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Dorchester County

The Neck District

Saturday, June 1, 2024

10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Please note that the private homes on this tour are not ADA accessible and we recommend care when walking on walks and lawns and along public roads–we thank the owners for opening their homes to tour goers. Pilgrims assume responsibility for their own safety

when driving, parking and walking on the tour.

 

Author John Barth, who grew up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, once said, “The real Eastern Shore begins on the south bank of the Choptank River.” And so we welcome you to cross this great river to Dorchester County, the largest rural county in Maryland with more than 1,700 miles of coastal shoreline and the reason the County’s motto is “Water Moves Us.” Quiet country roads lined with marsh grasses, loblolly pines and abundant species of deciduous forest follow in the footsteps of Indigenous People who built their villages here and where Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers travelled. Capt. John Smith made the first recorded

reference of Dorchester County in 1608, and by 1669 Dorchester was established as a county of the Maryland Colony. Dorchester is home to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) which was established as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and currently encompasses more than 32,000 acres. The refuge contains one-third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands and has been called one of the “Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy. Our 2024 tour brings you to the “Neck District” at the most western part of the county, fronted by the Great Choptank River, the Little Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay. A twenty-two square mile area, “the Neck” has 125 miles of shoreline with one road leading into it, and every divergent road ending at the water. Our view sheds are mostly vast farm fields or open water, many of which can only be seen down long private lanes. Here, you will find elaborate estate entrances with historic names near abandoned vernacular dwellings and other structures that once served watermen and farmers. The Neck, like many other rural communities, once relied on a General Store (visit John Lewis’ Store now Neck District Grille), a Chapel of Ease and a local Fire Company for the center of social life. All these still exist today and create a continuous connection to our past. Gardens here are simply designed to blend with the flat, forested landscape, each complimenting the other in their natural beauty as they attract wildlife and wildfowl in abundance. Each featured site is a waterfront location that will hopefully inspire you to return and explore more of what Dorchester County has to offer.

 

Co-Chairs: Midge Ingersoll, restorehandsell@gmail.com and Julie Gilberto-Brady, juliegb1@gmail.com. Committee Chairs: Ads and Ticket Sales: Julie Gilberto-Brady. Flowers: Dorchester Garden Club, Kay Kaminski, President. Hostesses: Miriam Zijp-Koedijk. Treasurer: Rob Davis. Road Marking: John Lewis. Lunch: Sean Gwynn, Diane Gray. Shuttle Buses: Arnold Hamann. Script and Special Project: Midge Ingersoll.

 

Special Project: Handsell Historic Site, 4837 Indiantown Road, Vienna, Maryland is an important heritage Area located in the east side of Dorchester County by the Nanticoke River. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site was once the prehistoric village of Chickawan, home of the Nanticoke Indigenous People for thousands of years. Later it was set aside by the Maryland Colony as a reservation including the 1665 Handsell land grant, which was a designated Trading Post. By 1770, it became the home plantation of the prominent Steele family who built the brick house there. Today, the restored brick house can be visited along with the replica Chicone Village dwelling house, garden, work shelter and a Memorial to the Enslaved. The property is owned and maintained by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance. https://restorehandsell.org

 

Lunch: A lunch is being provided by and will benefit the Neck District Volunteer Fire Company (Site #1). NDVFC will prepare a homemade Eastern Shore meal inspired by the 2009 Cooks to the Rescue Cookbook in their newly renovated commercial kitchen under the supervision of Sean Gwynne, a Dorchester native who was born into a family of culinary entrepreneurs. For many years, Sean owned the “Twisted Cork Grille,” which was classic American cuisine, with a twist, located in Florida. His return to Dorchester has led him to launch Doco Eats, a culinary concept to create partners between food sources, restaurants and non-profit events that showcases the bounty of food available from The Heart of the Eastern Shore. Order Your Lunch In Advance:  We recommend this option. Links can be found at https://py.pl/gP1bK and www.restorehandsell.org

 

Information Center: Neck District Fire Hall. 954 Cooks Point Road, Cambridge, MD 21613. Visitors MUST check in at the Fire Hall first to receive Tour Books, buy tickets and pick up the shuttle. Restrooms are available, and lunch as described above will be served.

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#1. Neck District Fire Hall

954 Cooks Point Road, Cambridge 21613. 

Parking, Ticket Sales, and Lunch. Shuttle Pick Up.

 

The Neck District Volunteer Fire Company was founded in 1951 to serve the community west of the town of Cambridge. The original firehouse still stands (now the hall) as part of the larger building, and the original unrestored 1952 GMC fire truck is maintained in running condition for parades and as Santa’s sleigh at Christmas time. The NDVFC has grown to include seven apparatus pieces, including an ambulance and rescue boat in support of the mission of life and fire safety. In addition to responding to medical emergencies, structure and brush fires, and motor vehicle crashes/rescues, the rescue boat assists with marine search and rescue missions and boat fires. The NDVFC has been a main community gathering place for several generations of Neck District residents in good times and bad. The firehouse hosts family events and offers refuge in times of weather disasters. The organization is 100% volunteer and 100% self-supported in its community service efforts.

 

Please note there is NO PARKING and no cars allowed at Sites #2-5. Visitors and hostesses MUST take the shuttle to these locations. A Shuttle will be provided:

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#2. Quiet Waters

 

The historic dwelling is a distinctive mid-18th century, Georgian farmhouse. It was built in 1750 on a 1695 Land Grant, called Mitchells’ Garden that was 1200 acres bestowed from the King of England to John Wesley Mitchell. Distinguishing features of Quiet Waters include the impressive cedar beadboard siding and extraordinary intact pine floors. The kitchen/keeping room with its exposed beams and open six foot fireplace with a period cooking arm is the centerpiece of the house and was recently updated with new cabinetry. All the rooms of this house feature a fireplace. The property includes an old pine post and beam barn dating to 1750, which sits on Todd Point Creek, as water was originally the only transportation route. Ships once sailed up the Choptank River to unload provisions and load tobacco for the return trip to England. Another old building, which was once used for boat building, now serves as the owner’s office (not open for the tour). 

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#3. Pirates Cove

 

Pirates Cove, 5632 Ross Neck Road, Cambridge 21613. This newly constructed, modern waterfront retreat, built on the original 18th century Littleworth plantation patent, is decidedly nautical in its watery blue decoration and accessories. Designed for views of Hudson Creek from all spaces, the open floor plan is light and airy with high, rustic beamed ceilings and a large stone fireplace. Note the creative use of the understairs “office” and the ship model that commands the great room window. A first-floor primary suite with sitting room offers comfort for retirement living. The guest apartment, attached by an aerial walkway, gives privacy to both guests and homeowners. The eclectic and crafty grounds delight visitors with the owners’ creative and often humorous accessories and include a large vegetable garden full of whimsy. Make sure to stroll through the woodland “fairy walk” that was designed for the homeowners’ grandchildren but is fun for all ages.

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#4.  Addition to Rosses Chance

 

This circa 1750 tidewater colonial home was once the heart of historic Ross Neck as part of a 168-acre farm, which was the location of Rosses Wharf, a major stop of the steamboat Emma Giles. Built in the classic telescope frame style by the North family who owned many properties on Ross Neck, the home was enlarged over a 200-year period. In the last 32 years, the current owners have designed and added a barn/garage, guesthouse (also on tour), and boat and garden sheds, all in a period design. A final restoration was completed in 2010 when they added a first floor primary suite with a “Jack and Jill” shared bath. Within a waterfront park-like setting, a front cottage garden greets guests and a lovely waterside shade garden and terrace complement the pool area. The owner’s raised bed vegetable garden is another feature of this Bay-Wise certified 16-acre property. The home is furnished in period American antiques and accessories and contains several interesting collections. The paintings and other artistic touches are the work of the homeowner, a professional artist. You will see flowers placed on the graves of their dear departed dogs as you approach the 150-foot dock.

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#5. Sunset Cove

 

This circa 1863 North family farmhouse, once nearly a ruin, now beautifully remodeled, has a storied past. The Cambridge

Herald reported on January 18, 1862, the “dwelling house of James North on Rosses Neck was destroyed by fire on Saturday night last along with his furniture and an enslaved labor woman.” A later article continues the story, “Capt. James North recovered all but a few notes during the fire at his house. Burned his hands badly. $1,200 of Gold was uninjured, but silver was melted. An enslaved labor woman was his property which he had purchased for $600.” James North died on Jan. 20, 1883, at the age of 96. At the time he owned both this property and Addition to Rosses Chance. He was buried in the family plot just 150 feet from his front door. The young “colored girl,” as her tombstone is marked, also lays here. The house is an exquisite example of how a historic home can incorporate modern interior design sensibility without destroying the period proportions and spaces. The recent successful additions of an office and a primary bathroom have only enhanced the “telescope” design typical of Eastern Shore vernacular dwellings while providing the requirements for elegant waterfront living. The property is elevated by a runway for the owner’s airplane, a Hinckley Picnic Boat 37 at the dock and long sunset vistas up Sunset Cove to Hudson Creek. The nearby guest house, built in 2004, is also featured on the tour.

The shuttle returns to the firehall.

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#6. Peace Farm

5617 Riverton Road, Cambridge 21613 (On street parking).

 

This property and the entire Riverton Road peninsula were once a large farm owned by the Dail Family encompassing several hundred acres. The farm was subdivided in the 1970s, and the farmhouse remained on its own lot where the present newer structure stands. The nearby Seward-Dail waterfront cemetery dates to the mid-19th century and is still cared for by the descendants. By the 2000s, the old farmhouse was not structurally sound, with rotten sills and no foundation and was beyond saving. This modern replacement home mimics the vernacular farmhouse design of the original dwelling and is now a light-filled open space for extended family gatherings. Several family accessories and collections are displayed. The waterfront three-season room with its cozy fireplace extends the living space. The owner, an accomplished oil painter, maintains a studio on the third floor. Some of his impressive oil paintings grace the walls throughout the house. Visitors will enjoy the views of Hudson Creek and one of only a few remaining boat houses across the water at Littleworth Farm on Ross Neck.

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#7. Peaceful Watch

5235 Ragged Point Road, Cambridge 21613.

Please note: There is a full one-story stairway entrance into the house with no elevator.

 

Located further west in the Neck District, this property was purchased by the owners in 1997 when it was mostly thick stands of loblolly pines, hollies, and cedars. In 2007, a new shingle-style home reminiscent of New England waterfront architecture was built on an elevated plot of land fronting the Little Choptank River and Brooks Creek. Three stories high, the home is surrounded by decks and magnificent water vistas of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay-Wise certified landscape features numerous cultivated perennial beds planted with native trees, flowers and grasses, a rain garden, vegetable plot and bocce court. Beneath the decking

of the house, shade gardens offer a welcome respite from summer heat. You will drive by the delightful, elevated shingle cottage, originally a rustic hunting cabin, that was the only extant structure on this property. It is now used as a guest house (not open for tour). A barn was added to the property in 2014, followed by a free-form pool surrounded by a bluestone patio. The interior of the home is furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques and traditional furniture with a color scheme inspired by the sea and outdoors. The homeowners’ collections of American crafts, Depression glass, transferware china and oyster plates delight the eye. Peaceful Watch has been featured in a Christmas edition of Coastal Style Magazine.

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#8.  St. John's Chapel

213 Hudson Road, Cambridge 21613.

The parking lot is in front of the Chapel. St. John’s Chapel, part of the Episcopal Diocese, is one of the oldest and best-preserved frame religious buildings in Dorchester County.

 

Built in 1852-53 as a Chapel of Ease (convenience for country residents), the Gothic Revival inspired structure is distinctive for the late use of exposed and decorated framing and remains one of the earliest extant examples of Gothic Revival on the lower Eastern Shore. The asymmetrical bell tower was added to the northeast corner of the church in 1939. An earlier structure erected near the head of nearby Chapel Creek functioned during the late 18th and early 19th centuries until services were

discontinued. In 1851, Reverend Barber wrote to the Bishop of Maryland that the Neck District “was a thickly settled neighborhood” and that the chapel which “was there at least 60 years ago had long since disappeared and can be located only by the graves.” He pleaded that his congregation was “so large that we have adjourned to the woods for our services” and that it was his “hope, with God’s blessing to erect a very simple chapel of wood in which to hold services for a fortnight.” Today, St. John’s remains an active parish. The floral designs for the altar are courtesy of the Dorchester Garden Club, and the Chapel is staged for a 19th century waterman’s wedding.

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#9. Spocott Windmill

1609 Hudson Road, Cambridge 21613.

 

What started as a reconstruction of the Spocott Windmill has grown into what you see today, a site illustrating a replica village from the 19th century made of relocated and reconstructed buildings of Dorchester. The Spocott Windmill was built in 1972 by Jim Richardson, a master boatbuilder. The original windmill, constructed about 1852 by John Anthony LeCompte Radcliffe, was unfortunately destroyed by a blizzard in 1888. John A.L. Radcliffe’s son, Senator George L. Radcliffe, saved the millstones and steps from the original mill. The current mill is an English post mill, with the entire housing resting on one post, allowing the entire building to be turned into the wind. The site also includes the original Castle Haven Schoolhouse, and a Blacksmith Shop both of which have been moved from nearby locations. These buildings are also attributed to John Anthony LeCompte Radcliffe who was an active shipbuilder on the adjacent farm from the period of 1847-1860. Other buildings that have moved to this site include a one-and-a-half story colonial cottage (circa 1800), a 19th century doctor’s office, and a 1939 country store. The country store has been renovated to serve as a museum and gift shop. Part of the building is dedicated to Senator George L. Radcliffe as the museum includes some of his personal memorabilia.    

Thank you for supporting the MHGP and the Dorchester Tour. Please consider visiting downtown Cambridge and the many shops and restaurants there. From Rt 343, make a Left on High Street north all the way to the Choptank River. You will pass the historic 1849 Court House with the Harriet Tubman “Beacon of Hope” bronze sculpture, Christ Church (graveyard dates to the 1600s) and see two blocks of elegant 18th century homes. Your drive or walk ends at the Great Choptank River, where you can visit the Choptank River Lighthouse.

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