(l to r) UCAC Founder Elmer Brown, Housing Authority Director Dennis Nicholson and County Commissioner President Randy Guy
Lexington Park, MD -- The last remaining structure from Lexington Park’s first neighborhood now has a new use. On Tuesday the final “Flattops” building was formally dedicated as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Memorial Interpretive Center.
The area known as Lexington Manor and nicknamed the Flattops because of the homes’ flat roofs, was the first housing for workers who arrived at the new Patuxent River Naval Air Station in 1943 and the new town outside its main gate – Lexington Park.
Over the years the housing deteriorated and the area was leveled in 2005 with federal and state monies to protect the base from encroachment. Two buildings were left. One had a roof collapse which led to its demise. A picnic pavilion was built to replace it.
Enter into the picture the nearby United States Colored Troops Memorial Monument that was completed in June 2012 in Lancaster Park. The Unified Committee on Afro-American Contributions (UCAC) was instrumental in getting it constructed with a $150,000 state bond bill and locally-raised matching funding. They manage that project which recognizes the contributions of the United States Colored Troops, and all Union soldiers and sailors from St. Mary's County, who fought during the Civil War. Three, two black and one white, were among the first in the country to receive a Medal of Honor.
The new interpretative center will also be managed by UCAC and will give visitors an opportunity to learn more about the history embodied in the memorial. At the dedication ceremony, UCAC President Nathaniel Scroggins said a survey of Great Mills H.S. students showed that none knew about the Medal of Honor winners. “There is no reason in the world why that should be left off of our history,” he insisted.
To maintain the historical integrity of the remaining Flattops building, the outside was kept as is except for improvements to the sidewalks, doors and utility hookups. But the inside has been transformed into spaces for a meeting room, interpretative center and office for UCAC.
The building renovation project was funded through a State Bond Bill for $150,000; the county funding for the overall project site was approximately $325,294 (of the county total $126,500 was FY14 funding for the building renovation; $198,794 of the county total was spent in prior years for building stabilization and the pavilion, and was approved as the Bond Bill match).
“Our past is our future,” Scroggins told those assembled in the new meeting room prior to the ribbon cutting. He said the outcome was the result of a collaboration of many. He said what happens inside to transform it into an interpretative center will also require collaboration. “We cannot do this project alone,” he said.
Commissioner President Randy Guy said, “I fully support history because a lot of people don’t keep track of it.”
Before the ribbon cutting, Recreation and Parks Director Brian Loewe gave the history of the project and thanks to the many people involved, including Wayne and Austin Davis representing the builder W.M. Davis, Inc.
County Administrator Rebecca Bridgett acted as emcee for the ribbon cutting.