Heritage Society of Essex & Middle River 2023 Year in Review

2023 Newsletter

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2023 Museum Events


Speaker Series: “Streetcars in Baltimore and Beyond”
Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Father Kevin Mueller, a longtime member of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and streetcar enthusiast talked about the streetcar system that we had and what made it go away. He discussed cities that still have streetcars to this day. Visitors toured the museum after the talk.

Museum Tours and Open House

Saturday, February 18, 2023
This will be our first opening since the December Holiday Open House. Stop by for a tour or to browse our gift shop.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, March 2, 2023

Speaker Series: “Rosie the Riveter”

Thursday, March 9, 2023
Debi Wynn from the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum discussed the important role of Rosie the Riveter in manufacturing during World War II. Visitors toured the Museum after the talk.

Open House
Saturday, March 11, 2023
Visitors toured the Museum and browsed our gift shop.

Haunted History Night
Sat, March 18, 2023 
We joined The Baltimore Paranormal Society for a night of haunted tales as we explored our historic building and exhibits while learning about the haunted happenings experienced by our guests and local paranormal teams. The night began with a brief overview of ghost hunting equipment before being led on a candlelight tour of the museum where museum staff and BPS members regaled visitors with tales of the supernatural that have been reported within our 103-year-old building.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, April 6, 2023

Earth Day Open House
Saturday, April 22, 2023
Visitors joined us for Museum tours and special activities geared towards celebrating our earth, planting sunflower seeds to take home to watch them grow and participating in a scavenger hunt along with other fun activities.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, May 4, 2023

First Responders’ Appreciation Day
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Local police and fire stations along with MDTA police had their emergency vehicles set up out front for all to explore.  Purkey’s Party Pumper fire-throwing, bubble blowing fire engine also set up outside the museum.  First Responders were treated to lunch.

Speaker Series: “Todd’s Inheritance”

Monday, May 15, 2023

We joined the volunteers from Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site to learn about this exciting new museum and interpretive property located at 9000 North Point Rd. Edgemere, Maryland 21219. Visitors enjoyed an introduction to the history of the North Point Peninsula from early Native American presence, Todd family settlement in 1664, the War of 1812-Battle of North Point and more. Information about upcoming events, lectures and openings was shared. Visitors toured the Museum after the event.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, June 1, 2023

Open House
Saturday, June 10, 2023
Visitors toured the Museum and browsed our gift shop.

Speaker Series: “Flag History”
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Local flag collector and historian Dale Grimes shared our history of flags and offered a peek at his collection.
Did you know? Someone who studies flags is a called a vexillologist.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, July 6, 2023

Christmas in July

Saturday, July 22, 2023
We had our special guest The Grinch ready for photo opps, along with craft vendors, special activities for the kids and Museum tours!


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, August 3, 2023

Back to School Open House
Saturday, August 19, 2023
Visitors toured the Museum and browsed our gift shop.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, September 7, 2023

Speaker Series: “Up the Line” 
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Local Author Howard Smith discussed his book “Up the Line,” the history of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore Railroad which was the major transportation in the area in the 1840s.
Doors open at 6:30 pm. Visitors toured the Museum after the talk.

Saturday, September 16, 2023
400 & 500 blocks Eastern Blvd.

Visit the Museum on Essex Day!
The Heritage Society Museum was one of the busiest locations on Essex Day as visitors toured the Museum and browsed our gift shop.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, October 5, 2023

Speaker Series: “Route 40 Then and Now”
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Rosedale historian Bob Dean will discussed Route 40 and the importance of this road with the advent of the automobile.
Visitors toured the Museum and browsed our gift shop after the talk.

A Night of Frights
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Visitors joined The Baltimore Paranormal Society for an unforgettable night of chills and thrills as they were led through the museum’s rooms, where the spirits of the past are dying to meet you! The night started off with a stroll through the haunted halls where visitors came face to face with the ghouls who still call the museum home. This haunted walking tours sent chills down your spine as you turned each corner wondering what may be waiting for you just ahead.

Ronnie Alder Memorial
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Members of the community joined in the courtyard for a Memorial celebrating the life of Ronnie “Daddy Kool” Alder, a Lifetime Member of the Heritage Society and a man who was loved by the community.


Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, November 2, 2023


2023 Tree Lighting
Saturday, December 2, 2023
The community joined us for the most wonderful night of the year as we hosted the Essex Community Tree Lighting. This fun-filled event included gifts for the kids, fire trucks, a DJ, and of course, photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Monthly Membership Meeting
Thursday, December 7, 2023

Museum Historian Paul M. Blitz

Speaker Series: “Baltimore County’s Role in The Civil War”
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Heritage Society Historian Paul M. Blitz shared the little-known and the important facts about our area’s role in The Civil War.
Visitors toured the Museum after the talk.

The treasure lore of Hart Island

The treasure lore of Hart Island
By Jackie Nickel

A friend recently shared with me a tale worth repeating and preserving. This legend, centering on Hart Island (now part of a dredged spoils disposal site) was first told in both daily newspapers, The Baltimore News American and The Evening Sun, in 1913. It was revived in 1971 in a dissertation written by Darryl C. Ruppert, “The Treasure Trove of Hart’s Island,” and shared with the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, which was given permission to reproduce it. That is how my friend acquired a copy, which she passed on to me.

Joseph Hart, a wealthy Englishman born of a prominent family, lived on Hart Island in the mid-1800s and it was there, it is said, he buried his fortune. The man, a tavern and livery owner, was described as an eccentric who feared robbers and thus buried his fortune. He died in 1852, leaving a wife and several daughters. The secret of exactly where his treasure was buried seemingly died with him.

The story of Hart’s buried gold was resurrected in 1913 when six men, led by a John Wagner, made an effort to access the island to search for what was described as a treasure trove of buried treasure. The team had assembled information, from unidentified sources, describing Joseph as a miser who hid his gold beneath the ground because he was afraid to keep it in the house and didn’t trust banking institutions. They claimed they had a map indicating treasure buried near a waterfall, the gold contained in two boxes and two tanks, no more than three feet deep. The value, in both bars and coin, was estimated at $15,000, a large sum for the day.

When the treasure seekers went public with their mission, the new owner (the property had passed through several hands) denied them entry onto the island. In newspaper accounts, where two of Hart’s daughters were interviewed, their long held secret of buried gold was revealed. And the survivors immediately laid claim to any treasure that might be found.

Anyone who knew Hart Island was familiar with the flat, marshy terrain with no possibility of a waterfall. Wagner, however, determined waterfall to mean a gully or “a falling away of ground to cause drainage of water.” On the north side of the island were some long neglected irrigation canals that he considered as fitting the description of the treasure’s location.

In news accounts, one of the daughters of Joseph Hart reported seeing her father unearthing a keg of gold coins and moving it to another location. Joseph had been robbed more than once and feared burglars, she said. Only his wife knew where Hart buried his gold for safekeeping. And she went to her grave without revealing the location to her daughters.

The Harts had acquired the island in 1821. At the time it consisted of 264 acres, while Millers Island, which they also owned, was 124 acres. There was a large “rough hewn timber house with walnut window frames” built on the island before the Harts owned it. “Luxuriant trumpet vines” covered one side of the house, which was leased to hunters during ducking season. A grove of sweet gum trees was nearby. The family evidently lived in Baltimore City near Hart’s Tavern on Front St. and spent summer months on the island.

Mr. Hart died in 1852, leaving the children to search relentlessly for his buried gold. They finally gave up in 1858 and sold the land to Frederick Schumaker, it was reported by Mr. Ruppert. At the turn of the century the isle was the home of the Millers Island Ducking Club.

The Baltimore Atlas of 1877 shows Miller Island (or Little Island as it was labeled) to the north, with the larger Hart Island in the center, and to the south and closest to the mainland, Pleasure Island. A narrow channel separated Hart and Miller. The land eroded drastically over the decades as tides and storms took their toll. By 1933, Hart Island was down to 180 acres and Miller to 70. A bridge which had connected the islands to the mainland was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1933. It was not replaced until 1937.

Muskrat hunters took up residence at the old Hart house in 1938, trapping nine a day and receiving at least 70¢ for each pelt sold to furriers. By 1943, the 100-year-old clubhouse had collapsed and its foundation was washing away. In 1947, Baltimore political figure George P. Mahoney purchased the property with plans for building new homes and recreational areas. His project never got off the ground, although New Bay Shore Park was established.

By the late 40s, Hart had eroded more and by 1959 it had shrunk to 150 acres while Miller was just 52. Mahoney sold the isles to Bethlehem Steel in 1965.

Only one treasure seeker was reported to have found any gold on the beach of Hart Island over the years: One gold coin, possibly English.

When Ruppert penned the tale of buried treasure over 30 years ago, the threat of Hart and Miller Islands being converted into a dike to hold dredged spoils was looming. Beth Steel had sold the land to the Langenfelder sand and gravel company, which was negotiating with the state government. He surmised any trove buried near the mid-1800s shoreline was already under water. Today it would be under tens of thousands of tons of material dredged from harbor channels and bay tributaries.

2022 First Responders Appreciation Day

First Responders Appreciation Day took place on Saturday, May 21, 2022 from 11 am – 1 pm. Museum visitors stopped by for a tour of the Essex Museum and met some of our favorite First Responders and their vehicles: Baltimore County Police Department, Maryland Transportation Authority Police with armored vehicle and K-9 unit, Essex Volunteer Fire Department, and special guest Purkey’s Party Pumper fire-throwing, bubble blowing fire engine. The events was free for all ages!

2022 Purple Saturday

Purple Saturday!

August 27, 2022, 11 am to 1 pm

Please join us for our FREE Purple Saturday Open House featuring a special appearance by Baltimore Ravens Super Fan CAPTAIN DEE-FENSE!! He will meet fans and take pictures! Also we will have Museum tours, kids’ activities and more! Our gift shop will be open and we are now accepting credit and debit cards. Don’t forget to wear your purple! 💜

Christmas at the Museum, 2022

2022 Essex Community Tree Lighting

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, 5 – 7 pm

Please join us for this fun family event featuring a fire truck parade for Santa’s arrival, special gifts for the kids, photos with Santa, a DJ, snacks and more. This event is always FREE for the community, and last year we had more than 400 guests! It’s a great way to kick off the holidays!

Thank you to our 2022 Sponsors


Cliff’s Hi-Tech
Cliff’s Direct Effect
Essex Day Festival
Albright’s Mechanical
Frostee Tree Farm
Medstar Health
Power Factor
Sullivan’s Garage
Walmart Carroll Island
Delegate Ric Metzgar


Alice’s Restaurant
Tradepoint Atlantic
Connelly Funeral Home of Essex
Jeff’s Automotive
East Coast Autos
Essex Car Wash
County Councilman Todd Crandell
Buon Appetito Essex
Senator Johnny Ray Salling


Cogar Printing
Two Guys Grill
Zips Cleaners
Bafitis & Associates
Kelly Coleman-Slocum, Century 21
Baltimore Boating Center
Charly’s Sue Creek
Upper Bay Boating
Doug Kottraba State Farm
Delegate Robin Grammer
Domino’s Essex
Chick-fil-a Martin Plaza
Rick’s Sports Bar and Grill


Avenue News
Dundalk Eagle

2022 Holiday Open House and Evening with our Historian

Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, 7 – 9 pm

Paul M. Blitz has served as the Heritage Society Historian for over 30 years and shares a lifetime of Essex historical knowledge at our Museum lectures.

Please join us for a holiday open house which will include a presentation by Heritage Society Historian Paul M. Blitz. Mr. Blitz has been the Historian for more than three decades, and he offers a wealth of knowledge about our area’s rich history. This educational and entertaining discussion will highlight Maryland’s important role in the Civil War. Visitors will also have the unique opportunity to see the Museum decorated for the holidays! The event is free and open to the public.

A look inside the museum decorated for Christmas.

2022 Christmas Tree Decorating

Thanks to everyone who came out to decorate at the museum today, especially George and the Power Factor crew! Can’t wait to see our 2,000 new lights at night!

2021 Essex Community Tree Lighting

The Essex community joined us on Saturday, December 4, 2021 for some holiday cheer as we lit our 25-foot Norway Spruce! We had appearances by Santa and fire trucks with gifts for the kids, Museum tours and more!

Santa Sponsors:
Cliffs Hi-Tech
Cliffs Direct Effect
Essex Day Festival
Frostee Tree Farm/Paul Stiffler
Medstar Health
Del. Ric Metzgar
Power Factor/George Lang
Sullivan’s Garage
Walmart Carroll Island

Frosty Sponsors:
Alice’s – A Family Restaurant
East Coast Autos
Jeff’s Automotive
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
Tradepoint Atlantic

Elf Sponsors:
Connelly Funeral Home of Essex
Councilman Todd Crandell
Cox’s Properties
Delegate Robin Grammer
LaBrands Florist
Senator Johnny Ray Salling
Kelly Coleman-Slocum
Two Guys Grill
Zips Dry Cleaners

Media Sponsor: 
The Avenue News

Special thanks to: Essex Volunteer Fire Company, DJ Russell Slocum, MC Karie May

2021 Ghost Hunts

Essex Museum Paranormal Preview Night

Friday, October 22, 2021

Join us at the Essex Museum for our Paranormal Preview Night! The Baltimore Paranormal Society will be on hand to discuss how they conduct paranormal investigations, demonstrate their equipment, and tell stories about recent ghostly activity in the building. You’ll also get a paranormal tour of the Museum, showing all of the spirits’ favorite hotspots! This event is FREE and open to the public. The Museum will be decorated for Halloween and the gift shop will be open! For questions or to RSVP, email us at essexmuseum@gmail.com.

Paranormal magnets now available at the museum!

Ghosts N’at Paranormal Adventure at the Museum

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Go on a REAL ghost hunt in ESSEX, MD Halloween Weekend with Ghosts N’at Paranormal Adventures! Tickets are on sale now for this special event at the haunted Heritage Museum of Essex & Middle River / Former Fire & Police Station!

It’s Baseball Season!

Batter Up!

It’s springtime again in Essex, Maryland and that means baseball and opening day – time to throw out the first pitch! Take a look at Essex baseball players from seasons past as we explore the museum’s Baumgartner Collection Book #74: Baseball.

Baumgartner Collection Book #74: Baseball

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Read PDF online at archive.org

Read these articles from the Baumgartner Collection Book #74: Baseball and more online at archive.org

Christmas in Old Baltimore with Historian Wayne Schaumburg

On Thursday, December 12, 2019 we welcomed Baltimore historian and educator Wayne R. Schaumburg for a talk on “Christmas In Old Baltimore” to learn all about Baltimore holiday traditions and how they have changed over the years! Mr. Schaumburg focused on some of Baltimore’s great holiday customs from the 1940s to the 1960s, including downtown shopping, visiting Santa, the Toytown Parade, firehouse train gardens, aluminum trees and more.

Before Mr. Schaumberg’s talk, we welcomed visitors to tour the Heritage Society — all decked out for the holidays — and enjoy light refreshments.