I wandered through Millard Tydings Memorial Park in a major heatwave (not the brightest move, that!) and staggered onto the first stop off the promenade – the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but admission was reasonable ($6 for an adult, free for children 8 and under) and it looked cool and inviting. Another case of wandering haphazardly into something delightful! This little museum is packed with local history, with an emphasis on the lore of Susquehanna Flats. Some of the exhibits are a bit sad. Poor little duckies. They had no chance against the now illegal tactics employed to hunt them. But it is all fascinating. And the workmanship that goes into the decoys! Some of them seem like they are seconds away from coming to life – a bird version of Pinocchio.
As you wander through the exhibits, keep your eye out for the replica of the little shack right through the first doorway and press the button to hear the father of the museum talk about the history of decoys and the Havre de Grace area. You’ll also want to check out the sinkbox, a now outlawed vessel that gave hunters an extremely unfair advantage over ducks. And then there is the punt gun. I tried and failed to get the most massive gun I’ve ever seen into a photo. I guess that really isn’t too surprising, since they actually had to cut a few inches off the end to get it in the display case. It also is now illegal. When hunters did use this gun, it killed up to 50 ducks with one shot. Like I said..Poor little duckies!
On to happier things. Head through the gift shop and up the stairs to see the most incredible carvings of waterfowl and other birds. Don’t forget to pause at the top of the stairs to see an incredible number of postage stamps featuring ducks. Little tiny works of art! As you enter the room at the top of the stairs, you’ll see wax figures of some of the most famous local woodcarvers on display with their work. As you wander around the space looking at all the decoys, don’t forget to look up. The memorial stained glass panels are also incredible.
I spent a good half hour wandering in the top floor of the museum, looking closely at the intricately carved birds and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Why a Decoy Museum?
The main purpose of the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum is to preserve an important and unique art form that generations of Chesapeake Bay area hunters and carvers have created over the years. The basic, rustic figures originally used to lure in ducks to feed hungry families have evolved into elaborate and amazing woodcarvings. The museum is also dedicated to sharing local history with children in the area and to introducing the joy of carving to children and adults. There are classes in carving available, as well as a series of lectures for adults interested in learning more about carving. Duck call contests and decoy carving demonstrations are two more things to check into. However, the museum is probably best known for it’s Decoy Festival, which has been a Havre de Grace tradition for more than 3 decades and is usually held each spring.
For More Information:
Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
215 Giles Street
Havre de Grace, MD 21078
(But you should totally walk over on the Promenade from the park. Then you have the excuse of stopping for a snack at the Promenade Grille on the way back to the car.)