Town of Chesapeake City
Chesapeake City Town Hall is located at 108 Bohemia Avenue, Chesapeake City, MD 21915; phone: 410-885-5298.
Chesapeake City is truly a historic, nineteenth century town. When the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was completed in 1829, it was reported in the log of a traveler that two buildings existed at what was then referred to as Bohemia Village. The village grew as canal traffic increased. Particularly during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Town experienced prosperous times. This resulted in the construction of many fine shops, elegant homes, and stately churches that still exist today. It is these structures, along with a variety of small, working-class houses that form the core of the Town's South Chesapeake City Historic District.
The Town of Chesapeake City is centered on the hand-dug, Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. On October 17, 1829, the 14-mile Canal was opened to marine traffic, and soon a busy commercial community had been established. In 1839, this commercial community was named Chesapeake City. The Town grew as the result of a former lock that existed at Chesapeake City, which required all vessels traversing the canal to stop and be "locked" through. The waiting crews and passengers would often debark and shop in Town. This precipitated a lively commercial district in the Town and surrounding areas.
The Town's economic base quickly declined when the Canal was dredged to a sea-level waterway in 1927; part of this economic hardship could be attributed to the ensuing depression the Country would face just two years later. The economy was then sustained by increasing automobile traffic. North/south vehicular traffic crossed the Canal at a vertical lift bridge which connected Lock Street on the north side with George Street on the south, and often would stop for gas or food. In addition, during the 1930s and 1940s, the Town was busy on Saturday nights with farmers and other County residents coming from nearby areas to obtain weekly provisions.
In 1942, a passing tanker, Frans Klassen, destroyed the vertical lift, leaving residents and travelers with only a ferry as a means to cross the canal. Unfortunately, the opening of the current steel high arch bridge in 1949 did nothing to turn the economy around as the Town was effectively bypassed. In 1960, the Canal was widened. However, the Town's damaged economy faced another dilemma with this venture—an entire street of 39 homes was demolished.
Today, Chesapeake City is the only town in Maryland that is situated on a working commercial canal. Most of the Town's original architecture remains intact. Many existing buildings remain, but in many cases show signs of neglect. However, some homes were well maintained so that the Town has a patchwork of well-kept and drab structures, nearly all of which are capable of being saved.