CENTREVILLE — On Saturday, Dec. 8, the Queen Anne’s County Legacy Foundation will sponsor the Holiday Tour of Historic Homes featuring 17 historic sites, 11 homes, four churches and two schools ranging from the Colonial period through to the Victorian period.
Harmony on the Bay, a local chapter of the international singing club Sweet Adelines, will perform Christmas carols in four-part harmony from 2 to 4 p.m. while roving among the historic homes on the tour. There will be additional organ and choir performances in each of the historic churches along the tour route.
Information and tickets are available online at QA CLF.org and will be available while supplies last the day of the tour, along with programs, maps and wristbands at Tour Stop 1, Queen Anne’s County Historic Courthouse.
Tour Stop 1: Queen Anne’s County Historic Courthouse, c.1796
Queen Anne’s County Historic Courthouse erected in 1796 is the oldest, still active courthouse in the state of Maryland. The courthouse green is a traditional colonial town square with a stunning sculpture of the county’s namesake “Good Queen Anne.” Queen Anne is credited with further development of the two-party political system and a love of family and animals. Look at the base of her statue and you will see her beloved dog nestled among her skirts. This courthouse was chosen to represent small town America in the Johnny Cash video “Ragged Old Flag” in Super Bowl 51. This truly is the “All American” courthouse.
Tour Stop 2: The
Hermitage, c. 1700s with an addition c.1859
The bus to the Hermitage is located beside Courthouse Square, for the 12-minute ride to the Hermitage Estate and Farm.
The Hermitage is one of the oldest Eastern Shore estates that remains intact today as a 900-acre working farm and is an extraordinary glimpse into the lifestyle of a successful Colonial farm.
The first owner, Richard Tilghman I, was granted 400 acres on the Chester River in 1667, by Lord Baltimore in what was called a “thumb grant.” The grantee was allowed to put his thumb on a map, thus owning the land under his thumb. The story goes that Tilghman “rolled his thumb” to obtain a larger portion of land. Richard Tighlman II and his wife Mary Oxley had six children between 1660 and 1672.
The home has two portions; the original Colonial home was constructed in the 1700s and the second part of the building was added on in 1859. The home is the finest example of an Italianate villa in Queen Anne’s County. Descendants of Richard Tilghman live on the farm today.
Tour Stop 3: Wright’s Chance, c. 1744,
Presented by Queen Anne’s County Historical Society,
119 S. Commerce St., Centreville
On Dec. 8, the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society will sponsor a special exhibition in each room of Wright’s Chance and Tucker House.
A must see on the tour, this exhibition will include Victorian Christmas decoration, diverse Christmas traditions throughout history, antique children’s toys and an African American entrepreneur exhibition.
A visit to Wright’s Chance is an opportunity to walk through an intact Colonial farm home. This circa 1744 plantation house still has its original paneling with a gambrel roof and sleeping quarters upstairs. The beautiful furnishings include original William Paca chairs, Chippendale and Hepplewhite furniture, and a very large and complete, collection of Canton china, the everyday china of affluent families in the 18th century.
Tour Stop 4: The Walter T. Wright Home, c. 1893
123 Commerce St., Centreville
The Walter T. Wright house was built in 1893 by a 29-year-old merchant who was a partner in Wright & Lowe, a hardware store in Centreville. Restored today to the full opulence of the Victorian era, the mansion is one of the finest examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture in the county. With a distinctive turret, generous gingerbread detail, stained glass windows and a spiral staircase.
The brick gate to the home is adorned with a pineapple sculpture. The pineapple became a symbol of hospitality and success in Colonial America as merchants returned from the Caribbean with sumptuous new fruits. When a real pineapple was mounted on the gate it meant that the home was open to welcome visitors. Today, the stone pineapple remains a symbol of hospitality.
Tour Stop 5: Tucker House, c. 1794
Presented by Queen Anne’s County Historical Society
123 South Liberty St., Centreville
For the Dec. 8 tour, Tucker House will present the “Spirit of Christmas,” a traditional colonial home with a few holiday surprises.
Built circa 1794 by James Kennard, this six-room house has six fireplaces connected to one chimney. Built on the second lot to be sold in Centreville, Tucker House stands as an excellent architectural example of the Federal period. Originally the house was two rooms deep and one room wide.
Today Tucker House museum is home to furniture from several periods, as well as exceptional Rose Medallion china (a must see), and a spinning wheel. Also of note is the post and plank meat house in the backyard and the small garden that is maintained by the Queen Anne’s County Garden Club.
The home was purchased by the Tucker family in 1898 and donated to Queen Anne’s County Historical Society in 1968.
Tour Stop 6: The Female Academy “Seminary,”
207 Commerce St., Centreville
The “Female Seminary” two doors away from the Walter T. Wright home is in the historic district of Centreville. Built circa 1876, the public schoolhouse was intended exclusively for women.
A Female seminary was a public educational institution for women, popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when opportunities in educational institutions for women were scarce.
Equality between men’s and women’s education had been demanded by notable educators and women’s rights activists such as Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher. The female seminary movement helped foster a significant growth in female literacy. The literacy rate of women went from being half that of men in the early 19th century to matching men’s literacy by the early 20th century.
The pressed-brick building was built in the restrained Victorian style, with two classrooms on each of two floors with a side passage. The Female Seminary will host a holiday decorating challenge.
Tour Stop 7: The Wye River Upper School
(Centreville Armory) 1926
316 S Commerce St., Centreville
Today, Wye River Upper School is an independent, co-ed high school serving the strengths and needs of bright students with learning differences. The Centreville Armory was restored and repurposed to become the Wye River Upper School.
Opened in 1926, The Centreville Armory was home to the Maryland Army National Guard’s Company K, 115th Infantry (1st Maryland). Citizen-soldiers belonging to Company K, part of the famed 29th Infantry Division, participated on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in an amphibious invasion at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. In the mid-1920s, each county in Maryland was given $50,000 to construct a local armory. A $5,000 donation from De Courcy Wright Thom allowed the builders of the Centreville Armory to add the stage.
Thom’s vision was that the Armory would also be a community center for Centreville. For years the building was used as a training facility for the National Guard and also hosted various community events. The vision of De Courcy Wright Thom continues today through a restored Wye River Upper School. The school provides students with resources and specialized education that helps prepare them for college, career and life.
As you tour the building, you will see the 90 restored original windows, the repointed brick work and the original gymnasium, the replicated “ticket window” where soldiers received their pay and was also used for tickets to dances. This project is funded in part by the Maryland Sustainable Communities Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program of the Maryland Historic Trust.
Tour Stop 8: Elizabeth A. Turpin House, c.1872
201 South Liberty St., Centreville
Elizabeth Turpin House first appears on the map of Centreville in 1872 in the name of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Turpin and Dr. Walter S. Turpin. They had five children and two servants. The Turpins were Huguenots who emigrated from France for religious freedom in the mid-1700s. The family was given a land grant by Lord Baltimore in Dorchester County. Most Huguenot families were absorbed into the American Protestant faiths, so they were very likely members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church just a few doors away.
Built in the style of “Stick” Victorian, the exterior is simpler then opulent Queen Anne’s Victorian style. However, the interior has 12-foot ceilings with ornate, hand-crafted medallions and 12-inch handmade crown moulding.
Over the past two years, E. A. Turpin House has been restored to its Victorian architectural design, with intact original ceiling medallions and high crown moulding throughout the parlor and dining room. During restoration, all of the heart pine floors were returned to their natural state, original doorways were excavated and the hand plaster cast mouldings restored to their original form.
Tour Stop 9: The Stolle Home, c.1910
203 Liberty St., Centreville
The Stolle Home, built in 1910, is a beautiful example of American Foursquare Design popular at the turn of the 20th century. It was the beginning of a new era in design.
This design was the simplest of the Victorian era and focused on indigenous materials. This lead to the popular Craftsman style of today. One of the most beautiful characteristics of this home is the porch spanning the entire front of the home, designed for Sunday visits with a swing, perfect for turn of the century “modern” courtship.
This home was built in an era of change with World War I, women’s right to vote, modern amenities, more practical designs, fewer servants and suited for more community activities. Today the Stolle home is a private family home with a beautiful welcoming garden.
Please join the Stolle Family for hot cider and a bonfire in the garden (weather permitting).
Tour Stops 10 and 11: St. Paul’s Church and Rectory, c. 1834
301 South Liberty St., Centreville
The original parish church was known as Chester Church and is believed to have been built sometime between 1640 and 1660 outside the present town of Centreville. In 1834, some of the ancient bricks of the old Chester Church were removed and placed in the new building erected on the present site in Centreville. The church was extended in 1855 and again in 1892 to reflect the shape of the cross and stands today as the fourth building to serve the congregation of St. Paul’s Parish.
St. Paul’s Church Rectory was built across from the church on Liberty Street in 1892. This property originally housed another home that was removed, turned around and placed on the other side of Liberty Street south of the church. The new rectory once had a large cupola, but it was damaged and removed as a result of a kitchen chimney fire that occurred during the residency of Reverend Donaldson and his family from 1939 to 1957.
There once were stables towards the rear of the home and especially during World War II there was a large kitchen garden, aka “Victory Garden,” which extended to the cemetery. At least two of Rev. Hargett’s daughters held their receptions in this terraced garden.
Tour Stop 12: The Thompson Home
108 S. Liberty St., Centreville
The Thompson House, built in 1852, is a pressed brick building in the Federal style popular in Centreville during the early 19th century. The cast iron window lintels on the street facade represent the very first of manufactured building components. Style at the close of the 19th century was simple, dignified, known for high ceilings and elegant marble fireplaces, with a parlor for greeting guests and a summer kitchen at the rear of the home for cooking.
What is unique about this home is the mixes of architectural style. The form and plan are from the Federal period while the interior detail is representative of the Greek Revival period with an emphasis on beautiful wood features and elegant symmetry.
Tour Stop 13: The Frank Home
205 West Water St., Centreville
Built in 1911 at the close of the Victorian Era, the Frank family home is an outstanding example of the Four Square style of architecture, which became popular between the late 1890s and the early 1930s. A reaction to the opulent, designs of the Victorian era, American Foursquare incorporates handcrafted “honest” woodwork from indigenous materials. The expansive porches became part of the social fabric of the community during the 20th century in era of social change, increasing equality and modernization.
Those who sat on this porch in 1911 were witness to a new world of invention from the American automobile, to increasing rights of women and the modernization of the electric light to name a few in the 10 fold increase in American patents issued during the early 20th century.
The town pharmacist built this three-story American Foursquare in 1911 as a single-family home. The original carriage house was constructed of old pharmaceutical crates. During World War II, the family converted the house into two apartments. In 1998, the Frank family bought the home and began the task of restoring the home back to its original design. The Frank family continues to work on the home while raising three daughters.
Churches and Schools on the Tour Route
New Life Community United Methodist Church
423 S Liberty St., Centreville
2:15-2:45 p.m. Choir Performance
New Life Community United Methodist Church is one of the oldest African-American congregations in the county. This late Victorian Gothic-style frame structure has the date 1909 on the cornerstone, and a stone from the original church shows 1873.
Our Mother of Sorrows Church — St. Peter’s
303 Chesterfield Ave., Centreville
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Crafts bazaar, refreshments for sale
3:15 to 4 p.m. Organ performance of Christmas music
The parish of St. Peter’s was formed in 1765; the chapel constructed soon thereafter was the third permanent mission established on the Eastern Shore. In 1931, Robert Rasko, who also built the Empire State Building, purchased the land and built the present Our Mother of Sorrows Church and Rectory as a gift to the Diocese.
Centreville Methodist Church
608 Church Hill Road, Centreville
3:15 to 4 p.m. Organ performance of Christmas music
The first Methodist Church in Centreville was established in 1773. In 1959, two congregations merged to form the Centreville Methodist Church of today. In the 1960s, the congregation built a the Sanctuary and Education Center. The cornerstone of the beautiful modern church was laid in 1969.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
301 South Liberty St., Centreville
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Crafts bazaar and refreshments for sale
5:15 to 6 p.m. Organ performance of Advent and Christmas music
The Parish of St. Paul’s was established c. 1692 and built at its current location in 1834. Join the docents for a tour of the church of this remarkable historic church.
The Wye River Upper School — Tour Stop 7
316 S. Commerce St., Centreville
(Centreville Armory) 1920, Open to visitors from 1 to 6 p.m.
The Hope Schoolhouse
125 Ruthsburg Road, Centreville
Originally located on the Hope Road, this one-room school house has been relocated to the Queen Anne’s County High School and restored with the help of the Queen Anne’s County Retired Teachers Association. One-room school, originally known as “Colored School No. 2, District No. 6,” moved from its original location to its present one. Tours available by request.