The town of Snow Hill was founded in 1642 by English settlers on the deep water Pocomoke River. In 1686 the Town of Snow Hill was chartered; in 1694 it was made a Royal Port by William and Mary; imported goods came through Snow Hill to be taxed. Exported goods included cypress lumber and tobacco. In addition, Snow Hill was the home of a thriving ship-building industry.
In 1742, the Houses of Assembly approved “An Act to Divide Somerset County and to Create a new County on the Seaboard Side by the name of Worcester.” Snow Hill was named as that new county seat. In 1793 the town was platted into some 100 lots. As Snow Hill gained economic importance, the Pocomoke River became more heavily traveled. Large ships called on the little port town, offering overnight service to Norfolk and Baltimore. With the increase in river traffic, Snow Hill grew in other areas: hotels and boarding houses sprang up, and the Richardson, Smith and Moore Lumber Company dominated the waterfront as the largest employer in the County. General merchandise stores, liveries, coopers, smiths, and wagon-makers all took their living from the river traffic.
After the Civil War, the railroad found its way along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, providing fast, inexpensive transportation of goods and passengers. As the technology of land transportation grew, the Pocomoke River was used less. Snow Hill went into decline: the shipyards closed, the boarding houses became vacant. However, the people turned to the agricultural industry, growing corn, soybeans and livestock. Thus, Snow Hill remains.
A disastrous fire in 1893 destroyed the original downtown area, and the early town and county records housed in the Courthouse. The replacement building stock stands largely intact today; Snow Hill, still the county seat, has the largest inventory of historic, stately homes on the lower Eastern Shore.
Our walking tour will start along the scenic Pocomoke River where a grassy greenspace has been established and there is plenty of free parking...
River Street at Pocomoke River
This slice of riverside greenspace (no river in America this narrow is as deep as the Pocomoke River) was named for James T. Sturgis, who was mayor of Snow Hill from 1960 until 1974. The Port Pavilion was dedicated in 1986.
WALK EAST ON RIVER STREET TO WASHINGTON STREET (THE RIVER IS ON YOUR LEFT).
Pocomoke River Bridge
Washington Street at Pocomoke River
This single-leaf bascule bridge, one of the simplest and smallest of Maryland’s movable spans, was built across the Pocomoke River in 1932. Carrying MD 12 into Snow Hill, it measures only 90 feet long, including the approach span. Its Neoclassical concrete tender’s house is unoccupied; boaters must call in advance to schedule an opening.
TURN RIGHT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
Corddry Company Warehouse/Pocomoke Canoe Company
312 North Washington Street
The old Corddry Company warehouse, now housing the Pocomoke River Canoe Company, is an interesting remnant of the frame industrial buildings that once lined both sides of the Pocomoke River. The weatherboarded balloon frame structure is covered by a low-pitched hip roof that rises to a distinctive monitor glazed by six- and eight-pane windows. Goods were moved between floors inside by a platform elevator on iron cables and a cast iron wheel. A date painted on an interior weatherboard suggests the building was erected in 1924.
TURN RIGHT ON GREEN STREET.
Goodman’s Clothing Store
110 Green Street
William Goldman came from Baltimore in 1894 to open a clothing business and set up shop on Green Street. He moved into this building, erected shortly after a fire of August 7, 1893, in 1924. Constructed of beige bricks in a Romanesque style, the eastern side of the building stands out among its red brick Green Street neighbors. It features molded brick medallions and a corbelled brick cornice atop a parapet wall. After 100 years, Goldman’s closed, ending the longest run of any business in downtown Snow Hill.
TURN LEFT AND STEP INTO PEARL STREET.
Commercial National Bank
105 Pearl Street
This picturesque little brick bank is typical of whimsical community banks built on the lower Eastern Shore in the 1890s; this one for the Commercial National Bank opened in 1897. The roof follows a modified pyramidal shape and the entrance goes through a short, pyramidal spire. The two prominent front windows are set within their own panels and still have their original colored glass in the transom. Rough stone sills and beltcourse indicate the influence of Richardsonian Romanesque style popular in the large East Coast cities at the time.
TURN LEFT ON MARKET STREET.
Worcester County Courthouse
1 West Market Street
The Worcester County has held session on this corner for over 150 years; until the Civil War the buying and selling of slaves was a common activity here. The first of two courthouses was destroyed by fire and the present courthouse, one of the finest on the Eastern Shore, was built in 1894. Baltimore architect Jackson C. Gott designed this brick five-bay building with an octagonal cupola wet on an Ionic base which holds the town clock.
TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET. TURN RIGHT ON EAST GREEN STREET.
John Blair House
106 East Green Street
Now an art gallery and studio, tradition holds that this is the oldest existing house in Snow Hill. The one-and-a-half story frame structure, brick chimneys at each end, small rooms and wide pine flooring are all characteristics of early houses. But the entire northeast portion of the town was destroyed in an 1834 fire. That fact and clear Greek Revival interior detailing, mature cut nails and the first story windows with nine over six panes probably date the house to around 1835.
George Washington Purnell House
201 East Market Street, northeast corner of Green Street
Now known as the River House Inn, this circa 1860 mansion is one of the two most elaborate examples of Gothic Revival domestic architecture surviving in Worcester County. Only the George S. Payne House on Federal Street, built two decades later, approaches it. Defining features are steeply pitched gable roofs, wall dormers, hood molds over windows and gingerbread trim along the eaves and gable edges. Embellished with original Victorian details, this house is accented with bracketed eaves. rooftop finials, and decorative sawn eaves. An original cast-iron porch of grape-laden vines highlights the front yard. Although the house is named for George Washington Purnell, whose association with the property stretched from 1877 to 1899, construction is credited to George Washington Purnell Smith, a Snow Hill attorney, who purchased the ground in 1853.
WALK ACROSS EAST MARKET STREET.
106 East Market Street
This distinctive frame house features an entrance through the gable. Built around 1840 it spans two architectural era: the bold, gable-fronted elevation was characteristic of the late Federal period and the woodwork reflects some Greek revival influence in a style popular in America in the second quarter of the 19th century. At the elaborate front entrance are a fluted column portico, a diamond-shaped muntin transom and sidelights.
TURN RIGHT ON MARKET STREET, WALKING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF TOWN.
Snow Hill Inn
104 East Market Street, southeast corner of Washington Street
This land was developed, again after the 1834 fire, by prominent landowner and businessman, Levin Townsend. For more than 50 years, beginning in the 1870s, it was the home of John S. Aydelotte, the town doctor. Aydelotte added the gross gables and the east wing seen today. In 1904, his son William James Aydelotte was found dead in Baltimore while attendingthe University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacology, his throat slashed several times. A remorseful note to his father lamenting his troubles at school led to a finding of suicide in the case but the family was never convinced. To this day the house, now operating as the Snow Hill Inn, is said to be haunted by the young Ayedelotte’s ghost.
Oscar M. Purnell House
107 East Market Street
Dating to the first decade of the 20th century, this house, dominated by a colossal Ionic-columned front portico and wrap-around Tuscan -columned porch, stands out as the largest Colonial Revival dwelling erected in Snow Hill. Additional features include Palladian-style colored glass windows and rusticated stone dressings around window and door openings enhance the expansive center hall, double-pile house.
TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
Bates Memorial United Methodist Church
116 North Washington Street
Bates Methodist Church, established in 1833, was originally built on Franklin Street. The present construction on Washington Street was erected in 1901.
TURN RIGHT ON FEDERAL STREET.
Whatcoat United Methodist Church
102 West Federal Street
Whatcoat Methodist Church was first located in 1808 in the present cemetery on Federal Street between Washington Street and Collins Street. Two successive structures were built and moved before today’s church was built in 1900.
Henry White House
101 West Federal Street
This two-store frame house dates back to 1826. it was originally built with a story-and-a-half east wing that extended southward with a colonnade and kitchen of similar height. Around 1870 the west wing was raised to two stories.
Walter P. Snow House
107 West Federal Street
Walter P. Snow, a lawyer, built this ambitious T-shaped house on property inherited by his wife around 1850. Known as “The Cedars,” the 14-room house with elements of the Late Federal and Greek Revival styles contains nine fireplaces. The house left the Snow family in 1881 and the colossal Tuscan-columned portico arrived sometime early in the following century.
All Hallows Episcopal Church Rectory
109 West Federal Street
The Episcopal Rectory is a fine Federal house, circa 1820, that was originally three bays long and three bays deep. An unusually large, gabled service wing was added to the western end of the building during the Civil War. It had been bequeathed to the All Hallows Church back in 1843. The house is distinguished by an arched fanlight over a six-panel front door and a cornice with a drilled fascia that was not carried over to the later addition.
110 West Federal Street
This is a combination frame swelling dating from two distinct periods. The front portion was built later, circa 1880, and the rear portion is believed to date as early as 1825. The nine-over-nine sash windows and beaded floor joists support the antebellum date. The cellar underneath the main house contains a brick-paved floor and an old hearth.
111 West Federal Street
This crisp 1917 dwelling is a classic example of the Colonial Revival style that swept residential design on the East Coast in the early 20th century. The two-story facade is topped with a hip roof crowned by a balustrade. Norwood Shockley operated a wholesale food business on the site of the current town library; the house left the Shockley family in 1950.
TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET.
100 South Church Street
This well-proportioned house on a prominent corner lot in town is notable for its fine Federal-style doorway.
101 South Church Street, southeast corner of Federal Street
Ella King Wilson Hargis purchased this centrally located corner in 1887 for $650 “where Jonathan Hurlock now resides.” The modest selling price indicates a correspondingly modest abode, which this Second Empire-influenced Victorian house is decidedly not. The distinctive home displays a patterned mansard roof around decorative gables as well as a projecting bay window and Tuscan-columned porches.
102 South Church Street
This Gothic cottage is unique to the Snow Hill streetscape.
George Wilson Bishop House
103 South Church Street
George Wilson Bishop was born on Duer’s Neck in 1826 and received a medical degree from Philadelphia’s Medical College in 1848. Bishop practiced medicine in Worcester County for two decades before drifting into state politics. He helped organize the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland and was a director of the First National Bank of Snow Hill. Bishop also held an early interest in the Worcester Railroad. Bishop had this side-hall frame house constructed in 1872 with uniformly sheathed plain weatherboards. The frame house is that rare beast that has changed little as it remained in the Bishop family into the 21st century. The house features a distinctive arched porch of period sawnwork and decorated eaves that are a hallmark of this block of South Church Street.
Governor John Walter Smith House
104 South Church Street
Snow Hill native John Walter Smith engaged in the lumber business in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina before becoming president of the First National Bank of Snow Hill and director in many business and financial institutions. He began a political career at the age of 44 when he was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1889. He served as president of the Senate and was elected to the 56th Congress in 1898 from the 1st Congressional district of Maryland, but served for less than a year before being unexpectedly nominated for Governor of Maryland by the Democratic State Convention in 1899. Smith was victorious against incumbent governor Lloyd Lowndes, Jr. to become the 44th governor of Maryland. He capped his political career by winning two terms as the junior United States Senates from Maryland. Jackson C. Gott designed this rambling frame house, one of the most elaborate Queen Anne homes ever built on the Eastern Shore, in the early 1890s. The asymmetrical exterior is punctuated by three-story polygonal towers and is sheathed in narrow weatherboards and fish-scale shingles. Stretching around the full front and around to the sides is a single-story porch supported by paired Tuscan columns on shingle bases.
Clayton J. Purnell House
107 South Church Street
Across from the Governor Smith House, this is another creation of Jackson C. Gott. It displays similar elements such as its corner octagonal tower and hip roof dormers. This house was built in 1894 for Clayton J. Purnell, a long-time attorney and author of an influential treatise, The Law of Insolvency of Maryland, with Forms of Procedure. Prior to that, this was a vacant lot. The Victorian house has been divided into apartments that have harshly compromised its original exterior.
119 West Martin Street, southeast corner of South Church Street
George Covington called this Italianate villa “The Hedges” when he built it in 1878. At the time it sat on edge of Snow Hill so he oriented the house to face northwest. Another victim of subdivision into apartments, the house nonetheless retains its three-story entrance tower, bay windows and bracketing everywhere. The youngest of five sons in a Berlin family, George earned a law degree from harvard University and served in the United States Congress for two terms in the 1880s. Afterwards he returned to Snow Hill to resume his law practice and help spearhead the construction of the Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Mt. Zion One Room School House
southeast corner of Ironshire Street and South Church Street
The Mt. Zion One Room School House, now located on Ironshire Street was built in 1869 near Whiton and used as a school until 1931. It stood empty until Dr. Paul Cooper, Superintendent of Schools, had the building moved to Snow Hill. It was opened to the public in 1964 and has since demonstrated to students and visitors how their forebears were taught in the days of one room schools.
TURN RIGHT ON IRONSHIRE STREET.
James Martin House
207 Ironshire Street
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the James Martin House, built circa 1790, is the only remaining representative of a gambrel-roof timber frame dwelling on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. Two other buildings of similar form, Pemberton Hall and Bryan’s Manor are brick buildings. The interior retains much of its original raised-panel woodwork. Extending from the southwest side of the house are service wings that have been reworked in the 20th century.
TURN RIGHT ON MUMFORD STREET. TURN RIGHT ON MARTIN STREET AND QUICKLY TURN LEFT DOWN DIVISION STREET TO FEDERAL STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
208 West Federal Street
This three-part dwelling, including a hyphen that joins the former kitchen to the main house, was situated on a knoll tat was the highest spot in town. Wrought iron nails found in the framing and exterior weatherboard of the hyphen roof have caused it to be called the oldest structure still standing in Worcester County. The east gable facing Church Street was the original facade. It features a central door with fanlight and pediment above pilasters, flanked by windows.
TURN AND WALK EAST ON FEDERAL STREET.
George C. Townsend House
205 West Federal Street
Buried in this double-gabled house is a structure dating from the second quarter of the 19th century that was significantly rebuilt after the Civil War. The distinctive chamfered post porch with scrolled corner brackets, the off-center entrance, and the nine-over-six sash windows all reflect a Victorian-age construction but interior finishes and the stair suggest an 1840s Late Federal style pedigree.
William Sydney Wilson House
207 Federal Street
This Italianate-style dwelling was built in 1881 for William Sydney Wilson, son of United States Senator Ephraim King Wilson. In 2005 the building, which had been converted into apartments, suffered extensive fire damage. Ephraim King Wilsonwas born near Snow Hill on September 15, 1771. He graduated from Princeton College in 1790, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1792. He opened a practice in Snow Hill and was elected to the Twentieth Congress and reelected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-first Congress. He resumed his law practice in Snow Hill until his death on January 2, 1834. William’s brother Ephraim King Wilson II was also a Congressman and a Senator from Maryland. He lived on the next block at 304 West Federal Street.
209 Federal Street
Built by the family of Robert Morris, the financier of the revolutionary war, Chanceford Hall is a two-story, temple-front stuccoed brick house was erected in the early 1790s. Now an inn, the interior survives with much of its Federal and Georgian-style details - elaborate crown moldings, chair rails, fireplace mantels, paneled doors with original hardware and wide plank wood flooring. The stepped or “telescope” formed service wing to the rear is common to the lower Eastern Shore.
Captain Richard Howard House
211 West Federal Street
This Victorian house was built around 1895 by Captain Richard Howard who was the skipper on the last two steamboats to ply the waters of the Pocomoke River. Both burned and he lost tow of his children in one of the devastating fires. The Queen Anne house is entered through an entrance tower in the northeast corner, which retains its original patterned slate covering. Fish-scale shingles, turned-post front porch supports and decorated eaves are trademarks of the Queen Anne style. The house stayed in the Howard family until 1961.
William H. Farrow House
300 West Federal Street
This five-bay house with two-story portion connected to a two-bay long lower wing appeared on the Snow Hill streetscape in the first decades of the 1800s. The large two-story that dominates the facade came along around 1850. It features a lattice-work balustrade on the second floor.
George S. Payne House
301 West Federal Street
The Payne House was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1881 with a steeply pitched, patterned slate roofs and gables trimmed with pierced sawnwork. Fish-scale shingles fill the front cross gable as well as each gable end. An early 20th-century Tuscan-columned front porch and a Colonial Revival conservatory replaced the original Victorian architecture.
Alfred Pinchin House
302 West Federal Street
This New Bedford-style house with belvedere was sold by Esther Gordon Pinchin to the Presbyterian Church in 1895 and served as the manse until 1950. The 1882 house has five fireplaces and probably boasted seven at one time
305 West Federal House
This massive Victorian tour-de-force sports a distinctive chamfered-post porch with scrolled corner brackets features a patterned slate roof, elaborate frieze boards and over-scaled eave returns, along with Gothic-style windows in the gable ends.
TURN AND WALK BACK TO MORRIS STREET. TURN LEFT.
Judge Walter Price House
103 North Morris Street
The two-story double-columned porch was added to this eclectic 1904 house at a later date.
CROSS MARKET STREET.
302 West Market Street
The Benson-Morris house is one of the oldest dwellings still standing on Market Street, estimated to have been built around 1830. The two-story, four-bay house spans the late Federal and Greek Revival eras with its interior woodwork. Outside the house features bull’s-eye glass over the front door and a central chimney with three flues.
210 West Market Street
Once the home of John L. Riley, a town doctor, this large Queen Anne house has survived in relatively unaltered condition. Typical features include multiple textures and trim and the signature wrap-around porch.
Julia A. Purnell Museum
208 West Market Street
This modest Gothic-style frame cottage was the St. Agnes Catholic Church in the late 1800s. It survives as the Julia A. Purnell Museum Born in Snow Hill as Julia Anne Lecompte, Purnell married a storekeeper and had two sons. At 85 years of age she took a fall and became confined to a wheelchair. It was during her confinement that she began creating needlework pictures of Snow Hill and Worcester County historical buildings. She became well-known both locally and nationally for her fine craftsmanship in needlework. In 1942 Julia and her son, William founded the Julia A. Purnell Museum in Snow Hill, which housed many of Julia’s needlework pieces, the tools she used and bits of memorabilia she had collected throughout her life. She died in 1943 two months after her 100th birthday. Her son William continued her legacy by advancing the museum, which thrives today as the Julia A. Purnell Museum. It is located on Market Street in Snow Hill and houses artifacts that interpret the history of the town from early civilization to the present day.
Purnell Shockley House
112 North Church Street, southwest corner of West Market Street
This corner was originally the town Market Square. By the arrival of 1900 the business section had migrated east and a small home was built on the site. Around 1905 the current dwelling was built by Mary and Thomas Purnell.
Samuel Gunn House
200 West Market Street
This 18th-century Georgian-style house is one of the oldest town house dwellings in Worcester County, dating to the 1780s. It boasts late Georgian detailing and classic symmetry. Attached to the west gable end of the house is a two-story kitchen wing, which was probably added in the 1920s.
All Hallows Episcopal Church
southeast corner of Church Street and Market Street
During the reign of William and Mary, Snow Hill Parish was established by an act of the Colonial Assembly. Early church records were destroyed in a Court House fire in 1834 but it is known, however, that the first church building stood near the bank of the Pocomoke River in 1734 according to the original plat of Snow Hill. In 1748, an Act of the Colonial Assembly was passed for a levy of 80,000 pounds of tobacco for the building of “a parish church of brick to be erected at the east corner of Market and Church Streets, opposite the town market lot.” Eight years later an additional levy of 45,000 pounds was necessary to complete the structure. The church is one of the oldest and most elaborate of the mid-18th century structures remaining on the lower Eastern Shore. Some of the bricks used to construct the church came over as ballast from England. However, most of the bricks, laid in a Flemish bond with checkerboard glazed brick patterns and rubbed brick arches, were locally made. The ivy covering the outside came from Kenilworth Castle in England. There have been alterations to the original structure. Box pews and side galleries were removed in 1872 and the original brick floors were covered. The present altar, reredos, ceiling, and slate roof were built in 1891. Stained glass windows replaced the original clear panes in 1899.
118 West Market Street
There was a George Truitt who sailed to Maryland as early as 1635. The Eastern Shore was subsequently peppered with George Truitts. Captain George W. Truitt probably built the core of this house around 1790. The eastern three bays, including the entrance and Palladian-style second floor window, were erected around 1805.
McKimmey Porter House
116 West Market Street
Built in 1805, this is of the few buildings near the commercial district to survive the 1834 and 1893 fires. The cornice is unusual with shaped modillions, almost approaching the size of brackets. The house is highlighted by a fine Federal doorway with pediment, fanlight and semi-engaged columns; it is, however, partially hidden by the Victorian front porch which showed up during the late 1800s.
Adial P. Barnes House
107 West Market Street
This house is an interesting blend of the Queen Anne style that was passing out of fashion when thishouse was built in 1899-1900 and the Colonial Revival style that was becoming widely popular. The broad pyramidal roof and fish-scale shingles recall the Queen Anne style and the symmetrical proportions and Tuscan-columned porch point to the Colonial Revival influence.
Charles W. Corddry House
114 West Market Street
This well-executed 1924 Colonial Revival house displays excellent symmetry beneath a hipped roof with kicked eaves and exposed rafter feet, a nod to the popular bungalow style of the 1920s. The serpentine curve of the front porch roof is a distinctive feature of the house that was built for Charles Corddry, son of the founder of the Corddry Lumber Company. Standing behind the house is a contemporary early 20th century garage that is detailed in the same manner as the house. The house has remained essentially unchanged since its construction.
Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church
103 West Market Street
The original church was built in 1683 when Francis Makemie established the first Presbyterian congregation in the Americas. In 1888, Philadelphia architect Isaac Pursell was hired to replace a church that had been erected in 1795. He crafted a building in the High Gothic style that contrasted sharply with the existing buildings that populated Snow Hill. The Market Street facade is dominated by two entrances and bell towers sheathed with slate and metal ribs. No other church in Worcester County exhibits such as ambitious expression of Gothic Revival architecture.
First National Bank of Snow Hill
110 West Market Street
The First National Bank of Snow Hill is the longest operating financial institution in Worcester County, having opened its doors on September 12, 1887 with $50,000 in capital assets and fronted by first president John Walter Smith, who would soon be governor of Maryland. This Romanesque Revival brick structure is characterized by round-arched windows that are accented by red sandstone lintels and sills. The round corner entrance tower is topped by a conical slate roof. Six years later much of the business district was destroyed by fire but the bank, although severely damaged, was repaired with in six months. When it came time to expand and add a drive-in window, care was taken to follow the original scale and design motifs that characterized the 1880s bank.
TURN LEFT ON BANK STREET.
103 Bank Street, southwest corner of Green Street
Finished in 1908, this building once housed both the fire department and the Snow Hill town offices. The first floor featured a wide entrance for the fire equipment to get in and out easily but when the fire company relocated around the corner on Green Street, the ground floor was refitted for the more classically appointed doorway seen today. Otherwise the building’s exterior has remained unchanged, including the metal cornice that wraps around three sides of the brick building, supported by a poured concrete foundation.
American Legion Post 67
116 Green Street, northeast corner of Bank Street
The American Legion hall, a general merchandise store in its first incarnation, stands at the west end of an almost complete row of period brick commercial buildings that were erected shortly after the 1893 Snow Hill fire. Most of the buildings share intact Victorian storefront cornices as well as corbelled brick decoration that enriches the front parapet walls.
CONTINUE ON BANK STREET TWO BLOCKS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT STURGIS PARK ON THE POCOMOKE RIVER.