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Like a number of other fishermen from the northeastern states, Captain Salem Avery was drawn to the Chesapeake Bay in the mid-19th century by reports of the abundant fisheries. The Long Island fisherman built what is now known as the Captain Salem Avery House around 1860 on the banks of the West River in Shady Side, Maryland. The building was purchased by the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society in 1989 and has been restored to its 1860 appearance for use as a waterman's museum.
Museum open Sundays 1 PM to 4 PM, April through November or by appointment. Library open on Mondays 12 PM to 3 PM. Grounds open dusk to dawn.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
The Museum includes a collection of boats and watermen's equipment, a diorama depicting the peninsula during the 1860's, and exhibits on the history of watermen, as well as trade and transportation, on the Chesapeake. Take a docent led tour to learn more about the rich history of the Chesapeake and Anne Arundel County.
Access the Museum by boat, skiff, kayak or canoe. There is a mooring available for boats and skiffs with a shallow draft. There is also a low dock for canoes, kayaks or dinghy.
The Shady Side Rural Heritage Society maintains a series of cultural, natural, historical, and recreational programs. Please call the Society for more information on these events.
As far as public records can tell, Salem Avery, a buy boat captain hailing from an established family of watermen in Long Island, NY, came to Maryland in search of the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. He found his bride, Lucretia Weedon Andrews, on the nearby Mayo peninsula. They married in 1857 and together they had nine children, two of which died in infancy. In 1860 they moved into a home on the Shady Side peninsula from which they worked the land and sea.
In the 1920’s the property was purchased by a group of Jewish Masons from Washington, DC. Denied access to public beaches and private clubs because of their religious affiliation, this tight-knit group of families enjoyed Chesapeake Bay life on the West River for several generations. They modified and added to the Avery home, providing space for a meeting room, a kitchen, dormitories, and several bedrooms. They called themselves the Fishing Club, which evolved into a country club called "Our Place." The descendants of this group retained the property until the late 1980’s when the founders of Shady Side Rural Heritage Society (SSRHS) purchased the property.
SSRHS restored Captain Avery’s home to resemble its original 1860 appearance. The Museum was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
In 2010, the organization changed its name to the Captain Avery Museum and continues to fulfill the hopes and promises of its founders by offering a variety of services including educational programs, library resources, community events, professional speakers, and stewardship programs.
In 2019, on the organization’s 35th anniversary, the Museum completed some renovations to improve the visitor experience with the support of donors, the State of Maryland, the Maryland Historical Trust, and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Now the Museum enjoys a revival of its home to better serve as a place for enjoying the culture of the Chesapeake Bay and sharing stories, ideas, knowledge, and history about the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.
History taken from: captainaverymuseum.org/about