Student space limited to 10. (If this fills, we may open an afternoon session).
Summer Saturdays at Handsell 11-3 p.m. every Saturday mid-June through Labor Day weekend.
Nanticoke River Jamboree at Handsell – Saturday October 9, 2021: “Attacks on Vienna”
NEWS about Handsell:
November 13, 2020 – Preservation Maryland has awarded the NHPA a grant of $7000 toward the restoration of the front entry door at Handsell! thank you Preservation Maryland. We now await other funding so we can complete both the front door and the front porch.
We are now offering Guide by Cell Audio Tours of the Handsell Historic Site to enhance the visitor’s experience. You may also dial this number from your cell phone from anywhere to learn more about this important National Register of Historic Places listed site.
CALL 410-858-4173 for an Audio Tour of Handsell
Also in 2018, Handsell has been added to Geochache!!
LISTEN NOW Shane Walker of WBOC 106.3 interviews NHPA President Midge Ingersoll in promotion of the October 2019 Jamboree!
**October 2019 NHPA is again recognized by the Heart of Chesapeake Heritage Areas for “Organizational Excellence in Historic Preservation.
**August 2019 NHPA receives a $20,000 grant from Maryland Heritage Areas to continue work on the Handsell basement.
**New Page – Handsell Before and After Photographs
** January 2018 NHPA Trustee Shirley Jackson received a “Community Service Award” from NAACP
** January 2018 NHPA Trustee Midge Ingersoll received a special recognition from Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth for the Handsell Projects
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 (cause undetermined), 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 listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places!!!