When you think of archaeology, you may not think of new artifacts being found all the time here in Maryland. But according to our guest, Director of Archaeology for Anne Arundel County Stephanie Sperling, there may be things worth digging up in your backyard!
The Nelson Homestead in Somerset County was listed as an Endangered Maryland site in 2014.
The Nelson Homestead, also known as the Elisha Riggins House, is a very significant late Federal period telescope house that dates from 1836. Built by Elisha Riggins, a shipbuilder from Somerset County, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just outside of Crisfield on the Lower Eastern Shore, even today its location is rural and remote. The house sits on a nine-acre parcel of land with wetlands, woods, and meadows.
Although the house is interesting from the outside with its cornice details and distinctive end boards, the interiors are the most significant feature. About 95% of the original woodwork is intact along with some early paint schemes. This finely crafted house features late Federal style mantels, door, chair rail and cupboards. The main room of the house has raised panel wainscoting and over-mantel paneling that survives with an early layer of tiger-maple graining. Other telescope style houses remain on the Lower Shore, but this house stands out as one of the least altered examples with highly unusual woodwork.
Although the owners of this house cherish it, they are unable to invest the resources necessary to make the needed repairs. The house has sat empty for the last six years, and if it were not for the quality of its construction, it would be in far worse condition. Roof, masonry damage, and foundation rot are just a few of the maintenance issues facing this structure. Rising sea levels are a major concern for most properties on the Lower Eastern Shore and the Nelson Homestead is no exception. If the house is not cared for, it could suffer irreparable damage in a heavy storm or simply deteriorate as deferred maintenance issues continue to grow.
The owners and the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Area would like to see the house and the grounds find a new life as a retreat or community center that would benefit the residents of Somerset County. The first step in the process is to stabilize the house and make needed repairs. The owners are busy building key partnerships, developing programming, and exploring opportunities with everyone from private funders to governmental and non-profit organizations in order to preserve the house and return it to useful service. The site was nominated by the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council.