Thursday, August 19, 2010

Snow Hill, MD

After our recent day trip to the Worcester County Fair, we stopped for a visit in the town of Snow Hill, the county seat of Worcester County, MD (population under 3,000).

Snow Hill was founded in 1686 in Somerset County by English settlers. Its name may come from a street and neighborhood of the City of London called “Snow Hill.” The town received its first charter in October 1686, and became a port of entry in 1694. In 1742, Worcester County was carved out of the eastern half of old Somerset County Because it was centrally located in the new county and at the head of navigation on the Pocomoke River, Snow Hill was made the county seat.

Major fires in 1844 and in 1893 destroyed the center of Snow Hill, including two successive Court Houses, although some 18th century structures survived both fires. Following the second fire, much of the commercial area was rapidly rebuilt; the downtown today contains many historic buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  worcester cty crthse (1)


The Snow Hill Historic District, which covers about 80% of the town, was created in 2002. Snow Hill is home to some of the most notable architecture on the Eastern Shore, including several National Registry buildings. 


deco bldg (3)

Snow Hill is surrounded by farmland which has support the area’s economy throughout its history. The nearby Pocomoke River served as a major highway for trade in the early days of the town. Today small specialty shops and galleries inhabit the downtown area.

Walking through Snow Hill, we came across this building in much disrepair. Grenville and I put our often irreverent sense of humor to thinking about how ironic that a “Masonic” hall needed masonry work.

While we were outside the building, a local resident filled us in on its history. At various times, it was a movie theatre and also hosted live stage shows featuring entertainers such as James Brown and Patti LaBelle. Programs were posted in the 2 rectangular spaces. The box office was the smaller square between the 2 doors. The building was later converted to a roller skating rink.

The green tin seen on the right side of the building identifies it as  a quonset hut, a World War II icon. Think of  a giant tin can, cut in half lengthwise and set on the ground – that’s a quonset hut, also called an arch building. The style was named after Quonset Point Military Base in RI, where they were introduced.

opera house (2)A local gallery owner and artist, Barb, told us that this building formerly housed an opera house. Now, it’s vacant and filled with debris. Barb owns the American Art Gallery (below) that’s housed in part of the former opera house; the acoustics are terrific.


The building on the left housed the Commercial National Bank – the name is barely visible. The Municipal building is on the right.

Advertising was often painted on the sides of buildings to advertise the building’s wares in the days before billboards. But, with the passage of time, the wording on most is undecipherable.

Before leaving town, we chatted with another gallery owner, Ann, who introduced us to her dogs, Mo and Sarge.

Another fun day tripping.


possum said...

I love wandering thru the "old" towns here on the shore and looking at the time capsules in their architecture.
Yet it often seems strange to think of something here as being old. Our friend, Mehmet, graduated from a University that was founded in 1452. We, in this country, have no real concept of OLD. If it survives for a century, we are in awe of it.

Great pictures... makes me want to take a day and cruise thru Snow Hill once again.

Anvilcloud said...

Love your humor: masons and masonry.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Snow Hill was nice to walk around, Possum, unfortunately there is not a lot going on aside from the small shops and galleries. But we had a nice afternoon and met interesting folks so definitely worth the side trip.

Thanks Anvil - we try.

Elaine said...

There are really some lovely architectural details in that old town. You did a good job of capturing them.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks Elaine, there were so many great details in Snow Hill. Sadly, like so many small towns, there isn't much of an active "downtown" anymore, but there is a lot to see in the little things especially looking up at the buildings!

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