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Press Release:  Joppa Wharf Construction Under Way

(Caroline County, March 20, 2002)

Steamboats Return to the Choptank?

Construction Underway for Historic Joppa Steamboat Wharf Project

For the first time in over a century, a steamboat terminal facility is under construction in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Old Harford Town Maritime Center, a maritime museum based in West Denton (Caroline County), has announced that the construction of the long awaited Joppa Steamboat Wharf Project is underway with the main terminal wharf complete and the erection of the terminal building about to begin. The completed facility will be a replication of the 1883 Maryland Steamboat Company Wharf Terminal within the same footprint as the original facility. The terminal replication project has been dubbed "the Joppa Steamboat Wharf" in tribute to the majestic steamer Joppa, which served the Denton to Baltimore Steamboat Route for three decades from 1882-1912. Another Maryland Steamboat Company Steamer- the Avalon also provided service along this route.

The Joppa Steamboat Wharf project will include the construction of a transportation museum and visitor’s center that will be reproductions of the Maryland Steamboat Company's freight and passenger terminals , which occupied the wharf at the turn of the century. The new transportation museum and visitor’s center, along with the Maritime Center’s existing historic warehouse structure, will recreate the historical environment of the nineteenth century waterfront. The Joppa Steamboatwharf terminal will serve as a visitor’s center and a transportation museum for recreational boaters, bicyclists and other visitors touring the scenic upper Choptank River and Caroline County. The museum/visitor’s center will display exhibits that interpret the history of the steamboat era on the Great Choptank River.

During the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century this site was a prominent wharf, which initially served as a "port of call" for schooners, bugeyes and skipjacks plying their products, and later served the steamboat trade as the “Joppa Wharf at Denton.”  The museum and visitor’s centerwill re-establish a nostalgic component of this historic waterway transportation mode which at one time was the primary mode oftransportation for both commerce and passenger trade along the Eastern Shore’s rivers.  Few semblances of this bygone era of the steamboat, schooner and related maritime trades remain. The design of the facility was based on historical West Denton photographs and maps that document the early twentieth century wharf structures, including the steamboat freight and passenger buildings.

The completed JoppaSteamboat Wharf Project will create a heritage tourism destination that interprets rural transportation history and preserves maritime resources of national significance. These resources are significant because they represent an example of one of the Chesapeake Bay’s vanishing cultural resources … riverfront, wharf and warehouse structures that served the maritime trades since the early nineteenth century. Wharves and warehouses (such as those located in West Denton, located over thirty miles up a riverine system) represented the nodes of communication and transportation for goods and passengers to the rest of the tidewater region before a reliable network of roads and rails were established.

The funding for this project has been provided by the Maryland State Highway Administration's Transportation Enhancement Program, the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development's- Maryland Historical Trust Grant Programs and the Neighborhood Partnership Tax Credit Program, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Gateways Program, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Preservation Maryland, the Caroline County Government and the Old Harford Town Maritime Center. To date, over $900,000 has been committed for the research, planning, design, construction and operation of theJoppa Steamboat Wharf Facility.

For questions or additional information please contact Carl Scheffel at (410) 241-8661 or visit the Maritime Center's website http://www.riverheritage.org/ for construction updates.