Westminster originally consisted of more than 100 acres known as White’s Level. William Winchester, a literate indentured servant from England, purchased the land in 1764 for 150 pounds sterling (or $4.50 an acre) after working off his period of indenture. At that time, the town became known as Winchester, but was changed in 1768 to avoid confusion with Winchester, Va. According to local lore, Westminster was picked in honor of the name of Winchester’s supposed birthplace in England. Winchester, laid out the 45 lots to become Westminster, stretching from Old Washington Road to present day Court Street. It is the second oldest town in Carroll County. Germans migrated into this area from Pennsylvania bringing with them an architectural tradition of sturdy brick or stone farm houses, which they adapted to the closer quarters of town living.
Originally the land divided Baltimore and Frederick counties. However, in 1837, Westminster became the focal point of the newly designated Carroll County and developed as a trading hub. At this time, leather-making was the town’s principal industry. There were also many craftspeople and merchants. The town’s location along the main route to Baltimore accounted for its first major growth, and the coming of the Western Maryland Railroad (1861) turned Westminster into a virtual boom town during the last half of the 19th century.
The area nearest the railroad tracks reflects this surge of activity. Hotels like the Albion and the Charles Carroll emerged. Businesses sprung up and the telephone company and fire department moved into this section of town. Along Willis Street, the homes built on the “mansion sites” created from the estate of John K. Longwell can be viewed. Longwell, the son of Irish immigrants, was invited to come to Westminster to establish a newspaper in the interest of the new county. He became the most influential of Westminster’s citizens in business and politics.
Our walking tour will start near the center of town, split by Main Street and Liberty Street. A small metered parking lot, free on weekends, is available there...
WALK WEST (LEFT) A HALF-BLOCK ON LIBERTY STREET, THE STREET BEHIND THE PARKING LOT.
B.F. Shriver Company
14 Liberty Street
Typical of early industrial building in this region, this attractive seven-bay fieldstone structure dating to 1885 was Westminster’s first canning factory. Operations continued on the Liberty Street site until early 20th century when it was bought by Koontz Dairy and then by Farmers Supply Company.
WALK EAST TO THE CORNER OF MAIN STREET AND LIBERTY/RAILROAD STREET.
12 West Main Street
A symbol of the rise of the merchant class, the Babylon Building, erected in 1896, is most noticeable for its two arches which surround three-sided bay windows. Notice how a continuous line is formed across the second floor by the addition of the central window topped with a pediment. This building and the Wantz building were considered the most impressive of Westminster’s Victorian style commercial buildings in the late 19th century.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK EAST ON EAST MAIN STREET.
1-3 East Main Street
The Albion Hotel had a favorable location at this busy intersection opposite the railroad depot which was razed in 1961. The fanciful Queen Anne-style building from 1886 was designed by Jackson C. Gott, a Baltimore architect. Its distinctive Queen Anne touches include conical roofed tower, tall chimneys, recessed porch with arched lattice work, projecting balcony, arched window treatment and small square panes on the upper sash.
John Christmas House & Residence
5-7 East Main Street
Most homes and businesses built along Main Street were either three or five bays in width. An exception was this four-bay structure that served as both residence and business to the Christmas family beginning in 1870.
9-17 East Main Street
These three buildings date from the 1880s. The storefronts now serve as the entrance to the Winchester Exchange.
21-29 East Main Street
Charles Wantz, a cigar merchant and civic leader, built a two story brick building on these premises in 1882. The second floor at one time housed the telephone company in which Mary Shellman, the town’s first telephone operator, met Alexander Graham Bell. The third floor was built especially for a Masonic meeting room. Seven years later (1889), an additional three-story building was added west of the original which created the four sectional facade of today. Only the uneven number of windows betrays the fact that the building was built in two stages. Note the pressed brick above the second floor windows and the five ornamental bulb-finials along the rooftop which add to the architectural effectiveness of the Wantz Building.
Old Post Office
39-41 East Main Street
Built by Joseph B. Boyle in 1885, this three story, four bay building once housed the city’s Post Office. Boyle was Postmaster in Westminster from 1885-1897.
47-49 East Main Street
This 1880 commercial building is a striking departure from the vernacular style of its Main Street neighbors. The facade of the two-and-one-half story “White Palace” is the repository for a variety of brick work. Samples of Greek and Roman cross forms, Romanesque arches, dentils, corbeling and pilasters adorn the second story.
55 East Main Street
This flat-roofed commercial building was originally built as a private residence for the Ira C. Crouse family in 1870. After morphing into a drug store “Doc” Goodman, pharmacist and one-time owner, received nationwide publicity for his refusal to raise the price of five cent coke.
54-56 East Main Street
Now restored, the Gilbert House looks much as it did when it was built in 1875. It has had a variety of owners, one of which was the Taylor Motor Company. This business may have built the garage located behind and to one side of the house. Note the missing bricks in the gable of the garage. This provides an outlet for the hot air that accumulates in the loft. It is reminiscent of ornamental brick end barns built in this vicinity by Pennsylvania Germans.
Westminster Fire Company
66 East Main Street
Following the city’s growth pattern, the Westminster Fire Department moved west for the third time to this site. Baltimore architect Jackson Gott designed this towering structure of 92 feet in yellow brick and Baltimore County marble. A Seth Thomas clock, donated by Margaret Cassell Baile, a Westminster resident, decorates the tower. Marble plaques which date structural additions are visible along the front of the building.
Mrs. Frank Myers House
82-82 1/2 East Main Street
The Myers House was altered in the late 19th century to the Second Empire style to create a contemporary look. Its tower and porch arrangement give it an asymmetrical appearance. Key hole- shaped dormers provide light for the third floor which was created when the steep Mansard slate roof tile was added. The heavy cornice and arched window also added to the new look.
northeast corner of Longwell Avenue and East Main Street
The first complete county rural free delivery service in the United States was inaugurated by the Post Office Department on December 20, 1899 covering the whole of Carroll County and small parts of adjacent counties with Westminster as the central distributing point. The current post office operates out of this neoclassical brick building.
101 East Main Street
This three-story 1875 Victorian townhouse is unrivaled in its elegant dimensions and in exquisite handling of the doorway and other woodwork. Note the elaborate fan light, the door and window moldings, heavy scroll brackets and French doors opening out to the cast iron balcony.
100 East Main Street
Another townhouse, simpler in tone to its large look-alike across the street, this three-story common bond was built five years earlier (1870) by the Bennett Family. Note the interesting pattern brickwork on the sides of the house near the roofline, window lintels, roofline brackets, and cast iron balcony. The door molding, transom and sidelights are also handsome features of this home.
117 East Main Street
One year after the Westminster opened its doors in 1898 a newspaper article opined, “The Westminster is one of the best furnished and equipped buildings in the State, and contains over forty large sleeping apartments and private parlors, and its enterprising owner, Mr. George W. Albaugh, deserves the thanks of the traveling public for giving them a hotel equal to the best.” Its eight bay, 3-1/2 story yellow brick facade is accented by a massive stone pilastered doorway. Note the broken entrance. It was a one-time doorway to the Westminster Deposit and Trust Company which was located on the ground floor of the hotel. In 1975, it was restored as headquarters for Union National Bank.
Ann Elizabeth Babylon House
123 East Main Street
One of two brownstones in the city, the Babylon House achieves a feeling of massiveness with its use of large stones, embedded arched windows, double doors, and broad sandstone steps.
Beaver House & Shop
126 East Main Street
This modest two-bay structure is typical of lodging for skilled workers from the 1840s. Three generations of Beavers turned out tombstones and mantelpieces from the marble yard west of the house. Knowing that the owners were master masons helps to explain the seeming extravagance of four marble steps in front of such a small house.
Methodist Protestant Church
129 East Main Street
In 1869, the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Gothic structure with a beautiful spire, was built. The building, with its furnishings cost nearly $16,000. In 1924 the steeple was condemned as unsafe and removed. The marble front was added when the house of prayer was converted into a public library.
Philip Jones House & Store
132-134 East Main Street
Among the oldest buildings in the City, the eastern portion of this structure was originally living quarters for the Jones family in 1817, while the far western section was built to house the Jones’ store. The business dealt primarily in the sale of iron and, incongruously, bacon. Later 132 ｽ was added in an expansion phase for their rapidly growing family. Philip Jones, son to one of the three men who laid out Baltimore Town in 1730, came from Baltimore to Westminster in 1815 to escape the insecurities of a city recently in the throes of the War of 1812. He became one of Westminster’s first merchants. During the 1870s and 80s, the building became an office for one of the local newspapers, The American Sentinel.
140 East Main Street
The site of the Jacob Mathias tanyard, shop, and residence in 1820, the lot was later sold to the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)for $375. As the town grew in importance, so did the ideas of its citizenry. The IOOF built an Opera House to grace the County Seat. Its three stories and imposing three sectional facade of Flemish bond brick dominated the street scene of the 1850s. According to legend an impersonator who chose to belittle Lincoln and Grant in his performance was found dead the next morning, a victim of a Northern sympathizer.
Mary Mathias House
142 East Main Street
The tower and decorative door make this 1870 gable-roofed, weatherboard house stand out from many of the traditional three bay structures built in Westminster.
William Frazier House & Shop
153 East Main Street
Practically hidden between its neighbors, this small two bay home is an example of the combined residence and craft shop popular during the 1820s. In this case William Frazier was a silversmith.
156-156 1/2 East Main Street
At first glance this gabled house takes on the appearance of a single dwelling. A closer look shows it to be a double house. Placement of its chimneys, windows, doors, and steps give it a very symmetrical look. From 1811, when Jacob Mathias bought two vacant lots, to 1920, when the Rhoten family became the new owners, three other prominent Westminster families had called this home (Shriver, Herring, Orendorff).
166 East Main Street
Bought in 1794 by Jacob Oates (de-anglicized to Utz, perhaps at the insistence of his German neighbors), a saddler, for ｣105, it was occupied by the same family for 100 years. Typical of the early Pennsylvania German farmhouse, this five-bay, two story, L-shaped home served as a model for other houses built in town at the turn of the 19th century.
Daniel Shipley House
172 East Main Street
The Shipley house shows the gabled roof, corner turret and highly ornamented veranda of Queen Anne architecture and single color shingles echo the Shingle style.
206 East Main Street
This house, built in 1807, is one of the oldest homes still standing in Westminster. Jacob Sherman, a German who had migrated here from Pennsylvania purchased the property from the town founder, William Winchester. He shared his new home with his daughter, Eve, and son-in-law, David Shriver, surveyor and superintendent of the Reisterstown turnpike and later, of the National Pike to Cumberland. This two-story, Flemish-bond, five-bay residence has a gabled roof and two-tier rear side porch that housed the kitchen. In the 1860s the house was deeded to Katherine Jones Shellman, the widow of James M. Shellman, first burgess of Westminster and architect of the Courthouse. Today it is open to the public as an historic house museum.
210 East Main Street
Built in 1800, this house was originally a three-bay house, expanded to the five-bay version in 1811 by Dr. George Colgate, who created the space for an office adjoining his residence. Note the distinctive round-arched windows. They are a rarity in a town accustomed to flat topped windows. The house now serves as headquarters for the Historical Society of Carroll County, housing its administrative offices, research library and the Shriver-Weybright Exhibition Gallery. he gallery houses changing exhibits of various Carroll County historic artifacts.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO COURT STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
23 North Court Street
In 1841, Isaac Shriver sold this land to Solomon Zepp for $400. Zepp sold the same parcel two years later to Levi Bennett for $1,800 as it now contained this Flemish-bond brick home on the property. The house features a fine original Georgian eight-panel door and seven-pane light transom. The windows have six-over-six panes, white sills and lintels (above windows) and black shutters which create an impressive appearance. The roof, a tin one, is not original and the porch is a later addition. The use of Flemish-bond on the front of the house and common-bond on the north and south walls is easily seen on the Bennett-Parke House. The Bennett family lived here until 1871 when it was sold to Joseph M. Parke, a Carroll County judge, for $4,600- an extremely high price for the Westminster area. In 1956, neighboring Ascension Church bought it to use as its rectory.
23 North Court Street
Ascension Church was built in 1844 by Robert Carey Long, Jr., a Baltimore architect and one of the country’s leading practitioners of Gothic Revival architecture. Long was provided free passage to and from Westminster, and he charged but $50 to draw up the plans and specifications for the church and to oversee construction. The church was built in a modified Gothic design of grey stone quarried just outside of Westminster. Two years later, on Ascension Day, 1846, the Church of Ascension was consecrated and the graveyard behind the building was blessed to become a place of Christian burial.
behind Ascension Church
The burial ground behind the church dates to 1846 and among the interred (between the tree and stump to right near walkway) is Legh Master. From Lancashire, England, he bought “Furnace Hills” for the purpose of “unearthing hidden treasures” and set his slaves to the task of mining iron ore. The master of the plantation, Avondale, blackened his name with his foul temper and ardent nature. Legend has it that Master, enamored with his black servant girl, was infuriated with the intrusion of Sam, her sweetheart, and had him thrown into the iron furnace. He then proceeded to brick the girl up in an oven, alive. When the kitchen in the house was torn apart due to a fire in the 1930s, it was found to contain the skeleton of a human being, lending credence to the legend. Less macabre, Master is credited with unintentionally importing the English daisy to Maryland - he thought he had imported clover seeds. Stories are told of Legh Master’s ghost who sits astride a grey horse that spouts fire from its nostrils. The ghost cries for God’s mercy in pitiful tones. Sometimes the apparition is accompanied by three glowing imps. Another odd account of Legh Master tells how his body would rise continually to the surface of his plantation burial plot, until a group of concerned citizens carried it to consecrated ground in Ascension graveyard where it rests in peace above ground today.
Gothic Revival Chapel
30 North Court Street
Built in 1876 to house the black congregation which attended Ascension Church, this Gothic Revival Chapel was used as a parish school and for evening services. Due to a reduction in Church membership, the congregation was back in the main church by 1894. Since then, it has been a rectory, private school and now a private residence. Note the Gothic Revival theme is continued - pitched roof, brackets on the roofline and doorway, and standing buttresses on the sides of the building. The last traces of the chapel can be seen on the chimneys on which there are two raised crosses. Missing are a small peaked gable which rose from the present lower roofline over four front windows, a raised cross which once stood where two upstairs windows are located, and a rooftop belfry.
34 North Court Street
When the L-shaped rectory of the Ascension Church was built in 1879, the Episcopal Church continued building in the Gothic mode - steeply pitched roof, ornamented gable arched windows, roof top finials and spikes - but it also combined the irregular features of the Italian Villa style - balconies, porches, bays and towers. The domestic use of the mansard-roofed tower embedded in the L of this house was quite an innovation for its day. Note the stained glass transom - and its repeat in the triangular pane in the upper left dormer window.
The cornerstone for the Courthouse was laid by Andrew Shriver on June 13, 1838. He was assisted by Colonel Joshua Gist, brother to General Mordecai Gist of Revolutionary War fame. James Shellman, the first burgess of Westminster, was the architect and Swope and Durbin, the two men responsible for building the jail, also laid the masonry for the new Courthouse. The Courthouse was constructed for $18,000 and originally consisted of the center portion of two stories, seven bays, and gabled roof. Soon after completion, an ornamental cupola, the steps, and a two- story Greek Revival portico were added. In 1882, the one-story wings were attached and in 1935 they were rebuilt and made larger by adding a half story.
CONTINUE WALKING TO THE RIGHT OF THE COURTHOUSE.
41-43 North Court Street
There is evidence to suggest a structure existed here in 1830, but the present house was built in 1875. It was considered a local showpiece in its day. Charles Roberts, the owner, a Uniontown native and lawyer, followed the lead of two other prominent Westminster families (Charles Reifsnider of 230 E. Main and Colonel W.W. Dallas of 154 E. Green Street) in breaking with the traditional Pennsylvania-German farmhouse style. He built his residence in Second Empire style, which had been made popular in France during the reign of Napoleon III. Note the unusual placement of the off-centered entrance door and mansard roof of original grey slate with the added feature of a corner pavilion (right side). The two-story section to the left, with steeply pitched gable roof was added later to function as a ballroom. The house has 22 rooms.
98 North Court Street
The masonry of this stone structure was the work of Ephraim Swope and Thomas Durbin. The jail was built for $4,000 in a style commonly seen in the countryside - the Pennsylvania-German farmhouse. However, its scale was much larger - two stories tall, five bays long by two bays or windows deep. The stones were quarried at the site of the Farm Museum a mile south of here. Notice the very large stones that were used.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO WILLIS STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
171 Willis Street
This was among the first “mansion sites” to be purchased from the Longwell estate and the L-shaped residence is the oldest of the Willis Street showplace houses. Its basic plan was taken from Villas & Cottages, a book of houses designed by English designer Calvert Vaux. Design #3, entitled “Suburban Cottage,” was chosen. Attractive brickwork near the roof line, heavy chimneys, stained glass windows, and a barn/carriage house stand out.
156-162 Willis Street
Continuing to fulfill the prestigious nature of Willis Street is this six-bay double house built in the Second Empire style by Joshua Hering, possibly as rental property in 1900. Note the key hole shaped dormers in the slate mansard roof and the nearly identical double entrance doors and porches which create a pleasing impression of elegance.
131 Willis Street
The two families (Shriver and Babylon) which shared ownership of this home were prominent in the business, social and political worlds of Westminster. This type of rambling structure, with its wide porch, was popular in the early 1900s. It is associated with the Shingle style school of architecture which was also in vogue at this time.
101 Willis Street
James Zepp bought one of the “mansion sites” in 1908 for $381. He built this eye-catching residence which bears a resemblance to the Longwell Mansion with its wrap-around Doric- columned porch. Its own distinguishing features are octagonal pavilions at each end of the porch and, of course, the most obvious departure from the usual - the rare placement of its gable end facing the street. Nine years later Zepp sold the property to J. Edgar Myers for $6200.
AT THE END OF WILLIS STREET, CROSS OVER LONGWELL AVENUE TO CITY HALL.
Longwell Mansion/City Hall
Described in the 1882 History of Western Maryland by Thomas Scharf as “one of the most elegant private residences in the country,” the Longwell Mansion retains much of that same elegance as Westminster’s City Hall (since 1939). John K. Longwell was owner and editor of the Carrolltonian, bank director, two-term commissioner and a state senator. His mansion boasts marble mantels attributed to William Rinehart, a Union Bridge sculptor who achieved international acclaim. The public is invited to tour City Hall during business hours.
WALK DOWN LONGWELL AVENUE TOWARDS MAIN STREET.
11 Longwell Avenue
The castle-like Armory handled recruits for World War I and was later used by the National Guard before becoming City offices.
CONTINUE TO MAIN STREET AND TURN RIGHT TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT ONE BLOCK AWAY.