A Commentary on Growth and Politics in Frederick County, Maryland

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The First City of Frederick

Long before the City of Frederick was a gleam in Daniel Dulaneys colonial eye, a few hundred people lived along the Monocacy River in a late Woodlands Indian village which contemporary archeologists have called the Rosenstock site, named for the family farm on which it was found. This was the 'First Frederick', a permanent inhabitation over several hundred years. Unlike the scattered hunting campsites and short term occupations, the Rosenstock inhabitation included planted crops, and over time, human burials.

Unlike most such village sites in Maryland, even the deep furrowed colonial plows found the site difficult to plow because of limestone outcroppings. This fact left the site's ground less disturbed. The fire and trash pits left behind by the Native Americans were mostly intact. Remnants of a sweat lodge and post hole molds showing a roughly oval village layout were evident in archeological digs in the 1992 timeframe. At that time, hundreds of local volunteers participated in a tangible past by assisting in the digs, which over a couple summers, yielded a rich treasure trove of artifacts, while only encompassing a small fraction of the site.

The state holds an historical easement to protect the site. And the Archeological Conservancy has worked for a number of years to acquire the site and permanently protect it. Still at issue, is that the site is likely not a unique lot separated from its larger parcel, and in the City of Frederick planning process, that leaves open the question of resurvey and possibly subdivision of the property. In addition, creating a deeded lot is a nonconforming use of the property because it would require right of way through the City's golf course as it is not located on a roadway.

These issues have held up the necessary final approvals for setting aside this important archeological site and preserving the history of the First Frederick. Local activists are working on telling this story to the new City administration, in hopes they will move forward with a permanent preservation plan. If accomplished, this will be a national news story with great positive press for the city at a time it is under the gun for its growth and development decisions.

I am hopeful the details can be worked out.