Bladensburg’s oldest building gets new repairs for bicentennial event

September 30, 2013

Bostwick House to be repaired by War of 1812 anniversary, officials say

Bladensburg officials want to resurrect the town’s oldest surviving structure — a house that played a crucial role in the War of 1812 — in time for next year’s bicentennial commemoration.

The Bostwick House, built in 1746, is a 2.5-story brick structure on a 7.7-acre property on 48th Street, near the Anacostia River.

British commanders used the building as a rest area in 1814 during the War of 1812, according to Sarah Rogers, director of interpretation at Anacostia Trails Heritage Area Inc., a Hyattsville-based nonprofit supporting historical preservation.

“It’s seen a lot of history firsthand, and along with the three other pre-Revolutionary houses in Bladensburg, it’s a nice collection and a wonderful asset to the community,” Rogers said.

The 32-month military conflict between Great Britain and the United States was known by historians as the second war of American Independence.

The town on Sept. 23 began a major renovation on the Bostwick’s House south chimney, which was damaged by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011. Town Clerk Pat McCauley said the $39,890 repair is being paid for with a state bond bill.

Bladensburg is also spending $23,250 to repair the front porch, which was damaged by the earthquake and was deteriorating.

A $23,250 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust will pay to renovate the windows, McCauley said.

Wayne Myers, owner of Washington, D.C.-based The Wayne Group Inc. construction company, which is working on the south chimney, said the project was challenging and unusual because of the house’s age.

“You don’t find too many buildings from the 1740s,” said Myers, who expects the chimney to be repaired by December, weather permitting.

Bladensburg purchased the Bostwick House in 1997 with a $350,000 bond bill from the state and a $150,000 contribution from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, but the building has been used sparingly since.

The town, however, is initiating plans to determine how best to use the property when renovations are complete, McCauley said.

McCauley said the town will put together a volunteer board of historians, academics, marketers and other experts to take charge of the project and turn the property into an appealing attraction for residents and tourists.

Bladensburg Elementary Principal Judith Haughton-Williams, whose school is a half-mile from the building, said she hopes the building can give her students a hands-on learning experience.

“Anything that’s going to develop the children’s [learning],” she said.

The University of Maryland School of Architecture in College Park holds weekly classes at the building as part of its program.

“[It is] a great laboratory because there was literally every problem a house could have,” said Donald Linebaugh, Maryland’s historic preservation director, who teaches a course in American Vernacular Architecture at the house.

Students from the program have developed restoration project proposals that include converting the property into an urban farm or a historic preservation trade school.

But McCauley said the town has not yet committed on what to do with the building.

“That’s why we need a board,” she said.

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