McNasby’s Returns, Better than Ever
by Elvia Thompson-Staller
McNasby’s—the venerable old building on Back Creek that housed the last oyster packing plant in the Annapolis area—has come back to life as a spectacular facility and as evidence that the community is very much behind telling the story of this region’s maritime heritage. The renovation is simply amazing. After five years of fundraising on the part of the Annapolis Maritime Museum (AMM) staff, Board of Directors and volunteers, the 7000-square-foot building will reopen officially on Monday, December 1 with a ceremony from 6-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. And the public will be astounded.
Architect Kirby Mehrhof and the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. took great pains to maintain the original exterior look of the building and even took it back to its original look by removing the red brick façade to reveal the unique “pillow block” walls. The pillow block was made just steps from McNasby’s in Eastport early in the 1900s with ground oyster shells forming part of the material.
But the interior is where the amazing transformation is clear. The walls are bright white, the ceiling is tongue-in-groove wood and everywhere there is natural light. The building is divided into three parts—the Bay Room, the exhibit space, and the administrative area that houses offices, a catering kitchen, a small room for meeting and classes, and a curator’s workshop. The multipurpose Bay Room opens to the street with a glass “garage door,” and to the dock with double glass doors that seem to bring the spectacular views of the Bay into the room. It will be used for Museum concerts, lectures, and kids’ activities, and will be available for rent for private functions such as weddings.
The exhibit space will eventually house the Museum’s key permanent exhibition, “Oysters on the Half Shell.”. It is planned for installation in 2010, depending on available funding. In the interim, a series of rotating exhibits will fill the space. The first will be based on Ginger Doyel’s book the Museum published in October, Over the Bridge: A History of Eastport at Annapolis, which documents Eastport’s history as never before in vintage photos and stories.
This on-the-water museum faces a number of interesting issues that don’t usually apply to the standard museum space. More than 18 inches of concrete was poured to level the floor and raise it above the typical higher than high tide. However, since Annapolis tides can fluctuate wildly, particularly in the fall and spring, architect Mehrhof designed in “scuppers,” holes where the wall meets the floor, so that the water can flow in… and out again…just as on a boat.
The $1.2 million renovation project was funded by the State of Maryland, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the City of Annapolis, along with corporate donations. Much of the money came from private individuals who felt an affiliation with the Museum’s mission to keep maritime history alive and to instill a sense of pride and stewardship in the area’s children. Over the past five years there have been many five, 10, 20 and even 100 dollar bills dropped into collection buckets at Museum events. Many people generously responded to the museum’s donation letters, and many private “fun fundraisers,” such as the annual Boatyard Bar & Grill Beach Party. Museum Board Chairman Buck Buchanan, who has worked non-stop since Isabel hit to bring McNasby’s back to life, says “The building is a facility that’s sure to become a world-class waterfront education center.”
The grand opening on December 1 will include a ribbon-cutting and a very brief annual meeting to recognize the museum volunteers, sponsors and supporters, and to elect officers for 2009. It will be held at the new centerpiece of the AMM campus, where Second Street meets Back Creek. RSVP by calling (410) 295-0104 or emailing email@example.com.