In 1994, Historic St. Mary’s City relocated the five 19th century buildings that made up what remained of St .Mary’s Manor. In total, five buildings were relocated: the manor home, duplex slave/tenant quarter, smokehouse, carriage house, and dairy. At the time, the buildings served no function, sitting vacant on the landscape. For a museum that focused primarily on the 17th century interpretation of the landscape, the structures made the presentation of that landscape difficult to explain to visitors. Additionally, the 19th century buildings were located on top of the 17th century City Center, meaning that valuable archaeological materials were inaccessible. However, space and location are important components of a historical structure, and preservationists argued that moving the buildings would damage their historical integrity.
In the end, the structures were relocated to their current location, on Rosecroft Road. Still located along the St. Mary’s River and owned by Historic St. Mary’s City, the buildings currently operate as the Brome-Howard Inn, a bed and breakfast and event center. The decision to move the buildings was a difficult one and evoked much discussion but it was ultimately determined that moving the buildings was the best course of action. But this would be done with two major provisions. First, as much of the original architecture as possible would be preserved. Second, the physical setting of the buildings and their relationship to each other would be as close to the original as possible. After examining several locations, a place along the St. Mary’s river was selected. Called Green’s Freehold in the 17th century, it was named for Thomas Green who first patented the land in the 1630s. Before any construction, however, an archaeological study was conducted to be sure nothing was damaged. This revealed a number of Chesapeake Indian and colonial sites. Within that information, the Brome buildings and associated utilities were carefully placed so as leave the archaeological sites undisturbed.
The buildings were put into the same postions as they had originally held, and were oriented to the St. Mary’s River. In the early 20th century, members of the Brome-Howard family had planted ginko trees along the drive to the house. Pairs of young ginkos were also planted along the new driveway to partially duplicate this feature of the landscape.
In many ways, the relocation of these structures has allowed them to be better preserved than leaving them in place. The new location allowed the manor home to become a functional building again, a common strategy in preservation strategies. By ensuring that the building is being used, it is regularly maintained, and problems with it can be addressed and fixed. Similarly, archaeological excavations were conducted at the site of each building before the move, to ensure that no cultural material was disturbed. In the end, it was the excavations around the duplex quarter that not only inform this exhibit, but which also led to the eventual excavation of its neighboring single quarter. Now, the duplex quarter will be repurposed into an physical exhibit discussing the transition from slavery to freedom on the plantation, using the physical evidence discovered during these excavations. Despite moving the lone structure that represented the African American experience at St. Mary’s City, the process of moving it has revealed even more information about the lives of those who lived inside it.