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Monday, July 28, 2014

The "A Day In Chestertown, Maryland: Part III" Story

It was an ordinary day. Today"s collection of photographs were taken throughout the town of Chestertown and feature a selection of historic structures with a brief explanation of the historical importance it played in the founding of our nation. Chestertown is an interesting place to visit if you enjoy American history or architecture.  Many of our founding fathers made visits to this town which is located along the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The sidewalks are lined with brick pavers, many of which were the original bricks that were put in place centuries ago.  As you walk along the streets, under the magnificent trees, you can almost hear the sounds of the drummer keeping the beat as the band marches along the street playing patriotic songs.  The American as well as Maryland flags fly proudly from many homes and businesses lending to the colonial atmosphere that is part of this town.  Make a visit and see if you don't agree. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

This is the Hynson-Ringgold House located at 106 S. Water Street.  This home hosted George Washington as an overnight guest in 1733.  Yes, George Washington actually slept here!  Other guests to the home were Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and James Madison.  This home was constructed in two stages with the front section, that is pictured here, being built in 1743.  In 1772 renowned architect and wood carver installed a paneled parlor and grand antler staircase.  In the 1920's the paneling was removed and installed at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Since 1944, the presidents of nearby Washington College have resided in this residence that features Flemish bond brick walls, hipped roof and Greek Revival style portico.  I just love the immense white birch trees that stand in the front of the home.

Standing at 103 North Cross Street is one of the most important buildings in Chestertown.  The Courthouse was  provided for in the establishment of the town.  This Courthouse was built in 1860 using a T-shaped plan with the main axis facing High Street.  Directly behind the courthouse stood a jailhouse. The Courthouse housed County records, land deeds, wills and court decisions.  It also hosted public meetings and in 1774 patriots met to protest the importation of tea from Britain.  James A. Garfield delivered a pro-Union speech in the original Courthouse during the Civil War and was pelted with eggs and rotten vegetables.  Slaves were also auctioned off on the granite steps of the Courthouse.  In 1892 a black man by the name of James Taylor was dragged from his jail cell and hung in a nearby tree.  In 1969 an addition was added to the rear of the Courthouse.

The top photo shows the eastern side of the Custom House while the bottom photo shows the northern side.  The Custom House is located at the corner of High and Water Streets and was the official Port of Entry into Chestertown, MD.  The original Custom House no longer stands, having been replaced by this beautiful Flemish bond brick building.  The large building was constructed in 1746 and was the home of Thomas Ringgold.  Mr. Ringgold was a lawyer, merchant and advocate of American liberty. The building was a three story house.  The first floor was used as a warehouse with living quarters on the upper two floors.   It was near this site that on May 23, 1774 a band of citizens, incensed by the closing of the Port of Boston following it's "Tea Party", allegedly boarded the British William Geddes' brigantine and threw it's cargo of tea into the Chester River.  It was also well known that defender of America's liberty, Mr. Ringgold, was also a large-scale slave trader whose ships brought hundreds of captive Africans to shore to work on the plantations of the surrounding Chesapeake area.  Following is one of the slave sale advertisements dated 1760.

This is Emmanuel Episcopal Church which stands at the corner of Cross Street and Park Row.   In 1772 the church was built on a lot deeded from Courthouse land.  Chester Parish Church made religious history in 1780 when clergymen renounced the term "Church of England" in favor of "Protestant Episcopal Church.  This church, under the leadership of the Rev. Doctor William Smith, was the center of Episcopal affairs in Maryland until 1793.  A little over a century later the church was remodeled and consecrated Emmanuel Church.  During the remodeling the sanctuary was moved to the southeast corner, the entrance moved to the northeast, the box pews were removed and the clear glass panes were replaced with stained glass.  Below is a plaque which is on the outside wall facing west.

The final two photos are of the White Swan Tavern located at 231 High Street.  The bottom photo is a Polaroid I took about 20 years ago and then altered it with wooden tools to make it look as if it were an oil painting.  It pictures the White Swan's entrance.  The tavern was a watering hole of sorts for General George Washington on one of his visits to Chestertown.  It was built in 1733 as a residence by Joseph Nicholson and the former owner's frame home is still at the rear of the building.  It was in the 1790's that the residence was enlarged into a tavern.  It eventually became a general store until it began to deteriorate.  In the 1970's it was restored and during the restoration over 70,000 objects were discovered from years past.  In 1981, about the time that Carol and I first discovered Chestertown, the tavern was brought back to life as a Bed and Breakfast as well as a tavern.

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