The first settlement on the banks of the Pocomoke River here evolved after Edward Stevens set up a ferry service in 1695. The cluster of structures at Steven’s ferry landing came to be known as “Meeting House Landing,” although there is no firm evidence that a primitive church stood on the site. A tobacco warehouse was built at the river and for many years the settlement took the common name, “Warehouse Landing.” It acted, more or less, like a bank, where planters could put their tobacco on deposit and write drafts against it to pay off debts, buy land, or transfer funds for goods and services. After the United States government formed in 1787 and created the dollar as legal tender, the warehouse lost its purpose. The name “Warehouse Landing” fell out of use by 1790, and the old building itself fell into disuse and was left to decay, though it stood as late as 1820.
The land on which Pocomoke City is located originally came from five tracts, four of which appear to have formed a common corner near the ferry landing. An important one was a tract known as “Wooten Underedge”, patented in 1682, but it was over 100 years later -- in the 1790s that about ten small lots were carved out of it and sold; then, about 28 lots were sold 1800-1809, a period of time when, also, about nine lots were sold from an adjacent tract of land, patented in 1670 as “Newtown”. After the warehouse closed, the village took n this historic name.
Newtown developed steadily as a shipping port for surrounding agriculture and lumber interests. In 1878 the name of the town was changed to Pocomoke City, reflecting the river that was the lifeblood of the community. No river in America of comparable width is as deep as the Pocomoke - as deep as 45 feet for a river you can easily throw a baseball across.
In 1880 a railroad bridge spanned the river and Pocomoke City was now on the main line between Philadelphia and Norfolk. A steady stream of travelers and goods flowed to the old river town. Prosperity continued for decades. During World War II, a sewing factory operated in Pocomoke, and, in 1942, the Birds Eye Division of General Foods Corp. constructed a chicken-processing plant which soon had up to 800 employees. The Chincoteague Naval Air Station at nearby Wallops Island relied heavily on Pocomoke City for housing and shopping.
But by the 1960s farm goods were moving by truck and not ships, even on a deep river, and Pocomoke City fell into decline. The Navy base closed, Birds Eye left town. Not only had its economic engines disappeared but so too had much of the town’s physical history. Although Pocomoke City is over 300 years old, it has almost no old structures - fires in 1888, 1892 and 1922 all laid waste to the town’s building stock.
Our walking tour will start on the banks of the historic Pocomoke River...
Pocomoke City Bridge
Market Street at Pocomoke River
Erected in 1921, the Pocomoke City Bridge is one of only 20 movable bridges remaining in Maryland. It is of a type known as a double-leaf trunnion bascule movable bridge, the earliest type of movable bridge in the state. The Pocomoke City Bridge is notable for its decorative aspects and its intact bridge house at the draw.
TURN AND WALK EAST ON MARKET STREET.
Delmarva Discovery Center
2 Market Street
This former Duncan Brothers car dealership building from the 1920s has been re-worked into the multi-million dollar Delmarva Discover Center. Retaining the exterior look and roomy interior of the car showroom, the museum focuses on the river ecology and the human history of the Pocomoke River and Delmarva. The one-time garage features a handsome row of Tuscan columns across the front.
Atlantic Red Star Gas Station
6 Market Street
This early gas station was built of brick in the Colonial Revival style and features a substantial slate roof. The service station has been preserved for its second life as the town Visitor Center.
TURN RIGHT ON FRONT STREET.
Sturgis One Room School Museum
209 Willow Street
Sturgis One Room School Museum, formerly known as Sturgis School, is the only African American One Room School in Worcester County retaining its original integrity. It is a small structure built about 100 years ago on Brantley Road on land that was purchased by William Sturgis in 1888. Sturgis One Room School operated as a school for 37 years. Grades 1 - 7 were taught by one teacher until it closed its doors in 1937. At that time students were transferred to Stephen Long School in the town of Pocomoke City, Maryland. For several years afterwards the school served as home for the aging William Sturgis. After the school was vacated by William Sturgis, it remained unattended and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1996, a group of interested citizens, under the leadership of the Worcester County Historical Society, purchased the school from the Sturgis family and moved it to its present location
TURN LEFT ON WILLOW STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 2ND STREET.
Salem United Methodist Church
corner of Second and Walnut streets
The Salem Chapel, built in 1808, occupied the site of the present Salem Church at the southwest corner of Cedar Hall Road (now known as Second and Walnut Streets). The church was a small frame building only 30 x 32 feet in dimensions with seven windows, a gallery for the slaves, and seats made of thick boards laid on blocks of wood and lighted by candles. As Salem was the only church in town from 1808 until 1834, a large number of people attended the services. The building was remodeled in 1886 but completely demolished for this Pompeian-style brick building with a proportionate tower. This building was dedicated in 1905.
TURN LEFT ON WALNUT STREET.
The Littleton T. Clarke House
407 Second Street
Littleton Thomas Clarke built this fine home example of the Second Empire style in Worcester County around 1860. Clarke, a merchant, died of pneumonia at the age of thirty-six shortly afterwards and within two years, Ammaret Clarke had lost her home and four of her five children. With its concave slate roof, bracketed eaves, decorative porches, and rare metal rooftop cresting on the wet bay window and porch, this house clearly stands out in Pocomoke City as a rare architectural survivor of the destructive fires that decimated the streetscape. This block of Walnut Street between 2nd and 3rd streets is characterized by an especially distinctive collection of revival-style houses on roomy lots.
TURN LEFT ON 4TH STREET.
405 Market Street
This house represents a practice common in the lower Eastern Shore during the late 1800s of taking a conservative vernacular houses and outfitting it in the style of the day, in this case, Queen Anne. In this case the small main block of the house was transformed with flanking gables around a central entrance. The windows with multiple colored lights in the upper sash and the variety of siding materials reflect the popular Victorian influence. The house incorporates pieces of its earlier incarnation, such as doors.
TURN AND WALK WEST ON MARKET STREET.
First Baptist Church
southwest corner of 4th Street and Market Street
This house of worship, with steeple and bell, was dedicated on May 14, 1854. The cost of the house, furniture, lot and railing, was about $2,700.
Pitts Creek Presbyterian Church
210 Market Street
The forbearers of the current congregation made an effort to build a meeting house out of logs near a ferry site on the Pocomoke River. Some local residents not friendly to Presbyterians threw the logs from their first building effort into the river. The Presbyterians persisted, retrieved the logs from the river, and rebuilt the meeting house. In 1735 the congregation moved five miles south to the head of Pitts Creek, a short distance from Virginia which recognized only the Church of England. Beaver Dam Presbyterian Church gave nearby persons in Virginia an opportunity to exercise their freedom in choosing a religion. The Pitts Creek Presbyterian Church was a missionary outgrowth of the Beaver Dam church and this finely built Gothic Revival church was built in 1845.
Pocomoke City Post Office
207 Market Street
This Neoclassical post office was, like so many similar small town federal post offices, a Depression-era project, built in 1937.
206 Market Street
Isaac Costen was born on October 10, 1832 in Somerset County. He was educated at Washington Academy in Princess Anne and received his medical degree from Penn Medical College in Philadelphia in 1857. During the Civil War, in addition to his medical duties, Costen was a Confederate blockade runner, carrying food and supplies at great personal risk across the lower Chesapeake Bay to the Hampton Roads area. He was also noted for his work with typhoid fever during a severe typhus epidemic. Costen purchased this lot and existing house in 1877 for $1,000 and set abut crating this Victorian Italianate home that was to come through the trio of home-swallowing Pocomoke City fires unscathed. Costen was elected mayor of Pocomoke City in 1888, by which time he had already served fifteen years on the Democratic State Central Committee. He had been elected to the Maryland State Legislature in 1881, where he served only one term, citing his patients’ needs as the reason for not returning to Annapolis. Dr. Costen died at his home on April 1, l931, just six months short of his 99th birthday.
Bethany Methodist Church
203 Market Street
The congregation’s formed in 1832 and, after purchasing this ground from Sally Jones in 1834, built a new house of worship with a belfry from which they hung the first church bell in town. A more commodious church replaced it in 1853. They moved into this Greek Revival church in 1882; it was rebuilt after a fire in 2007.
Pocomoke City National Bank
144 Market Street
The walls of this Neoclassical bank building withstood the fire that swept Market Street in 1922 but the roof collapsed.
105 Market Street
Another Beaux Arts-influenced financial building, this one has been reborn as an art gallery.
120 Market Street
This part of the west side of Market Street contains the oldest commercial buildings in Pocomoke City.
103 Market Street
The Mar-Va Theater opened on December 1, 1927. Built by Frank Barlett of Berlin, the finest materials were used in its construction. Ticket prices were 10 cents. Once used as a vaudeville theater complete with stage facilities, dressing rooms and orchestra pits, the Mar-Va was played by many famous performers, which included some old-time cowboys such as Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Hop-a-Long Cassidy and Smiley Burnett. The theater closed in 1993 but has been brought back to life, one of the Town’s few strands to the past. The sidewalls have the original gold embossed paneling and the projectors, which were added around 1943, are of the carbon arc variety. The Mar-Va Theater is one of the few theaters on the Eastern Shore to boast of a draw drape. The balcony was once used for segregation purposes and has its own entrance, concession area, box office and bathroom. With its original 720 seats, the Mar-Va is the largest theater south of Wilmington, Delaware which has never been altered.
YOU HAVE NOW RETURNED TO THE START OF THE TOUR WITHIN SIGHT OF THE POCOMOKE RIVER.