Handsell Before and After

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The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance has been working hard to establish a brand with goals and mission, research the Indiantown area including the African, Native and Colonial stories, and raise enough money to begin the restoration of the brick house at Handsell.  Through all this, we have had to do the archaeology ($20,000) and engineering ($18,000) required by the Maryland Historic Trust before we could begin ANY work on the house!  Not to mention getting the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places AND the Historic American Buildings Survey  (no, sometimes we don’t sleep).

It is important to note that the Board of Trustees has adopted a “Preservation Philosophy” for Handsell.  In this we ask two questions before doing any work on the structure: 

1)  Is this something that must be done to prevent further deterioration to the house”, and

2) Must this work be done for the safety of our visitors and volunteers?   

If the answer to either question is YES, then we proceed.  Otherwise, we intend to keep the house to “as close as we found it” as possible.

After five years of fundraising, NHPA finally declared 2015 “The Year of the House” and moved forward with the critical structural support of the house by rebuilding the basement fireplace and chimney stack above that was an important structural component to the entire western gable wall.   Once that this was complete, all other brick repairs continued on the exterior of the house thanks to Mid Shore Community Foundation, the Nathan Foundation and a MHAA grant.   We successfully had ALL the exterior brick repairs complete by the end of 2015.

All of 2016 was focused on the “Handsell Roof Project” and with it brought a new cedar roof  and rebuilt dormers and dormer windows thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Bartus Trew grant.  Total cost of this important repair was $76,000 and almost completely depleted the Handsell Restoration Fund.

2017 was a year for rebuilding the Restoration Fund, sprucing up anything we could do as volunteers, grant writing, caring for our newly planted trees and more research.  The fund grew after a successful Summer Soiree fundraiser ($10,000) to go toward installing historically accurate windows.  The Handsell Window Project was fully funded thanks to support from the Mid Shore Community Fund, Preservation Maryland, Nathan Foundation and others.

Next we moved on to the most expensive undertaking to date, $113,000 for the Handsell Entryway Project.  Phase I included all basement repairs, new entry steps and Kitchen door.  Funded by an MHAA grant, MSCF, Nathan Foundation and our own Soiree funds, this work was completed by the spring of 2020 at which time we launched the exterior front restorations, the Handsell Entryway Project: Phase II.

Phase II of the Entryway Project included the restoration of the front double door and the addition of a replica front porch, based on architectural evidence in the brick work, archaeology to find the original piers and appropriate design for the period of the rebuild of 1837.  This again, was accomplished thanks to Preservation Maryland, MHAA and Nathan Foundation grants and completed in the fall of 2021.

Please enjoy the dramatic before and After photographs of the work we have done at Handsell.  (just in case you thought we were just sitting around).  NHPA is an ALL-Volunteer organization. Except for Insurances, marketing and printing expenses, all your donations go completely to where you want them to go–the restoration of the house, the Chicone Village Project, our educational projects or the African American Research.  Please DONATE at the button to the right of this page.

Handsell in 2004 and 2021


Handsell Pantry “Theatre” 2015 and 2019

Basement cook fireplace and Oven 2006

Basement cook fireplace and Oven 2006

12052412_412905175580762_8021419624221968378_o (1)Kitchen fireplace staged for African American Interpretation at the 2015 Jamboree, October 2015

Kitchen Entry NOW:

Kitchen Entry January 2020

New Exterior Door with brick repairs to be done in the spring.

East Parlour fireplace, with hearth and rear of fire box repaired May 2015

East Parlour fireplace with failing hearth and rear firebox collapsed. 2010


East parlour fireplace repaired May 2015

East parlour fireplace repaired May 2015 (inappropriate sized wood mantel removed)

22 comments on “Handsell Before and After

  1. Mary wilson says:

    My husband and I came upon this house today. I love old houses and the history of them. The renovations are amazing. Keep up the good work!

  2. Rachelle Hall says:

    I am a decendant from the jackson family that brought here. My family had a family reunion there that was sponsored. I was unable to attened by wanted to bring my step children there to hear a little about my family history. My question is, what are your prices if any n when will you be having your next tour?

  3. Elaine McGill says:

    I am a descendant of Pinder, Wilson, Stanley, Molock, Perry Chase and Hughes of Dorchester County and I applaud the work that you are doing. Is the DVD still available? I would like to purchase one for my mother Alma “Blondie” Perry Palmer. Thanks, Elaine McGill

    • Elaine,
      DVD’s are still available. Click the donate button on the website, write in $20 for the amount and make your payment. We will mail them out within two weeks. If any problems, please let us know. Thank you for your interest and support!
      Midge Ingersoll, NHPA President

    • Rachelle L Hall says:

      I am also a descendant of Pinder and Jackson. I was unable to attend the first few family reunion there and have been trying to gain info. Glad to talk to a family member.

    • Roberta Perkins says:

      Hello, Elaine:
      My name is Roberta Perkins. I present the laundress at the Nanticoke River Jamboree. I have just read some of the comments here.
      I am related to Bertha Wilson(my grandmother) and her brother Virgil Wilson from Golts MD,(Kent County). Wilhelmina Pender(married name) raised my grandmother. Off the top of my head, I think my grandmother’s mother was Sarah (Brown?)
      Are any of these names familiar? Golts familiar?

      • Roberta,
        Thanks for inquiring on the website. You can always email me directly with questions as well. So far, our research has not uncovered any Wilsons, Browns or Golts. But I will keep those names in mind as we delved deeper.
        I am glad you are joining us in October!
        See you soon

  4. Althea H Hall says:

    I visited the 2018 Jamboree and was impressed and moved by the work that has been done and by the presentations that were made. I was particularly struck by the film of people describing their lives growing up. I would love to have a copy of that DVD – is it available for purchase/donation?
    Also, are there writings on the history of the area and the three cultures? I think it is important to share the history more widely and to emphasize the contributions of each culture. For example, the presenters were clear about how the European colonizers would not have survived without the instruction and help of the native people. The project of telling the story through food is one idea. More Americans should appreciate, for example, the origins of a staple in our diets and economy – corn – that native peoples gave to all of us.
    Thank your for your work and for preserving an important perspective on American history.

  5. LW Dodd says:

    I don’t think I knew this place existed. I am so glad there are others that have a love of history and old buildings. Thank you for working to preserve this gem.

  6. Barb Rogers says:

    This is great…I am a Webb descendent (probably since my gg grandfather was born in Viena, MD.) I just posted on my blog about him, Samuel James Webb…having been at Vicksburg MS in the Civil War. I want to know Everything about this house! https://threefamilytrees.blogspot.com

  7. Bill Watkins says:

    Do you have any record of Thomas Taylor who was granted 700 acres in 1665 in that area? Do you have any record of him and who his offspring are? Bill Watkins

  8. Joseph Mazza says:

    Would love to be a part of the archeology team looking for artifacts. If they supply the marking flags, I can get a team of respectful local metal detectorist to comb over the acreage. It would be so exciting to see what they unearthed.

    • Joseph,
      thank you for your interest in Handsell. We have just concluded a little archaeology at the front of the house, with MHT approval. We don’t expect to be doing any more in the near future due to the expense. MHT holds a preservation easement on the property, so no digging is allowed without their permission, that includes metal detecting. There may be another opportunity, however in the future. I’ll let you know if a project comes up.
      NHPA Trustees

  9. Chris says:

    Wonderful place! I have known about the Chicone Reservation for years and have a map (digitized). As I drove by Vienna today I thought there ought to be an historic marker at the reservation border to tell others about it. Then on a whim I drove north from Vienna and saw Indian Town Rd!! Went along and saw the house and all the info!! Question: is there anyway the end of the creek trail can be widened? Maybe at the creek clear out a 25’ to 50’ area to stand/rest/view/enjoy. I had about a 3’ wide area and could hardly see a thing. Yet what I saw was wonderful. A bit more of an area would be great. Thanks. Chris, Edgewater MD

    • Chris,
      Thanks for visiting Handsell and checking out our walk to Chicone Creek. Unfortunately we only have a right-of-way of 10′, so that is all we are permitted to clear. Since our group is all volunteer, it was a bit too hot this summer and widening our access didn’t get done. Our future plans include this project and perhaps some creekside signage. It’s also a matter of finance since we rely on donations and membership.
      Handsell Board

  10. Margaret Ingersoll says:

    Can you email us a copy of the digital image of the Chicone Reservation?
    It would be helpful for our research.
    Midge Ingersoll

  11. Terri Chiddenton says:

    Can you please explain the curious configuration of the house? Why are windows at ground level, with the living space on what could be considered the 2nd floor? I know the kitchen is in the basement, which is also curious, as this could lead to a full house fire. Some friends have theorized that flooding from the river could explain the set-up, but wouldn’t that also lead to flooding of the kitchen? I’ve never seen a historical house built quite like this.

    • Terri
      Thank you for your interest and inquiry about the architecture of the brick house at Handsell. While the configuration is interesting, it is not that unique for the tidewater area. I received your phone call and would be happy to discuss this with you on the phone anytime. You have my number, so please give me call at your convenience.
      Midge Ingersoll

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