Sunday, January 20, 2008

Town Square?

The town or village square at Port Tobacco continues to be an enigma. When was it created? Did it develop as its creators planned? What did it look like? Was it really an open square fronted by the courthouse and other buildings, but otherwise empty? Our preliminary findings at the end of last year suggested the story might be more complicated than the simple image of a New England-like village green might suggest.

Elsie found the following bit that speaks to the subject in material abstracted from the newspaper, the Maryland Gazette:

"Property of the late Thomas How Ridgate, in Charles-Town, Charles County, commonly called Port Tobacco, will be sold on August 16th. Lot 1 fronts south on the square [emphasis added], 70 feet from where the courthouse stands, and 500 feet on St George's Street, the principal entry to the town from the north. In the angle of said square and street stands a well-built framed house fronting south, 40' X 28', 2 stories high with 2 brick chimneys at the end and dry airy brick cellar, the size of the house, with 2 fireplaces. The first story is a large store... four rooms and a passage upstairs has piazzas and platforms on the north, south, and part of the west end. On the northeast of house is framed kitchen...washhouse etc. Behind is garden, 300 feet square. Lot 2 is a 1-acre lot fronting St. Andrew's Street, for 140 feet. Has house. Lot 3 is 3-acres fronting St. Andrew's Street with an unfinished house. (23 JUN 1796)"

Source: Sprouse, Edith Moore, Along the Potomac River: Extracts from the Maryland Gazette, 1728-1799. Willow Bend Books, Westminster MD 2001, p 115.

Elsie also reports that John and Roberta Wearmouth, prominent local historians, have just published a new book on the history of Port Tobacco. I look forward to getting a copy and reading it...they must have accumulated reams of material on the town over the past 40 years or more.


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