Journey Through Maryland History: A Winter Walk in Wicomico County

02/19/2017
By Preservation Maryland

If you follow our blog, you may remember that the Preservation Maryland Board Vice President Diane Caslow has a goal to travel to all of Maryland’s 24 counties in the next 24 months. And her adventure continues with a walk in Wicomico County…

A Winter Walk in Wicomico County

For our fourth county on our trip, we headed to Wicomico County on Maryland’s eastern shore. I had anticipated a frigid January day. Thanks to Mother Nature, the temperature was in the 50s, which was perfect for a long walk. We chose Salisbury, the county seat because it featured two easy walking tours – an Architectural Walking Tour of Downtown Salisbury and Architectural Walking Tour of Newtown Historic District. According to the walking tour guide, Salisbury was established in 1732 at the head of the Wicomico River, which was originally part of Somerset County.  The railroads helped Salisbury become the principal crossroads and trading center at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula. Despite two fires that destroyed the town in 1880 and 1886, Salisbury has a concentration of late nineteenth century commercial and public building and private homes that we were game for discovering.

Downtown Salisbury, Maryland. Photo from Salisbury Business Journal.

First, as seems to be our theme, we head straight for coffee on Main Street. Main Roots Coffee provided fuel for our walk and is a nice example of adaptive reuse. With our map in hand, we head out but I am reading the map upside down as Jeff is pointing out one interesting building after another, which does not appear to be on the map.

Kuhn’s Jewelers, Salisbury, MD.

I am confused until we come upon the Wicomico County Courthouse, built in 1878, turn the map right side up and restart the tour.  The unique 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings along Main Street have been in continual use, some restored and adapted for a new use and others looking for a future. Kuhn’s Jewelers has been around since 1853, and in its current location since 1892. You can feel the history when you step inside.  I can image the women of the last turn of the century not being able to resist purchasing something pretty. Falling under the spell, I too walked out with a purchase; an irresistible, one of a kind, Maryland flag bracelet. Shop local!

Newtown Historic District

Across a busy Route 50 business, we head to Newtown Historic District. There we find an amazing mix of late 19th and early 20th century homes, many clearly keeping in the high style as when they were built. We loved looking at each of the homes and imaged what it must have been like to live in one of them a hundred years ago. We walked back to the Main Street area and spied an interesting wall through the windows of the Olde Town Deli. We met the owners, Richard and Melissa Malone, who talked about the revitalization of Main Street and showed us their amazing Salisbury history wall. The exhibit had been put together by Salisbury University students. When the exhibit was over, the Malone’s kindly accepted it for the wall of their new deli. As I could not resist a bracelet, Jeff could not resist a slice of apple pie.

Our walk took us Evolution Brewery for lunch, or Evo as they are know by the locals. The place was hoping for a cool Saturday afternoon. We finished with a peek inside the Acorn Market, another nice example of adaptive reuse in downtown Salisbury.

Jeff Caslow at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

The last stop on our visit to Salisbury was the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art. This is one of Jeff’s passion as he owns decoys, has carved a few himself and appreciates the artistry that goes into carving and painting ducks. Decoy carving for hunting purposes was much more of a common craft a hundred and even fifty years ago. Now most of the decoys are plastic and the carvers have gone on to be fine artists, carving and painting some pretty amazing and lifelike birds, from the tiny titmouse to white swans with a wingspan up to ten feet. The museum hosts an annual international carving competition, with some of the winners on exhibit in the galleries.

As we head out of town after a full day we are reminded that Maryland has so many treasures for us to enjoy!

Next month is Prince George’s County – More Than a Passing Glance at African American Heritage Sites.

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