Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
Located next to the Bayou Hotel in Havre de Grace at Market Street and R. Madison Mitchell Place, the building which houses the Decoy Museum was acquired in 1981 from the Bayou Hotel, which formally was used for the hotel's swimming pool and boiler room. Established in 1982, the Museum is a private non-profit organization, run by a Board of Directors, and started through private contributions. The Decoy Museum's foundation was created to preserve the cultural and historical legacy embodied in the waterfowl hunting decoy and to perpetuate the folk art tradition of the hunting decoy as it was practiced in the Susquehanna Flats. It also seeks to educate and promote the conservation, preservation, and restoration of waterfowl and their natural habitats.
In November 1986, the museum was open to the public two days a week. Today the museum is open seven days a week, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 P.M., 360 days a year (closed major holidays).
The Havre de Grace Decoy Museum is visited each year by over 25,000 people from all parts of the United States, England, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, and Sweden. Upon entering the museum, visitors will see beautiful, extensive collections of waterfowl decoys, largely from the upper Chesapeake Bay region. In addition to decoys, the museum collects carving tools and equipment used in the creation of decoys including: chopping blocks, paints, patterns, molds and templates. Each Saturday and Sunday, visitors may view volunteer carvers demonstrating their craft.
Throughout the vast displays of decoys, several of the more prominent carvers are featured, not only through their collections but also by a life size figure likeness of the carver. The most prolific being Robert Madison Mitchell (1901-1993), or Madison as he liked to be called. Throughout his lifetime he produced over 100,000 decoys, using cedar or white pine. His use of sharp clean lines and intricate paint patterns made his decoys a standard by which all others are measured. Mr. Mitchell is featured in three displays, each with a different figure likenesses, as well as a program using his voice. Other displays include the works of Charles "Charlie" Bryan, Jr. (1920- ), of Essex, Md., Robert Litzenberg (1910- ), of Elkton, Md., and James Currier (1886-1969).
Each year the museum holds a variety of events, including the Decoy Festival, Carver's Appreciation Day and the Duck Fair, to be held September 10, 11, 1994. The Duck Fair includes such activities as duck and goose calling, carving and painting contests, and retrieving and firearms demonstrations.
After visiting this beautiful and interesting museum it is obvious why Havre de Grace is known as "The Decoy Capital of the World." The Havre de Grace Decoy Museum is a member of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and is well worth a visit.
Copyright© John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.