Hiding in plain sight in the heart of Cambridge is the Richardson Maritime Museum, one of Dorchester County's gems. Even local residents frequently walk by the classic brick building on the corner of High and Locust Streets and assume it is a bank.
Since it spent almost all of the first hundred years of its existence in just that capacity, that assumption is well founded. However, passersby are missing a treat if they don't take time to stop in and see what the former bank now holds.
Walk into the Museum and step back into the rich history of Dorchester County's influence on Chesapeake Bay traditional wooden sailing vessels. Bordering the Bay, bounded by broad rivers and laced with countless waterways, the County has been home to hundreds of boatyards since its early settlement.
The vessels created beside these waters range from crabbing skiffs and dovetails to clipper ships and schooners. Their designs sometimes went on to affect the course of history, as in the War of 1812, when privateers that were built on Cambridge Creek were highly prized by both sides for their speed and maneuverability.
Richardson Maritime Museum is open Sundays from 1 - 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.* or by appointment.
Ruark Boatworks is open Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.* or by appointment.
*Hours subject to change, please call for confirmation.
Brannock Education & Research Center is open by appointment.
(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.)
Free admission; there is a suggested donation of $3.
The Collection: The Museum makes history come alive for visitors in the form of exquisite models of these traditional vessels. Some were built as replicas by local modelers, while others were crafted by the boatbuilders themselves. All contain a wealth of minute details that will leave visitors awestruck at the craftsmen's skill, while imparting an appreciation for the grace and beauty of these traditional Bay boats. The Museum also offers a collection of boatbuilders' tools and watermen's artifacts that convey an understanding of how the boats were constructed and the history of their use. This history is not ancient. Aerial photographs in the Museum's collection, taken in the 1930's, show Cambridge Creek bustling with bugeyes, buyboats, skipjacks and schooners, even as steamboats tie up at the old ferry terminal at Long Wharf.
The Ruark Boatworks: The James B. Richardson Foundation's boatbuilding and restoration programs are centered at the Ruark Boatworks located on Cambridge Creek, named after noted local boat designer and modeler Harold Ruark. These programs embody the Foundation's mission to preserve and teach traditional wooden boatbuilding techniques, with dedication to "Putting History on the Water".