Chestertown, Maryland

Chestertown, Maryland

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Chestertown is a town in Kent County
Kent County, Maryland
Kent County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland, on its Eastern Shore. It was named for the county of Kent in England. Its county seat is Chestertown. In 2010, the county population was 20,197...

, Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The population was 4,746 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Kent County
Kent County, Maryland
Kent County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland, on its Eastern Shore. It was named for the county of Kent in England. Its county seat is Chestertown. In 2010, the county population was 20,197...

. The ZIP code is 21620 and the area codes are 410 and 443 (overlay). The local telephone exchanges are 778 and 810 for 410; and 215, 282, and 480 for 443.


Founded in 1705, Chestertown rose in stature when it was named one of the English colony of Maryland's six Royal Ports of Entry. The shipping boom that followed this designation made the town at the navigable head of the Chester River
Chester River
The Chester River is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It is about long, and its watershed encompasses , which includes of land. Thus the total watershed area is 20% water. It forms the border between Kent County and Queen Anne's County, Maryland, with its...

 wealthy. In the mid-eighteenth century, Chestertown trailed only Annapolis and was considered Maryland's second leading port.

A burgeoning merchant class infused riches into the town, reflected in the many brick mansions and townhouses that sprung up along the waterfront. Another area in which Chestertown is second only to Annapolis is in its number of existing eighteenth century homes.

As of the 1790 census, Chestertown was the geographical center of population of the United States.


Chestertown is located at 39°13′10"N 76°4′6"W (39.219328, -76.068424).

According to the United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

, the town has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km²), of which, 2.6 square miles (6.7 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square mile (0.517997622 km²) of it (7.09%) is water. As of the first US Census in 1790, Chestertown was the geographical center of the nation's population.

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

In May 1774, five months after the British closing the port of Boston after the Boston Tea Party, the citizens of Chestertown wrote a set of resolves that prohibited the buying, selling, or drinking of tea. Based on these resolves, a popular legend originated purporting that the Chestertown citizens held their own "tea party" on the Chester River in Chestertown, in an act of colonial defiance. The Chestertown Tea Party Festival celebrates Chestertown's colonial heritage with a weekend of events including a re-enactment of the legendary "tea party." A parade begins the festival, marching down High Street to the Chester River, and then follows with colonial music and dance, fife and drum performances, puppet shows, colonial crafts demonstrations and sales, military drills, and a walking tour of the historic district. In the afternoon, re-enactors, playing the part of angry citizens and Continental Soldiers, march to the docks where redcoats (played by members of the Maryland Loyalist Battalion) defend the a ship for a short skirmish, then retire. The ship, the schooner Sultana, is then boarded by the angry citizens, and the tea is thrown into the sea. It is the town's biggest weekend of the year, as tourists fill the streets, strolling among booths filled with crafts, activities, and food.

Schooner Sultana

In 1997, John Swain came up with blueprints for a reproduction of the British Navy ship the , planning the construction and home of the ship to be centered in Chestertown. In the same year the non-profit group Sultana Projects, Inc. was formed by Swain and supporters to fund construction of the ship. A shipyard was constructed and the keel for the Sultana was laid in October 1998. Over 3,000 students participated in the community and educationally led effort, with a core group of volunteers logging over 150,000 hours of time building the ship. Over 10,000 people were at the launching of the ship in March 2001, and since then more than 8,000 students a year have boarded the Sultana for educational trips. The Sultana also plays a key role in the Chestertown Tea Party, as it is now the official boat of the staged re-enactment. The Schooner Sultana website offers more detailed information on the ship.


The town is home to Washington College
Washington College
Washington College is a private, independent liberal arts college located on a campus in Chestertown, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. Maryland granted Washington College its charter in 1782...

, a private liberal arts college founded in 1782. Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the USA. George Washington was a founding patron.

The college is known nationally as the home of the Sophie Kerr
Sophie Kerr
Sophie Kerr was a prolific writer of the early 20th century whose stories about smart, ambitious women mirrored her own evolution from small-town girl to successful career woman...

, which is awarded to the graduating senior with the most literary potential. The award is near $50,000 annually. The most recent prize, worth $61,062 was awarded at a ceremony in New York to Lisa Jones, a resident of Baltimore County, Maryland.


As of the census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

of 2000, there were 4,746 people, 1,891 households, and 945 families residing in the town. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 1,818.1 people per square mile (702.1/km²). There were 2,164 housing units at an average density of 829.0 per square mile (320.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 74.46% White, 21.87% African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.62% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 0.40% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 1.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.62% of the population.

There were 1,891 households out of which 18.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.8% were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 41.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.96 and the average family size was 2.61.

In the town the population was spread out with 13.4% under the age of 18, 25.6% from 18 to 24, 18.5% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 24.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 75.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $31,530, and the median income for a family was $40,960. Males had a median income of $27,283 versus $25,513 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the town was $18,769. 18.5% of the population and 12.8% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26.2% of those under the age of 18 and 13.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Honors and accolades

The National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is an American member-supported organization that was founded in 1949 by congressional charter to support preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods through a range of programs and activities, including the publication of Preservation...

, the country's largest private, nonprofit preservation organization, named Chestertown, Maryland, to its 2007 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States. Chestertown was selected from 63 destinations in 27 states that were nominated by individuals, preservation organizations, and local communities.

"Chestertown is a treasure hidden in plain sight," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "A small, historic and relatively unspoiled Eastern Shore town, Chestertown had the good sense to hang on to what makes it so special. The result is a vibrant community that offers travelers an ideal retreat."

Progressive Farmer magazine honors Kent County and Chestertown by naming it #1 in Best Rural Places to Live in America for 2008. "For a county to be in Progressive Farmer's Best Places list, they hold them to the usual standards — good schools, health care, safety and other desirable qualities. But what makes Kent stand out is its residents' resolve to maintain a solid rural heritage."


The Chestertown Spy ( is the online news source for Chestertown and the Chester River community.

Maryland Public Television (( showcased the first installment of their full-length documentary series, Our Town, with the premiere of Our Town: Chestertown on December 12, 2009.
Nearly two dozen participants, ranging from a local furniture maker to a former Chief of Police, borrowed camcorders from MPT and compiled more than 20 hours of footage to answer the question, what makes your community special? The documentary includes interviews, footage and personal stories from lifetime Chestertown residents as well as new arrivals.


The number of violent crimes recorded in Chestertown by the FBI in 2003 was 0. The number of murders and homicides was 0. The violent crime rate was 7.5 per 1,000 people.

Notable residents and natives

  • Samuel Eccleston
    Samuel Eccleston
    Samuel Eccleston, P.S.S. was an American clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the fifth Archbishop of Baltimore from 1834 until his death in 1851.-Early life:...

    , Roman Catholic Bishop
    A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

    , fifth Archbishop of Baltimore, from 1834 to 1851.
  • Miriam Cooper
    Miriam Cooper
    Miriam Cooper was a silent film actress who is best known for her work in early film including Birth of a Nation and Intolerance for D.W. Griffith and The Honor System and Evangeline for her husband Raoul Walsh...

    , silent film
    Silent film
    A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

     actress best known for her role in Birth of a Nation
  • James Nicholson (naval officer)
    James Nicholson (naval officer)
    James Nicholson was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War.The son of Joseph and Hannah Scott Nicholson, he was born in Chestertown, Maryland. James Nicholson served in the colonial Navy with the British in the assault on Havana in 1762, and was commissioned...

    , officer in the Continental Navy during American Revolutionary War
  • James Pearce
    James Pearce
    James Alfred Pearce was an American politician. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the second district of Maryland from 1835–1839 and 1841-1843. He later served as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1843 until his death in 1862.Pearce was the son of Gideon Pearce...

    , U.S. Senator for Maryland, 1843–1862, U.S. Congressman for Maryland 2nd District, 1835-1839 & 1841-1843, is buried in New Chester Cemetery in Chestertown
  • Bill "Swish" Nicholson
    Bill Nicholson (baseball)
    William Beck "Swish" Nicholson was a right fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Philadelphia Athletics , Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies...

    , 1936, two-time National League home run and RBI leader
  • Ryan Thompson
    Ryan Thompson
    Ryan Orlando Thompson is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. He played all or part of nine seasons in the majors between 1992 and 2002 for the New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also played one season in Japan for...

    , Major League Baseball player
  • Henry Highland Garnet
    Henry Highland Garnet
    Henry Highland Garnet was an African American abolitionist and orator. An advocate of militant abolitionism, Garnet was a prominent member of the abolition movement that led against moral suasion toward more political action. Renowned for his skills as a public speaker, he urged blacks to take...

    , Abolitionist
  • Ira Smith
    Ira Smith (baseball)
    Ira Smith was a college and minor league baseball player from Chestertown, Maryland. While playing collegiately at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Smith was the first player to win two NCAA batting titles as well as the first to win the award in consecutive seasons.-College Baseball:In 1989,...

    , College baseball player
  • Bill Arrowood, Executive Director
    Executive director
    Executive director is a term sometimes applied to the chief executive officer or managing director of an organization, company, or corporation. It is widely used in North American non-profit organizations, though in recent decades many U.S. nonprofits have adopted the title "President/CEO"...

    , Bluestone Road , all-around good guy

In popular culture

Chestertown was mentioned in the Roland Emerich film The Patriot
The Patriot (2000 film)
The Patriot is a 2000 historical war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, and Heath Ledger. It was produced by the Mutual Film Company and Centropolis Entertainment and was distributed by Columbia Pictures...

. In the scene before the family goes to Charlestown to vote on independence, Gabriel Martin played by Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger
Heath Andrew Ledger was an Australian television and film actor. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger moved to the United States in 1998 to develop his film career...

 reads in the paper that there was an uprising in Chestertown, with British officials being "tarred and feathered", later dying of burns. This is most likely a nod to the Chestertown Tea Party (see above).

Chestertown is also the setting for Gilbert Byron's book The Lord's Oysters. Through its central character, Noah Marlin, Byron tells largely autobiographical tales of growing up a waterman
Waterman may refer to:* Watermen, river workers who transferred passengers across and along the city centre rivers in Britain* Waterman Or Waterperson. Someone who takes part in multiple water activities...

's son on the banks of the Chester River
Chester River
The Chester River is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It is about long, and its watershed encompasses , which includes of land. Thus the total watershed area is 20% water. It forms the border between Kent County and Queen Anne's County, Maryland, with its...


External links

  • Chestertown website
  • Washington College