Former Burgess Museum surplussed by county, bids being accepted

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PRINCESS ANNE — The time has come for Somerset County to sell the former Burgess Early Americana Museum and let a new owner take over the property and remaining artifacts.

“The hearse was the last thing to leave,” said Clint Sterling, director of Recreation & Parks and Tourism.

For the last several months the contents that will not be transitioned to the newly-built Burgess Rural Living Center in Princess Anne have been de-accessed to historical groups in the area. That included a horse-drawn hearse believed to have belonged to the former Webster Funeral Home in Deal Island which went to the Skipjack Heritage Museum in Chance.

While Mr. Sterling said the three-story chickenhouse at Hudson Corner has “a lot of stuff remaining” the property and contents have been appraised and the County Commissioners by consensus are advertising for sealed bids which are due April 13. The alternative was a live auction, said County Administrator Doug Taylor.

Commissioner Randy Laird suggested the family of the late Lawrence and Gladys Burgess who established the museum in 1976 be offered an opportunity to walk through the building one more time before it’s sold.

They donated the property to the county in 2001 but its lack of handicap accessibility and upkeep made it off limits for public visits. It was an attraction tourist’s couldn’t see except from the road or by special appointment.

Over the years the county considered locations and opportunities for a new museum. It also loaned, sold or held auctions to dispose of duplicate items or those with no local relevance.

The “Antique Archaeologists” from the TV show American Pickers went through it in 2015 and purchased items for a segment that aired on the History Channel in February 2016.

It was $500,000 in Gov. Hogan’s fiscal year 2020 budget that funded construction of what is called the Burgess Rural Living Center. It is connected to the county tourism office at the state rest area off U.S. 13 South. This 2,000 sq. ft. mini-museum will require no new staff and the state manages the parking, restrooms and grounds which limits the county’s ongoing expenses.

Proceeds from the sale of the property which will include collectibles left behind will benefit the Burgess Rural Living Foundation Inc., established in 2017 to help fund center displays.

Bid documents are available online at www.somersetmd.us in the "Bid/Proposals" page or at the Recreation, Parks and Tourism office at 30290 Sam Barmes Road in Westover. Call 410-651-4980 for more information.