Princess Anne Town

Somerset County, Maryland

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Princess Anne Town Hall is located at 30489 Broad Street, Princess Anne, MD 21853.
Phone: 410‑651‑1818.


Beginnings [1]

Princess Anne was settled during the first part of the 18th century. In 1732, residents petitioned the Maryland General Assembly describing the site as "a very convenient place for a town, near the head of Manokin River, on the south side thereof, by the bridge, on a tract of land now in possession of David Brown ..." On March 13, 1732, the Assembly passed an act in response to the request which appointed Colonel Levin Gale, Captain George Dashiell, Major Robert King, Captain Henry Ballard and George Gale commissioners. They purchased 25 acres from "Breckford" the estate of David Brown, "and such part not exceeding 25 acres of land as lies most convenient to the water, as for surveying and laying our the same, in the most convenient manner, into 30 equal lots, to be erected into a town." As was customary, the act specified restrictions on prospective inhabitants. Houses which were to be built within eighteen months of purchase of a lot must have at least one brick chimney and cover 400 square feet. The new community was to be named Princess Anne Town in honor of King George II's eldest daughter.

During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, an increasing population and the growing demand for the specialized services that only towns could provide had given rise to the founding of many new communities in Maryland and Virginia. Princess Anne belonged to the later years of this period, a time when many planners were striving to bring some variety to the grid pattern on which American towns had traditionally been based. The plan of Princess Anne, however, showed no such innovation. Although relatively generous in its dimensions, its design, when compared with those of Oxford, St. Michaels and Havre de Grace, was simple and traditional. The original play included only the portion south of the river, extending to Upper Alley (now Washington Street) and bounded on the west and east by Back Alley and Low Alley (now Beechwood Street and Beckford Avenue). Main Street and Prince William Street formed the principle east-west axis, and were given a width approximately twice that of the less important thoroughfares.

Princess Anne became the county seat of Somerset County in 1742, when Somerset County was divided into Somerset and Worcester counties. By 1745, the original boundaries of the town had become so obscure that a resurvey was ordered, and restrictions regarding the taking up of land and the erection of buildings were reaffirmed. The town's new boundaries and the earlier plats had again been lost by 1800. A second resurvey was carried out in 1801, and it was this plat that gives us our earliest glimpse of the town's layout. Two of the 1801 resurvey boundary markers can be seen today, one on the corner of the courthouse lot on Somerset Avenue and Prince William Streets and the other on the corner of Church and Washington Streets adjacent to St. Andrew's Church.

The early period in the history of Princess Anne seems to have witnessed comparatively little economic or population growth. According to the plat produced in the 1801 resurvey, there was thought to be no need after 70 years to incorporate surrounding land into the town's boundaries. In contrast, the decades following 1800 were a time of unprecedented growth and development for Princess Anne. The Manokin River, then navigable as far as the bridge at Princess Anne, and the extension of the railroad down the Eastern Shore caused the town to assume considerable importance as a local market center. A steam powered mill company was incorporated in 1815; in 1816 a chapter of the Masonic Society was established, and commissioners were appointed to improve the market house in 1817. In 1830, one hundred feet were annexed to Princess Anne's western side; and by 1862, when a final resurvey was carried out, land on the north side of the river and that part of Beckford on which the Teackle Mansion stood was incorporated within the town's boundaries.

  1. George J. Andreve, architectural historian, et. al., Maryland Historical Trust, Princess Anne Historic District, Somerset County, MD, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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