QUEENSTOWN — The Aspen Institute and the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society celebrated the legacy of William Paca, one of four Marylanders to sign the Declaration of Independence, on Thursday, July 4.

Dr. Barbara Paca, a descendant of William Paca, gave the keynote speech in front of an estimated 170 people.

The topic was “Celebrating Gardens of Independence.” Barbara Paca is based in Oxford, Manhattan and Paris, where she is the principal of Preservation Green LLC. She has a professional degree in landscape architecture, a Ph.D. from Princeton, a Fulbright Scholarship and a post at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.

Barbara Paca is the only American landscape architect to be awarded an Order of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth II appointed her as an officer of the British Empire for a lifetime achievement in historic preservation.

“Paca and other Maryland founding fathers knew that the dream of democracy could be a reality,” Barbara Paca said. “William Paca and others used the artistry and landscape where we are sitting right now and agriculture, and they were even aware of how it was portrayed in their portraits.”

She said even as a young man of 19, Paca was pondering the implications of an independent United States. Following his studies as a lawyer, he would come to own half of Wye Island, with his sister owning the other half.

It was there, Barbara Paca said, that he came to embrace the role of a farmer-patriot and their importance to the successful American experiment. Aside from establishing expansive gardens, he used his acreage as a canvas for his message of a strong and growing United States.

Paca would be immortalized in a portrait complete with iconography of a new, enlightened period embracing emerging American concepts.

“They recognized that the patriot-farmer would play a key role and that they would actually be willing to take up arms to defend this vision of liberty,” Barbara Paca said. “The second thing they recognized were the successes as a nation would be powered by the essential engine of slavery, and that is an institution that built this country.”

A July 4 tradition for more than 50 years, this year’s event began with a wreath laying at the William Paca Memorial by Helene Butte, regent of the Gen. Perry Benson Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Dr. Warren Tewes, past president of the Col. Tench Tilghman Chapter of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Members of the Sgt. Jason D. Mileo Marine Corps League from Centreville were on hand for the presentation of the colors.

The members of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 464 led guests from the monument to the formal terraced gardens at the riverfront of the Houghton House. They also led the Pledge of Allegiance and the American’s Creed.

According to its mission, the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and disseminating the history of Queen Anne’s County. The society owns two museums in Centreville that are open to the public on the first Saturdays of each month, May to October.

“The Queen Anne’s County Historical Society is member- and community-supported, and we are grateful for all the folks who volunteer with our organization and help us do premier exhibits,” said Jennifer Moore, president. “Come and see the houses in Centreville on the main street right next to the library.”

Established in 1950, the Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. It has earned a reputation for gathering diverse and renowned thought leaders, scholars and members of the public to address some of the world’s most complex issues.

“For the last 40 years, the institute has been honored to host this celebration on an annual basis in conjunction with the members of the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society to carefully coordinate of all of the details of this event,” said Judith Price, director of the Aspen Institute Wye River Campus.

Veterans in the crowd were recognized during the ceremony at the garden by Scott MacGlashan, Queen Anne’s County Historical Society member and retired clerk of the circuit court for Queen Anne’s County. The Chesapeake Bay Community Band provided a medley of patriotic selections, including Taps, at the ceremony at the memorial.

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