Restoring Rock Hall's Beloved "Old Salt" Sculpture

Overview

"Old Salt" has stood watch at the corner of Route 20 and Main Street for many years, a treasured reminder of Rock Hall's maritime past, present, and future. Time and weather took their toll on "Old Salt", so Main Street Rock Hall used grant money from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to hire a local artist to restore and preserve this cherished Rock Hall landmark.

The History of Rock Hall 's "Old Salt"

The Sculptor Jac (Jacquin) Smolens

"Old Salt" was carved by Jac Smolens a local Rock Hall sculptor and artist. Jac (Jacquin) Smolens was a largely self-taught sculptor, artist, and woodworker who grew up in the bohemian village of Arden, an art colony in New Castle County, Delaware. Inspired by the work of Wharton EsherickAfter, an influential American woodworker, Jac began his work as a sculptor after serving in the Air Force during the Korean War. Jac moved to Rock Hall, Maryland, in the 1970s and worked out of a shop at Gratitude Marina. He completed "Old Salt" sometime during the 1970s; however, the exact date is unknown. Locals recall that "Old Salt" was located in front of Haven Harbor Marina on Route 20 during the 1970s then moved to its present location at the corner of Main Street and Route 20 sometime during the 1980s.

"Old Salt" Before Restoration

fulll view of Old Salt before restoration

fulll view of "Old Salt" before restoration

close-up view of front damage

close-up view of front damage

close-up view of back damage

close-up view of back damage

deterioration of original wood base

Base of statue showing major deterioration of original wood base.

Another close-up view showing the deterioration of Old Salt's back

Another close-up view showing the deterioration of "Old Salt's" back

The Restoration of "Old Salt"

The Restoration Artist: John Elburn

His exposure to the everyday activities of Rock Hall waterman making a living from the Eastern Shore influences the artwork of John Elburn. Growing up between Eastern Neck Island and Rock Hall, his surroundings and daily work on or near the waters of the Chesapeake always involved waterfowl and seafood and the means of making a living from the marshes and Bay.

Starting at age 12, John painted driftwood with shorebirds and crabs and continued with larger pieces for various clubs in the area. Wood carving was an easy transition for John and usually depicted favorite subjects and memories.

John is self-taught and loves to create life-size pieces. At age 72, he now enjoys working on new and challenging projects. John Credits his art to the town of Rock Hall and its way of life.

Moving "Old Salt" to John Elburn's Shop

performing a little foot surgery

performing a little foot surgery

getting Old Salt ready to move

getting "Old Salt" ready to move

loading Old Salt onto the trailer

loading "Old Salt" onto the trailer

Old Salt is strapped in, resting easy, and ready to go

"Old Salt" is strapped in, resting easy, and ready to go

The Restoration Work Begins

Old Salt arrives at John Elburns shop

"Old Salt" arrives at John Elburn's' shop

Old Salt  gets an initial sanding

where he gets an initial sanding

his cracks and crevices are patched and filled

and his cracks and crevices are patched and filled

Sanding and Filling

Old Salt's sou'wester hat gets much needed work

"Old Salt's" sou'wester hat gets much needed work

the artist inspects his progress

John Elburn inspects "Old Salt's" progress

a new pedastal is carved

a new pedastal is carved

The Restoration Work Continues

Old Salt's new boots are roughed out

"Old Salt's" new boots are roughed out

his new boots are sanded and finished<

his new boots are sanded and finished

Old Salt cannot wait to try on his new boots

"Old Salt" cannot wait to try on his new boots

"Old Salt" tries On His New Boots

the new boots are ready

the new boots are ready

Old Salt is placed on his new pedastal

"Old Salt" is placed on his new pedastal

and Old Salt is back on his new feet

and "Old Salt" is back on his (new) feet

Old Salt is ready to return to Main Street

and he is ready to return to Main Street

A Restored "Old Salt" Returns to Main Street Rock Hall

On Thursday, June 6, 2023 Main Street Rock Hall committee members joined with Rock Hall Mayor James Cook, Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian, and members of the greater Rock Hall community to unveil the restored Old Salt sculpture. After remarks by Mayor James Cook, Main Street Rock Hall President Laurie Walters, and Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian, the restored sculpture was unveiled to the delight of all in attendance.

Old Salt stands ready to be unveiled before members of the Rock Hall community

"Old Salt" stands ready to be unveiled to gathered members of the Rock Hall community

Rock Hall Mayor James Cook speaks to the gathered members of the Rock Hall Community

Rock Hall Mayor James Cook speaks to the gathered members of the Rock Hall Community

The restoration artist John Elburn and Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian prepare to unveil the restored Old Salt

The restoration artist John Elburn and Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian prepare to unveil the restored "Old Salt"

The Restored Old Salt is unveiled by Ron Fithian and the restoration artist Ron Elburn

The Restored "Old Salt" is unveiled by Commissioner Ron Fithian and the restoration artist Ron Elburn

Commissioner Ron Fithian speaks to the community after the unveiling of Old Salt

Commissioner Fithian speaks to the community after the unveiling of "Old Salt"

The restoration artist John Elburn proudly stands next to the restored Old Salt sculpture

The restoration artist John Elburn proudly stands next to the restored "Old Salt" sculpture