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Eastern Shore Enchantment

By Mary Bird

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC arranges interesting day tours to nearby points of interest. A recent outing to explore “The Charm of the Eastern Shore” started promptly as a comfortable motor coach departed from the Willard Hotel. The group was led by Michelle Clair and received a fascinating discourse on Britain’s settlement of the region by Dr. Jim McClellan, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria.

The first stop was the Academy Art Museum in Easton where Director Christopher J. Bronawell gave a personal tour of the building. Since it opened in 1958, the Academy has expanded into a former schoolhouse and a private residence. The Academy prides itself on having a small Corcoran-like structure with a school that includes six teaching studios and offers music and dance training. The Annual Members Exhibition is currently on view. Carol Ravenal received the Jurors’ Choice Award for her still life. The Academy’s permanent collection is focused on works on paper owing to their affordability and the fact that drawings allow one to clearly assess the artist’s skill level.

After free time to browse several nearby galleries and shops, the group continued on to Wilderness Farm which fronts the Choptank River in Trappe. This historic estate is now owned by Carol and Earl Ravenal who maintain their main residence in Washington. Several years ago the Ravenals placed a conservation easement on 188 acres which are now protected by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.

After a box lunch along the water, the Ravenals conducted tours of the property where the original section of the main house dates to 1686. The grounds include slave quarters which the Ravenals have painstakingly restored, even opening up the property for an archeological dig. The grounds are abloom in vibrant colors and enhanced by the recent addition of a stunning trellis designed by renowned Eastern Shore architect John Gutting. The house is a warm eclectic mix of Carol’s paintings, family treasures and folk art. A questionable plus, it comes replete with ghosts.

The last stop was Harleigh, the Oxford estate which Sally and Chip Akridge make their permanent residence. The Akridges are also deeply committed to conservation and proud to host any number of birds. Estate Manager Bill Kiewitt escorted the group to the rare sounds of quail. The grounds have vegetable, herb and flower gardens, formal plantings modeled after Monticello as well as a “native prairie.” More than 50,000 trees have been planted over the past ten years. The owners take pride in stabilizing their shoreline and are committed to preserving a habitat for native species. After exploring the grounds, everyone gathered on the loggia where Sally Akridge provided lemonade and just picked berries as she described many of the paintings in their collection. After enjoying a tour of the house, it was back on the bus after a delightfully full and informative day.


Tidewater Inn & Conference Center
101 East Dover Street
Easton, Maryland 21601
410 822-1300

The Inn at Easton
28 South Harrison Street
Easton Maryland 21601
Tel: 410 822-4910
Toll free: 1 888 800-8091


Tidewater Inn
The Inn at Easton
22 S. Harrison Street
Phone 410-822-3204


Academy Art Museum
106 South Street
Easton, Maryland 21601
410 822-2787
The Maryland Office of Tourism

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