There was nothing random nor serendipitous about the founding of Talbot Court House. It was not built on any navigable waterway and the site selected was not located on an established trade route. The name said it all - this was going to be a government town, centrally located to all sections of the county.
That court house was built in 1711; the county, named for Lady Grace Talbot, sister of the second Lord Baltimore, had been established a half-century earlier in 1661. From its very beginning as an English colony the county economy was based on tobacco agriculture and the bountiful harvest of Chesapeake Bay from its over 600 miles of tidal shoreline, the most of any county in the United States.
Talbot Court House was never envisioned as a bustling town - just a place to conduct occasional official business and move on. As such for decades the settlement consisted primarily of taverns and a few scattered houses. But in 1788 the Maryland legislature designated the village the “East Capital” of Maryland and renamed it Easton.
In short order Easton had become the largest town on the Eastern Shore. The founding families of the Delmarva Peninsula, which dominated the Eastern Shore social, political, and economic history - the Tilghmans, Lloyds, Goldsboroughs, Hollydays and Stevens built their principal seats of residence in town. Easton had the Shore’s finest bank, its first newspaper, its first Federal offices, its first brick hotel, its first steamship line.
This wealth and building boom brought skilled artisans to town as well and the early 1800s buildings of Easton, many of which still stand, were the equal of those found in the big cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Our walking tour will start in the historic Town Center where a Visitor Center has been created and parking available...
Easton Welcome and Resource Center
11 S. Harrison Street
The Easton firehouse stood here until 1833; it was refitted in the late 1990s to serve as the hub of visitor activity in Talbot County.
TURN LEFT ON S. HARRISON STREET AND WALK TO THE INTERSECTION OF DOVER STREET.
40 East Dover Street
Built in 1921, at the cost of $100,000, The Avalon Theatre immediately became, as one newspaper reporter proclaimed, the “Showplace of the Eastern Shore.” Visitors were greeted by leaded glass doors at every theater entrance and inside was an 18-foot dome with 148 lights, a 300 pipe electric-pneumatic organ, an electric player piano, and a ballroom on the second floor.
However, when the Schine Theatre Chain purchased the Theatre in 1934, they completely refitted the building. Schine closed the ballroom, and redesigned the theater with an Art Deco theme that still stands today. It became a movie house of renown; three world premieres took place at the Avalon including The First Kiss starring Gary Cooper and Fay Rae, which was filmed in Easton and St. Michaels.
The Avalon’s run as Easton’s premier movie house ended in 1985 after a 64-year run. Renovations of the neglected building began in late 1987 and the Avalon was magnificently restored and upgraded to a performing arts center, retaining its proscenium stage, domed ceiling, and incredible acoustics.
TURN LEFT ON DOVER STREET.
36-38 East Dover Street
Alphonse Townsend built this brick commercial building in 1879. The pent roof over the first floor has been altered but the roof cornice and decorative brick work above are unchanged.
30 East Dover Street
This family-owned pharmacy has been serving Easton since 1928. The structure on this property, like most of its surroundings, burned in an 1878 fire. The present structure was built a year later as a double store and residence. In 1931 it was purchased by John Noble to form the seeds for Noble Ford Company. William Hill brought his pharmacy here in 1945. This Italianate brick building was modernized and remodeled in 2007 but retains its original iron cresting at the roofline and weathervane on top.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON DOVER STREET TO HARRISON STREET.
Pollard Edmondson House
41 East Dover Street at southwest corner of Harrison Street
The unusual brick building is a composite of two styles 100 years apart. The earlier portion is a two-and-a-half story Federal house facing Harrison Street, built in 1794 by Pollard Edmondson for his daughter Lucretia. Edmondson was descended from two early Maryland families; John Pollard, a cooper, who emigrated in 1662 and James Edmondson, a planter. He was a member of the Lower House of Assembly from 1751 to 1768 and a member of Provincial Conventions in 1775 and 1776. Edmondson’s grand-daughter would later marry a Wallis and further down on the family tree came Bessie Wallis Warfield, for whom Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, would abdicate the throne of England to marry. Between 1891 and 1896 the Victorian facade facing Dover Street was constructed. It is about six feet wide with a belt course of protruding bricks and rosettes. During that time the building began its commercial life for the Farmers and Merchants National Bank.
101 East Dover Street
As Easton grew, the community became a center for travelers in the Tidewater area. By the late 19th century, the various taverns and hotels had given way to two larger hotels and a few boarding houses. In 1891, a new frame hotel was erected on the site of the present-day Tidewater Inn. It operated for several years under the name of the Avon Hotel. When it was later sold, the name reverted to Avon until the Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1944. The destruction of the Avon left Easton without a major hotel. In 1947, A. Johnson Grymes broke ground for the Tidewater Inn. and the grand opening took place two years later.
102 East Dover Street
This home-and-office complex was built in 1801 by Thomas James Bullitt, an early president of the Easton National Bank, financial leader of the Eastern Shore and progenitor of the noted Bullitt family of Philadelphia. The outstanding brick masonry and ornamental woodwork of the inside qualify the house as one of Maryland’s finest from the Federal period. The house remained in the family until the 1930s.
United States Post Office
116 East Dover Street
The Neoclassical Easton post office was built in 1933, typical of Depression-era projects across the country.
Inn at 202 East Dover
202 East Dover Street
Built in 1874, this Victorian-era mansion reflects many architectural styles. For years the building was known as the Wrightson House, thanks to its early 20th century owner, Charles T. Wrightson, one of the founders of the S. & W. canned food empire. Locally it is still referred to as Captain’s Watch due to its prominent balustraded widow’s walk. Renovated in 2006, it is now home to an inn and restaurant.
TURN LEFT (NORTH) ON HANSON STREET.
southwest corner of Mills Place and Hanson Street
This standpipe was constructed in 1886, establishing Easton’s central water system, complete with pumping station. When the 84,000-gallon tank was being built, townspeople would climb the 100’ 2” tower to enjoy the view from above the rooftops. A local newspaper report from September 1886 noted that the 100-foot high standpipe was originally painted a bright red.
TURN RIGHT ON AUGUST STREET. TURN RIGHT ON AURORA STREET.
John S. McDaniel House
14 N Aurora Street
These two blocks of North Aurora Street between Dover Street and Goldsborough Street were known as “Silk Stocking Row” for its well-heeled residents in the late 1800s. The property was purchased by Thomas Robson, proprietor of the Union Hotel and editor of the Eastern Star, one of two leading newspapers in town, in 1851. A Southern sympathizer during the Civil War, Robson lost his businesses and the house he built here. This home, with prominent octagonal corner tower, was built in 1865 and has been the home of many prominent Maryland families. The Reverend Henry Lay, first bishop of the diocese of Easton, was one. He bought the property from Robert Lloyd Tilghman. Although known locally as the McDaniel House, that family lived here only nine years before losing it when they couldn’t cover the payments on the hefty mortgage.
TURN AND WALK NORTH ON N. AURORA STREET TO GOLDSBOROUGH STREET. TURN RIGHT.
24 N Aurora Street
The corner property on the southeast side of Goldsborough and Aurora streets was purchased from Joseph Haskins in 1794 by Deborah Perry Dickinson, widowed descendent of Admiral William Perry. The free-standing brick Federal house subsequently built here, originally called Burnside and later Foxley Hall, is one of the most impressive in Easton. The structure has been greatly changed since construction, most notably in the late 1800s by local historian Oswald Tilghman.
TURN AND WALK WEST ON GOLDSBOROUGH STREET.
315 Goldsborough Street
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on “Cathedral Green”, is of traditional Gothic design in granite, brought in by water. The Diocese of Easton was formed in 1868 and stipulated that a Bishop be in residence here. Trinity Cathedral purchased two lots on Goldsborough Street and the Chapel was started at once. The first Bishop was the Right Reverend Henry C. Lay. The architecture of the building derives from a movement in England around 1840 to construct Churches based on early Gothic parish churches and chapels. The steeple was added to surmount the tower in 1978.
TURN AND WALK WEST ON GOLDSBOROUGH STREET.
214 Goldsborough Street
This picturesque house, an historic inn since 1988, was built a century earlier by Captain Edward Roberts for Philip Frances Thomas, governor of the state of Maryland from 1848 to 1851 and the first state Comptroller of the Treasury 1851 to 1853. Thomas lived in the house barely two years. When he died in 1890, the house and property were sold to the Episcopal Church for use as the residence for the Bishop of the Diocese of Easton.
120 Goldsborough Street
This crisp home was built in 1880, typical of a street that looks much as it did almost 150 years ago. Greek Revival, Queen Anne styles proliferate in the windows, gables and porches along Goldsborough Street.
107 Goldsborough Street
The varied architectural styles on Goldsborough Street sometimes mix in the same house, such as the Jump House with Queen Anne turret, Italianate roof brackets and Greek Revival porch. It was built for a family of merchants who operated on Washington Street.
30 Goldsborough Street, southwest corner of Harrison Street
This corner building of dark brick was built in the 1920s as a Dodge Brothers Motor Car dealership.
Old Frame Hotel/Nevius and Frampton Hardware
1 Goldsborough Street
This building was constructed in 1866 as a downtown hotel called the European House, replacing an earlier structure that was razed. George Haddaway was proprietor. The name never penetrated the local consciousness as the townsfolk called it the “Old Frame Hotel.” In 1899 Simon Nevius and Charles L. Frampton who remodeled it and added a warehouse for their hardware business. A fire in 1955 consumed the large hipped roof that originally covered the building but otherwise looks much the same.
TURN RIGHT ON NORTH WASHINGTON STREET.
110 North Washington Street
This fine Italianate house, since modified for office use, dates to 1866.
Coates Lodge #102
114 North Washington Street
Freemasonry has existed on the Eastern Shore since the 1700s; five lodges were active when the country formed in 1787. Dr. John Coates formed the first Grand Lodge of Masons in Maryland, having received a dispensation from Pennsylvania for a charter. Although named for Dr. Coates, the Easton Lodge #102, was not founded until May 12, 1855, the third lodge in town. The group first met in the Talbot County Court House before moving into this colorful structure of light orange brick in 1881. A rear addition was added in 1930.
120 North Washington Street
This Victorian frame house is one of four Langsdale houses in Easton remaining in its original location. It features fish-scale shingles and jigsawn woodwork.
131 North Washington Street
This house may have once been a tavern and may be one of the oldest structures in town. Or not. It certainly dates to at least the early 1800s and is notable for its steeply pitched roof and outsized chimneys that rise high above the roofline. Those brick chimneys are enclosed within the end walls and sport corbelled caps.
TURN AND WALK SOUTH ON NORTH WASHINGTON STREET.
Perrin Smith House
119-121 North Washington Street
Walking south on Washington Street, the Perrin-Smith House is the first of five Federal-style row buildings on the west side of the street and one of the most finely crafted structures remaining from Easton’s infancy. A brick passageway separates it from its most immediate neighbor. Inside and out many elaborate original details remain. Built circa 1795, it was named not for the original owner but for Thomas Perrin Smith, founder of the Republican Star, Easton’s oldest newspaper and the third oldest in Maryland (now the Star Democrat). Next door the Brick Hotel, built in 1812, was the Eastern Shore’s leading hostelry. It is now an office building and the newspaper offices were purchased by the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Club in 1911.
Easton National Bank
36 North Washington Street
The Easton National Bank was established in 1810. After its original building was lost to fire, this Beaux Arts replacement rose in 1904.
24 North Washington Street
The largest building in the Washington Street commercial district was built of brick laid in Flemish bond before 1805, making it one of Easton’s earliest structures. Owen Kennard, the dominant land owner along North Washington Street, is thought to have erected the well-proportioned building on his property to serve as a store and residence.
In 1876 the building was sold out of the Kennard family to John W. Jump who ran a fine dress and household goods store until World War I. In 1915 David Gregg bought the property and made it even more imposing with the addition of a fourth floor under a mansard roof. McCrory’s store operated in this space for many years.
TURN RIGHT ON FEDERAL STREET.
9 Federal Street
Here you’ll see a splash of English Tudor in downtown Easton, facing Court House Square.
Sheriff House and Jail
northwest corner of Courthouse Square, on the southeast corner of Federal Street and West Street
This High Victorian structure of grey granite was built in 1881, replacing the previous jail on this site that had stood since 1710.
TURN LEFT ON WEST STREET.
Court House South Wing
4 North West Street
This wing contained many of the public services for Talbot County, including the library before it moved across the street.
TURN LEFT ON DOVER STREET.
6 West Dover Street
This block of Victorian commercial/residential properties was built after the flames from the 1878 Market Place Fire swept down the street. This brick structure features round Romanesque windows.
TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET INTO COURT HOUSE SQUARE.
Talbot County Courthouse
11 North Washington Street
In 1709, 2 acres of land known as “Armstrong’s old field, near Pitte’s bridge was designated by a group of leading citizens to be the site of the new court house. Philemon Hemsley oversaw the construction of the building which was twenty feet by thirty feet in size. The courthouse was razed and replaced with a new brick structure in 1794 to serve as Maryland’s Eastern Shore Capital. This new and present courthouse was remodeled in 1958 which included removal of the front porch and the addition of two wings.
Talbot Boys Monument
The memorial honors the Confederate soldiers of Talbot County. The name of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, whose home was here and who is buried in the town’s Wye Cemetery, heads the list. Buchanan commanded the Souther ironclad C.S.S. Virginia before being wounded.
northeast corner of Dover Street and Washington Street
The Daylight Building, so named for its large windows, was built after the 1878 fire that took away several Federal houses on this block. You can still see remnants of the name “Daylight Building” in the brick facade.
Shannahan & Wrightson Hardware
12 North Washington Street
Dating to 1791, when a 2 1/2-story Federal brick shop/home was erected on the site of a frame dwelling owned by Philemon Hemsley, builder of 1710 Court House, this store can qualify as the oldest in Easton. Dates on the building show when additions were made in 1877-1881-1889. In 1877 the property was purchased by the Shannahan and Wrightson Hardware Company who raised the roof and later adding a full third floor with Victorian facade The present front was completed in time for a grand opening on Dec. 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor Day.
TURN AND WALK SOUTH ON WASHINGTON STREET AND TURN LEFT ON DOVER STREET.
7 East Dover Street
This is an early Federal-style building, circa 1788. The second-story windows are original.
18 East Dover Street
The Talbot Bank of Easton, Maryland was chartered in 1885 and has operated continuously as an independent bank since its beginning. The Neoclassical headquarters on Dover Street, crafted in limestone, was built in 1908.
TURN AND WALK BACK ONE-HALF BLOCK TO WASHINGTON STREET AND TURN LEFT.
Odd Fellows Hall
1 South Washington Street
Miller Lodge, Number 18, organized in 1832 with 43 members and is the oldest in Talbot County. After meeting in Washington Hall opposite Port Street until 1839, the lodge moved to this site. Its original hall burned to the ground in 1855. Up and going again the next year, that building fell victim to the fire that broke out in Market Square on October 1, 1878. The present building, one of the most impressive on Washington Street, was dedicated on September 25, 1879. The designer incorporated an eclectic combination of symbols and stylistic elements in composing the four-story brick exclamation point at Easton’s most important intersection.
Emergency Hospital/Tred Avon Building
13 South Washington Street
Like its neighbor next door, the Odd Fellows Hall, the buildings on this site perished in fires in 1855 and 1878. The three-story, seven-bay building with a facade of red-orange, machine-made brick was built shortly after the second fire, probably as a hotel. It is best known as Easton’s first hospital, opened in 1907. The Easton Emergency Hospital occupied the upper two floors. There were two surgeons, three general practitioners and fifteen beds; a “colored” ward had four more beds. By 1913 the hospital was severely overcrowded and a campaign was waged to build a new structure.
Historical Society of Talbot County Auditorium
15-17 South Washington Street
The Historical Society of Talbot County was founded in 1954 to preserve and celebrate the history and culture of Talbot County, Maryland. The Historical Society’s campus and features historic houses surrounded by award-winning gardens, maintained by the Talbot County Garden Club. The historical Society of Talbot County’s Auditorium, completed in 1987, is recognized as an outstanding example of the preservation, graceful restoration, and adaptive use of a historic interior space. The Society used the sanctuary of the former Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1856 with bricks from an 1824 structure, to create a multi-purpose community facility.
James Neall House
27 South Washington Street
The centerpiece of the Historical Society collection is the superb interpretation of Federal architecture created by Quaker cabinetmaker and craftsman James Neall between 1804 and 1810. The Neall House compares favorably with the finest Federal homes built in the big cities in Baltimore and Philadelphia at the time. The brickwork on the exterior features fine Flemish bond courses with unusual raised jointing. The steeply pitched roof of the 3 1/2-story brick house is set off by a prominent chimney. The windows are set in heavy, pegged wood frames with wood sills and splayed stone lintels.
Mary Jenkins House
30 South Washington Street
Another Historical Society property, the frame Mary Jenkins House was constructed circa 1790.
43 South Washington Street
This five-bay frame building dates to 1857.
105-109 South Washington Street
These brick Federal houses are representative of many that lined Washington Street. The Askins House (#105) is one of the best preserved modest homes in town with a fine Flemish bond brick facade, brick lintels and tall end chimneys. The neighbors to the south also feature a Flemish-bond facade that is enlivened by double-keystone lintels at the window openings.
TURN LEFT ON SOUTH STREET.
Hughlett Henry House
10 South Street
This house from the first decades of the 19th century, apparently built and owned by Samuel Hopkins, a carriage maker, is much-admired for the quality of its masonry. The bricks are perfectly formed and laid in a Flemish bond pattern with fine mortar joints.
Christ Church Rectory
12 South Street
This property was deeded to the members of the Vestry in 1842 from Dr. William H. Thomas and whatever structures existed here at that time were razed for the church and rectory. Constructed in 1856, Richard Upjohn, architect of New York City’s famed Trinity Church, supplied the plan. The Gothic-influenced story-and-a-half Parish House is beautifully proportioned in grey and brown granite.
southwest corner of South and Harrison streets
Christ Church, St. Peter’s Parish, was founded in 1692 and this is its fifth place of worship, built between 1840 and 1845 under the guidance of Reverend Dr. Henry Michael Mason, who brought with him the architectural plan of famed architect William Strickland for a church which had recently been erected in Salem, New Jersey. The original structure, built of Port Deposit granite, consisted of the nave and the tower with its steeple. Additions and subtractions (pinnacles n the tower) have come at a regular clip over the years without compromising the English Gothic design.
40 South Harrison Street on the northeast corner of South Street
The brick fortress with crenellated roofline once housed the Maryland National Guard headquarters but now is home to the Waterfowl Festival, a wildlife art and sportsman’s expo since 1971 that features nature and wildlife paintings, sculpture, carvings, duckstamps, photography, books, gifts and antique decoys and activities at numerous locations around Easton.
Academy Art Museum
106 South Street
Talbot County’s first public high school located at has been reconfigured into a fine arts museum, founded in 1958. Considered one of the finest regional art museums in the country, the Academy Art Museum is dedicated to presenting rotating exhibitions of national significance and the best from the region’s artistic community.
TURN LEFT ON TALBOT LANE.
Talbot County Women’s Club
18 Talbot Lane
This outstanding Federal home - its brickwork is considered among Easton’s finest - was built by James Price, Register of Wills, shortly after he purchased the property in 1792. He first erected a wooden frame structure and completed the brick addition around 1800. The Talbot County Women’s club acquired the building for a clubhouse in 1946.
TURN LEFT ON SOUTH LANE.
28 South Harrison Street at southeast corner of South Lane
In 1790, Benjamin Stevens, son of John Stevens of Compton, a 1770s Georgian mansion on Trappe Creek, and brother of Samuel Stevens, a future three-term Maryland governor, bought Lots 24, 25 and 26 as laid out on Harrison Street by the Town Commissions. Benjamin built one of Easton’s earliest homes, a three-bay brick building on this corner. Benjamin died in 1794 and left the property to his father, who survived him by only a year. The family wills directed that the house be rented until the young Stevens girls were married and then be sold out of one of Talbot County’s most important families. The property was bought in 1845 by Colonel Samuel Hambleton, a rising young Easton attorney. Hambleton also owned the Brick Hotel opposite the Courthouse. He enlarged his home here and remodeled it to include such touches as the prominent porch. The house would remain in the Hambleton family for more than 100 years until 1949, when it was sold and converted into apartments. Of late the building has served as an upscale restaurant, first the Inn at Easton and now the Bartlett Pear Inn.
TURN RIGHT ON HARRISON STREET AND WALKONE-HALF BLOCK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.