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The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage 
continues to draw from Maryland’s
 rich history that sets the scene for our annual spring tours. 
We hope you enjoy the following stories which share a glimpse into the past.
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Queen Anne's County

Queen Anne’s County is located on the eastern shore of Maryland.  It is named for Queen Anne (1665-1714) of Great Britain and originally formed from Dorchester, Kent and Talbot Counties (all a part of the eastern shore) and established in 1706. The courthouse was completed in 1741 in Queenstown and is the oldest in continuous use in the state of Maryland.

Kent Island is part of Queen Anne’s County and Maryland’s Eastern Shore region. The first English establishment on the island, Kent Fort, was founded in 1631 making Kent Island the oldest English settlement within the present day state of Maryland and the third oldest permanent English settlement in the United States - after Jamestown, Virginia (1607) and Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620.)  In 1695, Kent Island became a part of Talbot County and finally in 1706 Kent Island became part of the newly formed Queen Anne’s County.  The first and only town in the colonial period on Kent Island was at Broad Creek which was in existence by the mid-1600s.

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Queen Anne’s county seat is Centreville.  It is a lovely preserved town with some of the earliest surviving homes dating back to 1794.  This gateway county to Maryland’s eastern shore from the western shores of the state by way of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is charming to visit and certainly expresses Maryland’s colonial beginnings on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Frederick County, Middletown


Welcome to the Valley!  Located in western Frederick County, the Town of Middletown has a storied history that started in the mid-18th century. It is situated in the heart of the beautiful Middletown Valley that stretches from the Catoctin Mountains to the east, South Mountain on the west, with the Pennsylvania border to the north, and the Potomac River and Virginia to the south. A young Lieutenant George Washington was surveying the land with General George Braddock and proclaimed the Valley was one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen.

Middletown’s history spans from Colonial settlements to the new millennium and high-tech biological engineering. 18th century German settlers landed in Philadelphia and traveled by wagon across the state, turning southward on Native American trails that roughly ran between  today’s US Route 15 and I-81. The settlement of the Middletown Valley reflects that early American dream – the desire to worship freely, farm, and be self-sustaining. Middletown continued to develop from a settlement of farmers and ranchers, traders and crafters, businessmen and clergymen – without losing her agricultural roots.

On March 20, 1771, the parcel of land where the Zion Church stands today was conveyed to a group of Lutherans for their church. The first church was a log building erected in the Revolutionary War period. Around 1812, the log building was replaced by a fine brick building and was named “Evangelical Lutheran Church Zion”, the name it carries today.

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Middletown is the birthplace of two Revolutionary War heroes: Sergeant Lawrence Everhart, who saved the life of Col. William Washington at the Battle of Cowpens, and General Joseph Van Swearingen, who served under his father during the war.


The Revolutionary and Civil Wars passed through Middletown along the Old National Pike, turning homes and churches into headquarters and hospitals.  During the Civil War, Middletown witnessed the troops of both armies under the direction of Generals Lee and McClellan passing through the town on their way to South Mountain and Antietam. In the aftermath of those battles, Middletown opened its churches and homes to care for the wounded, among whom was Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, later President of the United States.


In 1806, Congress created legislation for the first federally funded road from Cumberland to Vandalia, Ohio which continued the work of early roadways from Baltimore to Cumberland. The National Road provided a gateway to the west for thousands of settlers and travelers.


By 1840, the federal government relinquished ownership of the roadway to the state governments. The road was transformed into a “Pike” by establishing tolls for its use.


In 2002, Congress designated and renamed much of the original road spanning Baltimore to St. Louis as the “The Historic National Road All American Byway” identified by the Black - Eyed Susan logo, and underlined with an “Historic National Road” sign. Many of the mile markers can still be found along the north side of the roadway. 

The Maryland Pilgrimage House and Garden Tour welcomes your visit to historic Middletown where Andrew Jackson once described its valley as “one of the most favored and delightful spots on the earth.” 

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Federal Hill, Baltimore

A visit to Baltimore, “Charm City,” by boat from the Chesapeake Bay brings you past the “Star Spangled Banner” Fort McHenry and into the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River to lead you to the Inner Harbor created by the vision of the developer, James Rouse and then Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the 1970s.  Leeward side you will see what Captain John Smith discovered, now called Federal Hill.  Here is where a parade of exuberant citizens culminated their celebration of Maryland’s ratification of the federal Constitution. That occasion marked the naming of this 10.3 acre park in Maryland’s most populated city

Federal Hill Park which anchors this National Historic registered neighborhood boasts one of the best panoramic views of Baltimore.  That is why an observatory on the hilltop was built in the 19th century to view the sailing vessels bringing goods from national and international ports into our harbor. When the Civil War broke out, President Lincoln sent Union soldiers to secure Baltimore whose sentiments were divided between the North and the South.  Our “Charm City” is a Southern City, just below the Mason-Dixon Line.

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The brick row homes that grace this neighborhood at the foot of Federal Hill received national attention when baby boomers flocked to renovate the area adjacent to the Inner Harbor.  Considered $1 homes, homesteaders won by raffle two and three story Federal and Greek Revival dwellings to renovate homes that were previously owned by shipbuilders and tradesmen in the maritime industries.  Visit the charming streets of Montgomery, Warren, Williams, Battery and Churchill, their colorful doors will lead you to warm interiors filled with wood planked floors, exposed brick walls and charming courtyard gardens while you salute the work of our forefathers whose industry makes our city shine today.


Carroll County

Carroll County, established in 1837, was carved from the west side of Baltimore County and the east side of Frederick County.  Named after Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, it is a great place to visit in the Spring during the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage annual tours held in different counties each year.

German immigrants from Pennsylvania and English settlers from Tidewater Maryland were attracted to the rich farmland of Carroll County after the Revolutionary War.  Taneytown and Uniontown are two historic towns to visit during the Maryland House and Garden sponsored Pilgrimage that highlights the work of local non-profits and garden clubs to restore and maintain our rich state history.


Log houses like the Vincent House or post and beam event venues like The Tannery Barn allow the visitor birds’ eye views of life in 18th and 19th century early America.  Churches like St. Joseph or Uniontown United Methodist Church record the beginnings of worship our forefathers handed down to us today.


Francis Scott Key, the writer of our national anthem was born on the Terra Rubra farm in Carroll County.  Its owners today raise American British White Park cattle and Berkshire hogs on the farm. Ideally located, Carroll is equidistant from our nation’s Capitol and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the battle of 1812 raged as Key penned “Oh Say Can You See…”  Revisit our website for more information about the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage tours.  You don’t want to miss the opportunity of learning more about Maryland, “America in Miniature.”


Newtowne Manor House

St. Mary's County

St. Mary’s County, the first area discovered by Englishmen and women on Maryland Day, March 25, 1634 is a place to visit during the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage (MHGP) tours. This is where the new colony that would become Maryland was established.  Leonard Calvert and 140 fellow pilgrims brought to our State the belief in religious freedom. A large cross erected on St. Clements Island in the Potomac River marks the site of the original landing and first celebration of mass by these Roman Catholic colonists. Afterwards they relocated to St. Mary's City, the first seat of Maryland's colonial government prior to moving the capital to Annapolis in 1694/5.

Newtowne Manor House is a perennial favorite on the MHGP tour. Its’ fascinating evolution from a 1720 structure to house the fledgling Jesuit community to a Georgian two and a half story unoccupied brick building illustrates the history of the rights to practice religious freedom in the Free State of Maryland. MHGP works in conjunction with local garden clubs and non-profits to showcase architecturally significant properties and gardens in Maryland.  St. Mary’s Garden Club showcased Newtowne Manor House in the 2018 St. Mary’s County tour and proceeds from the tour helped the continued efforts to restore the Manor House. 


The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage is fortunate to have private home owners and non-profit organizations share their properties.  It is a unique opportunity to see homes built on the water’s edge, such as Dragonfly on Breton Bay, where tour attendees enjoyed its series of garden rooms.



Charles County


Mansion at Haberdeventure, Credit: National Park Service

Charles County has a long affiliation with the pilgrimage and their willingness to share their homes and gardens. Throughout the years, many have appreciated these tours. Proceeds help Charles County residents maintain historically-significant projects, recommended by the tour committees.


Charles County’s origins date back to 1608 when Captain John Smith explored the Potomac River region and discovered an Indian town named Potopaco, today known as Port Tobacco. Other explorers followed and by 1650 the area grew into a prosperous county due to the cash crop tobacco and accessible shipping waterways.


The county grew, and to date, approximately 90 of the original dwellings are still standing. These include private homes, museums, and other carefully preserved structures.


Charles County first became involved with the Pilgrimage in 1940. After a hiatus due to the war years, tours resumed in 1948. The Charles County Garden Club began their affiliation with the tours in 1961, and that partnership continues. Every third year, they traditionally share a spring tour with their neighboring counties, St. Marys and Calvert.

This is a country with a bountiful and engaging history. John Hanson, who was president of the Continental Congress, resided at Mulberry Grove, which is a private home today.


Thomas Stone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, also made his home at Habre de Venture, in Charles County. The surrounding property is now a national park. The MHGP continues to enjoy this special relationship with a county so rich in its beauty and history.

Historic Annapolis

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Credit: Hammond-Harwood House Museum

Maryland’s capital, Annapolis, played a significant role in the early years of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.

In 1937, senator Millard E. Tydings recognized the pilgrimage with the following sentiment, “The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage has undertaken a very worthy cause of aiding the restoration and preservation of the capital of Maryland -- the city of Annapolis.”

For three years, the pilgrimage was able to support projects throughout the city. However, the Hammond Harwood House was then chosen as the sole beneficiary and remained so until it became a more self–supporting museum.  At that time, other worthy restoration projects throughout the state were able to benefit from the Pilgrimage proceeds.

From 1941-1945 (the war years) there were no garden tours. While the previous four years required a shuttering of the organization’s activities, in April of 1946, the Pilgrimage organized seven days of tours, which included 14 counties in the state of Maryland. The Anne Arundel County tour featured an opening of the Government House in Annapolis.

The following year, Governor William Preston Lane and Mrs. Lane graciously opened their home to all ticket holders for tea.

Beginning in 1955 cruises on the Chesapeake Bay were offered. The S.S. Tolchester, carried pilgrims from Baltimore to Annapolis for $3.50, which included a tour of Annapolis. In 1972, pilgrims were ferried from Baltimore to Annapolis, where they were greeted by guides from “Historic Annapolis”. They enjoyed a walking tour through the city, ending with tea at the Hammond-Harwood House.

Continuing the tradition, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County both offer tours showcasing their historic properties, homes and gardens.

Our History 


This year marks the ninety-first anniversary of tours organized and sponsored by the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage Committee. The first tour was held in 1930 and, with the exception of four years at the beginning of its history and three “war” years, the Pilgrimage has been part of springtime tradition in Maryland.The continued popularity and growth of the tours is testimony to the foresight and persistence of a few Baltimore women inspired by friends in Virginia who organized Virginia Garden Week to raise money for restoring the gardens at Kenmore, home of George Washington’s sister.  The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland suggested that Maryland open houses and gardens following the week in Virginia.


Although the idea was totally new, owners of many of the most interesting houses in Maryland were persuaded to share their houses with the public for a day.  Fifty cents was charged for admission to a single house and a hard-back guide book was available for one dollar.  In 1930 there were many country roads which were still unpaved and Schedules of the Chesapeake Bay ferries were listed in the first Maryland tour book.  One must realize the undertaking and time involved to reach the Eastern Shore, those first visitors were pilgrims indeed!


There have been wars, riots, gas shortages and inflation, and at the same time great advances in technology and the building of super highways have been made.  Constant, however, have been the hospitality and generosity of the homeowners who shared their collections , their furnishings and their gardens with the public.  Visitors have been enriched with a deeper appreciation of history, architecture, garden design and decorative arts while supporting historic preservation in the state of Maryland.

- Summarized from History of The Maryland House and Garden Pigrimage by Hally Brent Dame p. 1987


Please click on the book to read more.

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