Wednesday, March 29, 2006

300 Years from Here: Chestertown History Weekend Celebrates Tercentennial Year of Historic Cononial Town, April 21-22

Chestertown, MD, March 29, 2006 — Chestertown, Maryland—a place where the past is always present. Travelers to this small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore encounter beautifully preserved colonial and Victorian houses, historic sailboats anchored along the Chester River, and friendly small-town life that seems straight out of a bygone era.

On Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22, Chestertown will welcome visitors who wish to explore three centuries' of history through the heritage of this classic American community. As part of the 300th anniversary of the town's founding in 1706, more than 30 historians, authors, archaeologists, and preservationists will participate in the Chestertown History Weekend, a program of lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, film screenings, and musical performances at various locations in the downtown historic district. All events will be free and open to the public.

The Chestertown History Weekend is sponsored by Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and a team of other local groups, including the Historical Society of Kent County, the Kent County Heritage Trust, the Kent County Arts Council, the Center for the Environment and Society, and the Kent County News. It will coincide with the start of the town's official 300th-birthday commemoration.

"From the Revolution to the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, Chestertown has played a part in some of the most dramatic episodes of our nation's history," said Adam Goodheart, C.V. Starr Scholar at Washington College. "The History Weekend will be a marvelous opportunity to discover how those events unfolded in one American town."

The History Weekend's keynote address on Friday afternoon will be given by Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The rest of the program, which the Starr Center has just released (see attachment), includes nearly 20 different events, many of which will run concurrently throughout the day on Saturday, so that participants can choose among such topics as:

  • "George Washington in Chestertown"
  • "Escape from Kent County: Myths, Realities, and Local Heroes of the Underground Railroad"
  • "Between North and South: The Civil War Comes to Kent County"
  • "The Battle of Caulk's Field: Kent County vs. the British Empire, 1814"
  • Special workshops on how to research genealogy or the history of an old house

Other programs will cover Chestertown's architecture, archaeological discoveries, and local fighters for African-American civil rights. Exhibits of historic artifacts and film screenings will run throughout the day. Event locations include the town's historic Custom House (c. 1746), Emmanuel Church (c. 1768), the Geddes-Piper House (c. 1784), and the Prince Theatre (c. 1926)—all within short walking distance of each other.

"People will be able to stroll among the various events downtown and discover how this place's history reflects the larger American story," said Kees de Mooy, the Starr Center's program manager. "We hope the weekend's program will combine in-depth learning with the spirit of celebration and fun that Chestertown does so well."

A full schedule of the weekend's events (attached) is available online at, and will also be advertised on posters around town.

Among the History Weekend's three dozen special guests will be historians and archaeologists from Washington College, the University of Maryland, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Delaware State University, George Washington University, and Vassar College, as well as representatives of the National Park Service, Mount Vernon, the Banneker-Douglass Museum, the Maryland Historical Trust, and other groups.

"As far as we know, there has never before been an event of this kind on the Eastern Shore," said Mary Kate O'Donnell, executive director of the Historical Society of Kent County. "It's a great opportunity to draw people this area, which is a largely unexplored gold mine for anyone fascinated by the American past."

Chestertown is located on the upper Eastern Shore of Maryland in Kent County, whose total population of 19,000 is barely larger than it was in colonial times. It is approximately 45 minutes from Annapolis and Dover, Del., 1 hour from Baltimore and Wilmington, Del., and 90 minutes from Washington and Philadelphia.

Drawing on the special historical strengths of Washington College and Chestertown, the C.V. Starr Center is dedicated to exploring the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture. Founded in 1782, Washington College holds the special distinction of being the only institution of higher learning that the first president patronized during his lifetime. George Washington donated fifty guineas to the newly founded school, gave his consent for it to be named in his honor, and served on its board of Visitors and Governors.

For more information, please contact Kees de Mooy at 410-810-7156.

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