The Chesapeake's Duckiest Town

This Maryland village, just outside Baltimore, calls itself the Decoy Capital of the World, and they have the carvers to prove it.
Cassandra M. Vanhooser

Cap'n Bob Jobes sits on the front porch of his house on Otsego Street in Havre de Grace, Maryland. "Go ahead and look around," the decoy carver says, pointing the way to a shed in back of his house. "Let me know if I can help you."

Cap'n Bob's world revolves around this tiny workshop. Carving tools hang at the ready, and decoys in various stages of completion line the shelves. Another room serves as a gallery where finished ducks await purchase. Prices range from $20 for a miniature to $600 for a pair of wood ducks.

"A decoy used to be just a thing that you throw out in the water to draw the ducks in," the former waterman says. "Now it's true American folk art."

Carvers Galore
You'd expect to find carvers in a town that dubs itself the Decoy Capital of the World. "At one time, there were more decoy carvers in our zip code than in any other in the state," explains mayor and middle school principal David Craig. "So we call ourselves the Decoy Capital of the World."

Most carvers are second-generation artisans who learned the craft from their fathers who learned from the local mortician, R. Madison Mitchell. "One year, nobody in town died, so he had no funerals," the mayor recalls. "If he hadn't sold decoys, he wouldn't have made a living. He trained most of the people around here."

Small-town Jewel
Havre de Grace sits just minutes from busy I-95, less than an hour from Baltimore, but it remains a quiet place. The downtown business district boasts a number of thriving antiques stores, restaurants, and small businesses. There's plenty to do here--for a day, a weekend, or a lifetime.

"It's a great little town," says Jeannie Vincenti, who owns Vincenti Decoys with her husband, Patrick. "It's small, but we have all the attributes of a thriving city."

Havre de Grace Office of Tourism and Visitor Center: (410) 939-2100, 1-800-851-7756, or www.hdgtourism.com.

Must-See Spots

  • Concord Point Lighthouse, at the foot of Lafayette Street, (410) 939-9040
  • Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, 215 Giles Street, (410) 939-3739
  • Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, 100 Lafayette Street, (410) 939-4800
  • The skipjack Martha Lewis, docked at Hutchins Park, (410) 939-4078

 

This article is from the May 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.