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Press Release:  Construction Begins for Historic Joppa Wharf Project

(Caroline County, August 28, 2001)

Old Harford Town Maritime Center, based in West Denton, has announced that the construction of the long awaited Joppa Wharf Project will commence in September  2001.  On August 28 the Caroline County Commissioners approved the award of three contracts, totaling nearly one half million dollars, for the proposed improvements.  Contract awards were made to Allied Contractors ($244,000) for the steamboat terminal building facilities; Crandell Contractors ($180,000) for the pile foundations, wharves and shoreline restoration; and Oberink Woodworks ($59,500) for the preservation of an historic Chesapeake Bay Skipjack- F.C. Lewis, Jr. as a land based exhibit.

The Joppa Steamboat Wharf project will include theconstruction of a transportation museum and visitor’s center that will be reproductions of the Maryland Steamboat Company's freight/passenger terminals (circa1883) , which occupied the wharf at the turn of the century. The new transportation museum and visitor’s center, along with the Maritime Center’s historic warehouse structure, will recreate the historical environment of the nineteenth century waterfront. The Joppa wharf 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 river, roadway and rail transportation 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/passenger buildings.

The completed Joppa 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. Thus, the wharves, landings, towns and the vessels that plied their goods along the rivers provided a powerful, direct connection between place and livelihood.

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 - 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 the Joppa Steamboat Wharf Facility.