Students help restore old Whitehaven Hotel

Sept. 2, 1999 – By MARK STAROSIELEC, Daily Times Staff writer

WHITEHAVEN – Teachers students and parents associated with Wicomico County’s Thinking and Doing program met Wednesday morning to celebrate the close of their involvement with the Whitehaven Hotel restoration project.

A total of 280 students from grades three through six in 12 county schools have been working on a number of aspects of the restoration project since March1996. The 280 students were selected from their school’s gifted and talented programs.

“We are taking one more step toward preserving history,” said eighth-graders Rachael Pierce of Bennett Middle School and Emily Smoak of Salisbury Middle School in unison.

The students said they might consider studying architecture “somewhere down the road.”

“It was fascinating,” said Matthew Tilghman, a seventh-grader at Bennett Middle School.

Once the restoration is finished, Tilghman said he hopes to stay at the Whitehaven Hotel someday.

Eric Gordon, a freshman at Bennett High School, said working on the project was a good experience because it was “real.”

Students were first charged with finding a use for the hotel. Using templates of old Whitehaven businesses during the 19th century, the students constructed a working map of the town.

The students also attended a Wicomico County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting at which Wicomico County Historical Properties Inc., the hotel’s former owners, requested a multiuse special exemption for the hotel. Teachers Susan Bounds, Judy Trivits, Nancy Rowe, Sharon Peterman and Sandy Wharton then held a mock session of the meeting with their students.

“They provided a lot of drawings and good ideas which we then incorporated,” said new Whitehaven Hotel owner Ken Trippe.

“It is amazing how far-reaching the project has become,” said Bounds. “It has had a ripple effect.”

Pat Russell, vice president of Wicomico County Historical Properties Inc., said the students’ support and involvement in the project was a factor in the awarding of a grant for $40,000 from the Maryland Historical Trust.

In addition, in 1997, they became the first public school students to win a Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Award from the Maryland Economic Growth, Resource Protection and Planning Commission.

Some of the program participants have been selected to join a panel discussion on the subject Oct. 15 at a Gifted and Talented Conference in Rockville, Md.

Although their work is now officially done, some students have expressed interest in the subsequent landscaping of the hotel grounds.

Reprinted with permission of The Daily Times (Salisbury, MD)