From its early beginnings in the late 1700s as part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant dating back to 1677, Berlin was and remains an important place in the history of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The actual town was incorporated in 1868. At the time, Berlin boasted at least 12 stores and numerous light industrial businesses in industries such as milling, nurseries, lumber, orchards, brick-making and coal.
Agriculture and farming, however, were the mainstays of the economy. Located on the crossroads of two railroad lines, the town was perfectly suited to ship manufactured and agricultural products to metropolitan areas. The Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad, later to become the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad, connected Berlin to Salisbury and Ocean City. The Pennsylvania line intersected the town in a north-south direction.
Because of the rail lines, Berlin became one of the state’s leading shippers of strawberries, Harrison’s Nurseries became a world-leading supplier of fruit trees, shipping millions annually, and the brick factory, milling company and outlying farms were able to ship their products to distant markets. All of this made Berlin a viable economic center. Visitors from the urban areas west of the Chesapeake Bay also stopped in Berlin on their way to the new seaside resort, Ocean City. Today, many lovely old homes can be found on the railroad embankments.
The present-day streetscape contains few vestiges of that heady time in Berlin. Three times within a decade - 1895, 1902 and 1904 - the town was reduced to rubble by fire. The rebuilt post-1905 town retains an authenticity that twice attracted Hollywood, first in 1998 for the feature film Runaway Bride, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere immediately followed by the memorable children’s film, Tuck Everlasting.
Our walking tour will start a few steps from the Town Center - and return three times - and see a number of those Hollywood filming sites along the way...
WALK EAST ON BROAD STREET TOWARDS TOWN CENTER.
12 Broad Street
The Globe Moving Picture Theater was built in the Spanish Mission style around 1915 as the first movie house in Town. It operated into the 1950s. The building has been heavily altered since to function as a church, shop and restaurant among other things but the hanging marquee and arched entrances remain.
TURN LEFT ON N. MAIN STREET.
Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette
10 North Main Street
Established in 1901, the luncheonette and soda fountain remained in the Rayne family until 1962. For many years the building’s original appearance was hidden beneath permastone and fronted by a tin awning on the south side. Still operating as a luncheonette, it has been restored to its two-story red brick-with wooden porch origins. The permastone can still be seen on the attached building to the north and also in the Runaway Bride, where Rayne’s Reef was transformed to the Falcon Diner.
7-17 North Main Street
Alfred Powell leased this centrally located block from Henry Anderson in 1895 and constructed a series of two-story brick buildings with a common brick cornice. The southernmost of the buildings retains its original stamped sheet iron cornice. For many years the second floor was covered in corrugated steel cladding, most conspicuously by the Style Guide Clothing Store, but the alterations have since been removed.
“Hale Hardware” Store
16 North Main Street
This building in the center of the block, then occupied by the Berlin Hardware Store, was refitted as the Hale Hardware Store where Julia Roberts worked in the Princess Bride. It was built as the law offices of Williams and Shockley. The Treasure Chest next door is one of the few buildings in the Berlin Historic District to remain in its original or neat original condition. Each feature an identical decorative brick cornice.
Calvin B. Taylor Banking Company
24 North Main Street
Berlin had three banks before the turn of the century. The First National Bank of Berlin, Maryland, also known as the “Dirickson” Bank, closed its doors when a chocolate company its owner invested heavily in failed. A penned note, attached to a stock certificate of The Guth Chocolate Company of Baltimore, said, “Levin L. Dirickson, Founder of the First National Bank of Berlin, was a ‘Guthable’ man, taken in by a sweet thing, the ‘Guthable’ Candy Company of Baltimore, Maryland. He was brother to Dr. Edwin J. Dirickson, my grandfather, who I am named after. The bank building is a living monument to BAD INVESTMENTS.” The note was signed Edwin Dirickson France II, 31 May, 1876. When that bank closed, Calvin B. Taylor, the founder of Calvin B. Taylor Banking Company, bought its remaining assets so local residents would have a local bank to provide security for the savings of thrifty citizens and so the community could more ably conduct business. The corporate seal of The First National Bank of Berlin is still in the possession of Calvin B. Taylor Banking Company. This eclectic-style brick building with a pyramidal tower topped by a weather vane was erected in 1902. Subsequent additions expanded the bank to the rear.
101 North Main Street at Pitts Street
Ned Furbish built this around-the-corner brick building with facades on two important downtown streets in 1900. This is another commercial property that was covered with fake stone when it was frequented by shoppers as the Berlin Variety Store. When the stone was stripped away in 1982 it led to an award for the restoration. The Plaza appeared in the Runaway Bride as the bridal shop. Berlin shop exteriors that appeared in the movie were compensated with $1,000 each.
107 North Main Street
Evergreen Lodge #153 was formed on January 31, 1871 by dispensation from Grand Master Latrobe. At that time the Lodge met in Snow Hill. Upon moving to Berlin, the men met in what was known as “Dirickson Hall,” located on the third floor of a storefront building two blocks away. The lodge purchased this building on June 26, 1925.
Stevenson United Methodist Church
123 North Main Street
In the years before the Civil War, Perdeaux Chapel in Sinepuxent Neck, the mother church of Stevenson Methodist Episcopal Church, ministered to the families of the local plantations and farms. Cedar Chapel, the first permanent place of worship in Berlin, was erected in 1835 on a lot secured from Minos Timmons located on South Main Street near what is now Buckingham Cemetery. A second larger Methodist church was built here in 1847. The name was then changed from Cedar Chapel to Stevenson in honor of Edward Stevenson who donated the ground for the new building, a neat one story wooden structure. After the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches in town got new buildings following the 1904 fire, church members lobbied for their own new house of worship, erecting the present building in 1912 of Port Deposit granite.
125 North Main Street
Dating the the 1790s, this Federal-style house with gambrel roof is believed to be the oldest structure in Berlin. Hand-made wrought iron nails and beaded ceiling beams in the north half of this house lead to that conclusion.
208 North Main Street
The Calvin B. Taylor House was built by 1832 for Isaac Covington and his family who lived here during the Civil War. The Covingtons also owned plantations in Snow Hill and traded in the West Indies. Another early occupant was Robert J. Henry, a local businessman who owned a farm near today’s Stephen Decatur Park and used this home as a town house. He was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Berlin. The house carries forward the name of Calvin B. Taylor; teacher, lawyer and founder of the Calvin B. Taylor Banking Company. He and his wife Mattie lived here from the 1890s until his death in 1932. During their occupancy they made several changes to the house including a back wing addition and the installation of stained glass windows. It was an apartment house in the 1970s and was slated to be demolished to make a parking lot. The Berlin Heritage Foundation was founded in November 1981 by a group of citizens interested in saving this house. They convinced the Mayor and Town Council to purchase the house and lot in 1982 for $35,000.00 and to turn it over to the Foundation to administer as a town museum. Over $100,000.00 was raised from the community and private donations for restoration. This historic house museum opened in 1983.
TURN LEFT ON WEST STREET.
100 West Street, southwest corner of Broad Street
The Whaley House is a good example of a gable-entrance house, one of a handful still standing in Berlin. Dating to circa 1805 and known as “Robin’s Nest,” this is one of the town’s oldest structures. Into its third century, the house retains many of its original features in addition to an important collection of 19th century outbuildings - a dairy, a privy, a smokehouse, and a granary.
TURN LEFT ON BROAD STREET AND WALK DOWN TO MAIN STREET IN THE CENTER OF TOWN FOR THE SECOND TIME. TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.
2 North Main Street
This three-story, ten-bay brick Atlantic Hotel has anchored the center of Berlin since 1896, built by Horace F. Harmonson and his wife, Virginia Lingo Harmonson. In the early days there was a livery stable in back of the Hotel. It was on this site that sales of mules and horses were held. The livestock would arrive in Berlin by rail and then be driven up through the town from the station to the Atlantic Stable. The hotel was built immediately following the 1895 fire and is one of a very few in the central commercial district that survived subsequent fires in 1902 and 1904. The front facade is characterized by a large, pressed-metal cornice that ends abruptly at the corners and has a peaked pediment at its center. Pressed-metal hooded moldings decorated with a flower motif are located over each window on the front facade.
Peninsula Bank of Berlin
1 South Main street
The Peninsula Bank of Berlin, built in 1902 as the Exchange and Savings Bank, is one of a small collection of similar era banks erected in Worcester County villages. Oriented to face the principal intersection in Town, the front entrance is accented by a pyramidal roofed spire. Large, round arched window openings filled with colored glass transom lights are found within recessed bays to each side.
First National Bank
3 South Main Street
Another is Berlin’s collection of whimsical early 19th-century bank buildings, the former First National Bank dates to 1905. Differing brick sizes and colors provide contrast; the entrance is through a round tower surmounted by a conical roof. Encircling the tower and enriching the various friezes are rows of garlands, while the pedimented gable ends are fitted with dentils and other period moldings. Dominating the west elevation is a single round arched window opening that was built with a colored glass transom light.
2-4 South Main Street
Town records indicate a meeting hall on this site since 1853; the Paran Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows with hipped roof was built in 1902. The pressed-brick exterior has seen few changes in the intervening 100+ years and retains an intact Victorian storefront of recessed entrances and plate glass display windows.
Buckingham Presbyterian Church20 South Main Street
Buckingham Presbyterian Church was organized by Francis Makemie in 1683. It originally met on the Buckingham Plantation (now the Buckingham Cemetery) where a Meeting House was built. This cross-shaped church was erected after the 1904 fire that incinerated the standing wooden house of worship. Built of coursed, ashlar-cut Holmsburg granite with castellated parapets, the principle entrance is located in the base of the square bell tower. The Gothic-styled windows are filled with colored glass.
23 South Main Street
This is one of five large houses, three of which remain, that was built on the east side of South Main Street after the 1904 fire. It features a hipped roof with cross gables of varying sizes and projections on three sides. The wrap-around verandah is accessed through two sets of steps.
101 South Main Street
Dating to 1833, Kenwood is typical of Federal-style houses around Berlin with its gable facing the street and being three bays long and three bays deep. The cornice is marked by a series of modillion blocks. The fluted columns and carved decoration call to mind the woodwork of the Taylor House on the north side of town, suggesting both were crafted by the same master carpenter.
200 South Main Street
The builder utilized a small hillock to situate this crisp Victorian frame house south of Town. The Queen Anne-style house is accented with fish-scale shingles, steeply pitched roofs and a wrap-around porch.
205 South Main Street
This 1834 brick house is architecturally unique in Berlin, sporting four slender chimneys that rise dramatically above the steeply pitched gable roof. The base of that roof is trimmed with a block cornice and a center gable is pierced by a splendid round window. The columned front porch features saw-tooth edged arches, familiar around Town.
206 South Main Street
This side hall house from the early 1830s spans the architectural eras of the passing of the Federal style and the popularity of Greek Revival. The house has been restyled in the 1900s.
313 South Main Street
Burley Manor was one of the earlier housed erected in Berlin, built sometime between 1832 and 1837 by John Mitchell and it was sold to Mrs. Elizabeth Hammond, widow of Edward Hammond. John T. Hammond inherited Burley Manor from his mother Elizabeth in 1871. The columned front porch is original.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON MAIN STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON TRIPOLI STREET. TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
3 Church Street
St. Paul’s Church was erected in 1825 as a successor to the old St. Martin’s Church in Showell, which had been the center of Anglican worship in northern Worcester County since the early 1700s. The 1904 fire severely damaged St. Paul’s, leaving only the 18” thick walls. The church was rebuilt at a cost of $10,028.02 with a dramatically different look, employing the Romanesque style with rounded entrance and sanctuary windows.
TURN LEFT ON BAY STREET.
David Truitt House
16 Bay Street
The Burkhead House is an interesting frame dwelling that dates from two distinct periods; the rear two-story service wing dates to around 1840 and includes classically inspired bead molding under the cornice that takes the form of stylized swags. The two-story side hall/parlor front section is a modest Queen Anne style addition that boasts a corner tower.
11 Bay Street
The Warhus House is typical of the Berlin houses of the turn of the 20th century with wrap-around verandah and bay projections. In this case the back section is original but the front has been substantially rebuilt, another town fire victim.
Berlin Town Hall
10 Williams Street, northwest corner of Bay Street
This building was first conveyed to the Mayor & City Council in 1922. It was later occupied by the Berlin Fire Company and American Legion Post #123 before coming back to the Mayor & City Council in 1965. Although its original integrity has been diminished by the altering of door and window openings and the removal of its corbelled cornice, it nevertheless is recognizable as an original component of the 19th century historic district.
CONTINUE TO TOWN CENTER (FOR THE THIRD TIME!) AND TURN LEFT ON BROAD STREET TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.