Bill Clements speaks about the restoration process of old saw mill at the Annual Cecil’s Historic District Open House
Great Mills, MD – The doors of Cecil’s Historic District opened wide at 10 a.m. Dec. 3 to rooms filled with local art, food, home décor, holiday gifts, clothing, Amish treats, lots of history, culture and more. The annual holiday open house is one way St. Mary’s County Art Association (SMCAA) promotes and highlights the work of local artisans on display in the historic district at Cecil’s Country Store and Dawna’s Corner Store. This year’s Cecil’s Historic District Holiday Open House welcomed non-stop patrons from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and topping the sales made in 2015.
Yearly, the store’s old sawmill is dusted off to prepare for a one-time holiday performance before an anxious crowd.
SMCAA President Darlene Cucinotta said, “This has become the biggest draw for people, and so we really promote the live sawmill demonstration.” Use of social media and other advertising methods have increased over the years, she said.
“This year we had a huge turnout to see the wood cutting and I am very pleased,” Cucinotta said.
The old sawmill has been restored and maintained over the years by a group of local men who simply took an interest it. Yearly saw operator Bill Clements told TheBayNet.com “Back in about 1982, I had just come by here to do some shopping and looked at the saw and thought it was in pretty good condition except it needed a few parts replaced.” He said, “A friend of mine, Ike Lee, discovered that it was a #2 American sawmill and we would be able to get parts for it.”
Clements took a moment to speak with TheBayNet.com while fondly reflecting back on key historical moments of putting life back into this piece of antique machinery. He said, once he began working to get the motor started, his support from other men in the community was overwhelming. So they got to work.
Over the next four years, this became a passionate project for a few local men who were determined to hear the roar of the motor and see the blades turning on the sawmill. It was between 1986-1987, Clements said that Ike Lee got the old sawmill engine started for the first time.
Clements said, “Each year, I come out here a few days before to test it out, make sure she is oiled up and ready to roll, so we can blow the whistle on open house day.” He pointed to the tall pole with a metal whistle on top near the top of the saw. He said, “Before we start the motor, we blow the whistle like they did many years ago, I am sure. Someone went up there to look at it, and it was made in New Jersey, and it still works.”
Clements and a team of helpers cut about $1000 worth of lumber before an anxious crowd that was not disappointed. “All lumber will be recycled right here. It will be used over the next few months somewhere on property at the country store or mill,” he said.
The sawmill was not the only attraction of the historic open house. Dawna’s Corner Shop and Cecil’s Country Store were both packed with unique art, handmade beauty products, gifts for the Marylander, handmade decorations, historical books, and jewelry.
Local artisans were also there to greet customers and answer questions about their work.
This year’s State Duck Stamp contest winner, Richard Menard of Hollywood, happily answered questions about his prize-winning abstract painting of two northern shovelers. “This is the first time I actually won first place. I have come in second, third, fourth and now I am officially on a stamp,” Menard said.
Menard told TheBayNet.com that he has entered his work in national and state competitions for the past 5 years, and even ranked eighth in the nation before. However, he said “The state of Maryland is what really counts to me. Now that I have won, if you are a duck hunter in Maryland, this will be the stamp you must purchase for the year.” said Menard.
Dawna’s Corner, was also where customers could find well-known local artist Mary Lou Troutman who was casually working on one of her latest paintings in a back corner showroom. Troutman said, “Artists are natural introverts, you will rarely see me in public. I like to just work quietly at home alone.” She then continued work on her next masterpiece.
Her artistic flare covers many walls and shelves of Dawna’s Corner store showing off her creative talent and versatility. Troutman said has her work is sold almost exclusively at Dawna’s Corner.
Bear Creek BBQ was also there and stationed in the parking lot to satisfy the afternoon appetite as guests departed.
Contact Shertina Mack s.mack@TheBayNet.com.