Before there was refrigeration, families used root cellars – cool, dark, underground places to keep their vegetables. Most cellars were part of a house, but some were freestanding and only one of those is left in Harford County. That cellar used more than 240 years ago to preserve carrots, potatoes and the like has been preserved forever by the administration under County Executive Barry Glassman.
Harford’s root cellar was built to serve the Aquila Scott House, circa 1780. Scott was a prominent planter and landowner whose “Old Fields” are now the county seat of Bel Air.
In 1856 Scott’s home became the caretaker’s house for the adjacent County Alms House for the poor. The alms house was last used in 1962 and has since been demolished. But the caretaker’s house remained and later became the main office for Harford County Parks and Recreation. The root cellar, located out back, also remained. Until recently its only marker was a vine-covered mound of dirt.
Local historian C. John Sullivan suggested preserving the cellar and the Glassman administration had it stabilized and cleaned and installed a door. The cellar will remain closed, but a historic marker dedicated by Harford County government on Oct. 1 tells the story of this staple of family life long ago.
“As a native son of Harford County, I lean toward preserving structures like this because once they go, they’re gone forever,” County Executive Barry Glassman said. “I would like to thank John for helping us hold on to the last freestanding root cellar in Harford and one of the few like this that remain in Maryland.”