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Into the past

Arial View of Castle Haven
Castle Haven
Photo courtesy of the Choptank River Heritage Center
I went to college as a 30-year-old and, as I made for the graduation finish line, my first marriage came apart. If I ever write that story it will read like the lamest version of the poor man's Fear and Loathing. Come to think of it, Fear and Loathing in Delmar would be an awesome title. Doing primary source, original research was a graduation requirement, so I combined my appreciation for a good tavern with the fact that I had to write about something. While researching taverns in colonial Maryland I discovered that there was such a place a Castle Haven. More than a decade later, that paper became the first chapter in my first book, and the second installment in my blog about writing the book. This is the story of our attempt to breach Castle Haven in search of photos.
The Short Version
In the late 1600s there were more people than work, so a lot of the unemployed opened bars. Most of the bars were shitty and price-gougey so they were hyper-regulated and then banned (this took place over two decades, I mentioned that this was the short version, right?). For much of colonial and early post-colonial history taverns and courthouses were the same place. It was just easier that way. In an effort to erase the blight of the crappy bars, the Maryland government banned all but five. Three were on the western shore, one was in Kent and the other was at Castle Haven. Castle Haven was part of the indenture warrant executed by Peter Underwood. In early colonial America, indentured servants were sometimes given in land.  Castle Haven was Underwood's attempt to get legitimate. He'd had a ton of adventures and opening the ferry and ordinary at Castle Haven was his attempt at courting legitimacy. 
I was unreasonably fascinated by Peter and the whole tavern project and set out to find the place. Using a little program known in the early aughts as "Map Quest" (which apparently is still a thing) I hunted down the nine acres on which the closest, oldest legal tavern was located and included it in the paper. Life got in my way and, although I'd identified the property, I never visited it. When Kelly and I began doing photos for Eastern Shore Beer, it was the first stop on our list.
Castle Haven driveway
After a decade I my trip onto the Castle Haven property
was almost too magical.
Cue 'Dueling Banjos'
There were rumors that the owners weren't too friendly (whether or if that's their obligation is another story) but I hadn't had much luck getting them on the phone. The road is rural and thin and dead ends at an electronic gate and call box. Neither were working. Having tried to set a late 20th century security device into 18th century brick turned out to be futile, and the gate hung in permanent rollback position.  It was marked Private Property it might have said No Trespassing. Every time I see a No Trespassing sign I remind myself to go into the security tee shirt business and print up shirts that say, "No Murdering." We pressed on.
About 500 yards into our trespass, Kelly began to worry about how disappeared an angry landowner could make us, "middle of nowhere" didn't really get at the perceived isolation. To keep her from losing her resolve, I pointed out that the road really was too narrow to effectively turn around on at this point, so we had to press on. I was too excited to think. Although there were clear signs that the land had changed significantly, it wasn't too hard to imagine what the place looked like in the 1600s. It felt right.
Eventually, the wilderness ended and were were among a few older homes. There was a shed with the door open and so, having never seen a horror movie in my life, I stopped the car, got out and called hello into the darkness.
Castle Haven outbuilding, Cambridge Maryland
I like to think that's barley in the foreground. The notion
makes me happy.
Castle Haven (Re)Visited
The caretaker (I'll call him John, but also, I'm pretty sure that was his name) was clearly a northeasterner (Long Island, I think). He was friendly and interested but clear that we wouldn't be allowed to tour the grounds without the owners' permission, and they were away. Castle Haven is a second home, and has been for a couple of centuries. When it hosted the only legal tavern in the region, it was a working class property, but that changed almost immediately as the plantation owners around the state consolidated their Eastern Shore holdings. Since it has been the summer home of a bishop, a governor and the mayor of Baltimore.
John listened to my story of Castle Haven with genuine interest, as I tried to convince him to let me just take a walk out on the spit by the shore, where I was pretty certain the tavern was. That ended my chances.
"It's gone," he told me.
He went on to say that one of the older residents of the area talked about going out there as a girl, to get some piece and quiet. John was relatively new, but as he understood it, the piece of land had been reclaimed by the Choptank. Google Maps confirmed that fact, when I compared it to my 2004 Map Quest picture. I blame Hurricane Sandy and my own procrastination.
I offered my contact number and email address, and asked him to put the owners in touch with me anyway, or at least to give him permission to let me on the land. He was kind to take it, but I think we both knew we wouldn't be seeing one another again.
Kelly drove out and, as we made the main house and performed a K-turn at the driveway's neck, I snapped a couple of photos just so I could have them. One is of what appears to be a cider house which only strengthens my resolve to plan to think about returning.
If you want more details about the colonial tavern aspect of Castle Haven, (according to my publisher) you'll have to check out Eastern Shore Beer: The Heady History of Chesapeake Brewing. 

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