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This is a past tour--for information only

Charles County

Saturday, April 29, 2023 – 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.


Established in 1658 and named for the third Baron Baltimore ‘Charles Calvert,’ Charles County has a rich and long history. In Maryland, Baltimore sought to create a haven for English Catholics and to demonstrate that Catholics and Protestants could live together peacefully. Some of the oldest religious parishes in the United States dot the county countryside. The county seat of La Plata was founded in 1888 after the previous County Courthouse in Port Tobacco burned down. At the same time, a new railroad line made La Plata attractive to merchants and businesses. Christ Church was also located in Port Tobacco and in 1904, the church building was disassembled and moved several miles by oxen and wagon to be reassembled in its current location in La Plata, next to the Charles County Courthouse. A massive F5 tornado hit the area in 2002, but the renovation and revitalization efforts brought the community together and added a mix of new elements to this small residential town. Small businesses, relative proximity to Washington, DC, and scenic surroundings make La Plata a quiet, but not remote, community. The county still retains much of its rural character and the historic homes which you will visit on the tour will step all the way back in time to 1717.



Mary Pat Berry and Mary Lilly

Committee Chairs: Ads: Emily Hendricks and Linda Fitzgerald. Flowers: Lucille Attick and Jane Hobbs. Information: Betsy Parbuoni. Treasurer: Debbie Mitchell. Road Marking: Abi Clements and Ken Wisor. Hostesses: Ann Rees. Photographer: Shelby McKimmie. Publicity: Kate Zabriskie. Script: Mary Pat Berry. Facilitator: Bonnie Rafer. Special Project: Mary Pat Berry.


Special Project: The Brick Chapel at St. Mary Catholic Church Newport, 11555 St. Mary’s Church Road, Charlotte Hall 20622. This chapel, on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, is the oldest, non-renovated, pre-Civil War building in Maryland. Saint Mary Church was established in Newport by English Franciscan Father Basil Hobart. Saint Mary Church is the only Franciscan-founded parish in Southern Maryland and the first chapel was constructed in 1697. Native Marylander Father Henry Pile, S. J. served as pastor of Saint Mary Newport from 1784 until 1813. His family owned Sarum, another Tour site. In 1840, Father Aloysius Mudd, pastor, began construction of a permanent brick church. A rectangular 36'x52,' common-bond brick structure, this building was replaced in 1906 when a new church was constructed on an adjacent site. Used for many years as a parish hall, it is now vacant. Despite many years of neglect, the building’s masonry walls, roof and interior framing, and surviving original interior and exterior finishes are in good condition. This building is finely decorated with still visible hand painted murals, which are remarkable for such a remote location. It retains its vaulted ceiling and the pillars once used to support a balcony lay on the floor. The structure is currently being stabilized, and plans are being formulated for its complete restoration. It will be available to view on the Tour at Site #6

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#1. Christ Church

La Plata, 112 Charles Street, La Plata 20646.

Christ Church La Plata, Port Tobacco Parish, was one of the original Anglican Parishes in Maryland (1692). Services were held in Port Tobacco (1693-1904), then the church was moved “stone by stone” on oxcart to La Plata. Highlights include the architecture, large marble altar, stained glass, needlepoint and pipe organ. Lanterns at the entryway were created by a holocaust survivor to provide “light to the world.” The La Plata Historic Preservation Commission designated Christ Church as a Historic Landmark in 2022. Steeped in history, this Episcopal church celebrates its joy in diversity with a vibrant mix of traditional and contemporary worship. Christ Church welcomes you and invites you to visit Facebook or to see how this ancient church serves the community today. Rector: The Reverend Dr. Kate Heichler. The Town of La Plata will be holding “Celebrate La Plata Day” from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town Hall. A map for our Patrons will be added to the tour (handout at Information Center and online). Other attractions patrons might like to see, i.e., Star Garden, Train Museum, and the Farmers Market (lunch), will be highlighted with a listing of merchants and businesses offering Patrons Tour Specials on the back. La Plata retains elements from many important eras in Charles County history, including the plantation period of development, the advent of railroads, the reorganization of government, and increased prosperity brought about by the completion of U.S. 301 across the Potomac.

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#2. The Carrico Building

The lobby facing Charles Street will be open for Tour Patrons only. Built circa 1915 by P. Reed Wills and referred to in a survey of 1919 as the “New Wills Hotel,” the Carrico Building, renamed for its present owners, is the most physically prominent and least altered of the few early commercial structures remaining in La Plata. A large frame building, three stories high, beneath a hipped roof, it has a two story, three-sided bay window centered on the front, above a one-story veranda with block and turned posts and decorative brackets. Two-story rear wings, one of which housed the kitchen and service rooms during its use as a hotel, give the building a “U”-shaped plan. The building sustained a near direct hit from the tornado of 2002 and the owners decided to rehabilitate and modernize the building. Offices now occupy the first floor with apartments on the second and third floors. 

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#3. Preference

Dr. Francis Wills built this large fourteen-room clapboard and brick nogging house in 1824 on land that originally bordered the main road from Allen’s Fresh to Port Tobacco. He named it Preference in deference to his wife who selected the house site. Dr. Wills died in the 1870s and the property passed to several generations of heirs. The present owners bought the house and fifty acres of property in 1971. Featured on the front side of the house is an “inset portico.”  There is a second story balcony directly above which leads to the master bedroom. There are two wings with massive outside chimneys. Upon entering, the high ceilinged front hall is dominated by a three-story cherry wood staircase. There are ten fireplaces, seven bedrooms, and a formal and informal living room.  The room used today as a den has been paneled with weathered barn boards. Noteworthy are the original pine floors.

#4. Sarum

Sarum, constructed in 1717, is the earliest documented house in Charles County and one of the finest small colonial dwellings. The first owner of the property was John Pile. After his death, his son Joseph expanded the holdings and his son Joseph Jr. constructed the oldest part of the present day house on the hill overlooking the Wicomico River. Though Sarum has undergone many changes over the centuries, there’s a sense of timelessness that much remains the same. Originating as a frame one-and-a-half story hall-parlor plan (one room deep and two rooms wide) with a steeply pitched gable roof housing two or more attic chambers, additions on the rear and both ends resulted in its present saltbox profile.  

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#5. St. Mary Catholic Church

11555 St Mary’s Church Road, Charlotte Hall 20622


Saint Mary Church, located off the rural roads in southern Charles County, was built in 1954 upon a historic tract of land, which was first colonized by the English in the 17th century. Most of the region’s Catholic families lived in the area at that time. Site of the 1840 Brick Chapel, our Special Project, Greek revival in style, the exterior features large twelve-over-twelve windows with marble sills and corbeled eaves. The interior is a large vaulted room and elaborate stenciling decorates the ceiling and walls, most of which survives intact. The site is further enhanced by the largest and most intact pre-Civil War Catholic cemetery, holding an unusually large amount of highly artistic quality monuments. Father Matthew Fish, current pastor, has a green thumb evidenced by the beautiful gardens and gazebo plantings around the 1954 church. A more peaceful setting can’t be found. 

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#6. The Lindens

Approached by a tree-lined drive, the house is fronted by two European linden trees believed to have been planted when the central section of the house was built and from which the property derives its name. The Lindens was built in 1840 for John Francis Gardiner. A two-story, three-bay frame house, its architecture is a regional adaptation of the side passage, double parlor Federal style popularly built in this locality throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. At one end stands an exterior double chimney with a two-story flush pent, an especially characteristic feature of the domestic architecture of the lower Southern Maryland counties. The rear of the house overlooks the farm and the Zekiah swamp.

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