Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage
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Buy Tickets (Dorchester)

10 am to 5 pm

Special Project:  An eighteenth century plantation house known as Handsell located on Indiantown Road just north of historic Vienna will be the benefactor of the 2015 MHGP Dorchester County tour. Handsell stands on the site of the Native American Chicone village, later a trading post and Indian reservation. It is believed that the existing dwelling house was built by Henry Steels’ family, once the largest landowners in Dorchester County. The house suffered a devastating fire in the early 1800’s and was rebuilt to its current form. After standing boarded up, and vacant for over 60 years, the house is currently under the process of preservation. The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, Inc., a non- profit 501 c 3, all volunteer organization was formed in December of 2005 to purchase,study, and restore the house at the Handsell plantation site and make it available for public tours and special education events in celebration of Native American colonial American and African American connections to the area and the Handsell plantation.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~HISTORY~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dorchester County was occupied by the native Choptank and Nanticoke tribes before the arrival of John Smith at Emperior’s Landing (Vienna) on the Choptank in 1608.   Originally part of the Choptank Indian Reservation laid out for them in 1669, Cambridge was made a port of entry by the Assembly in 1684. It is one of the few towns authorized at that early date that has survived.  Known as “The Heart of the Chesapeake”, (a designated State Heritage Area)  Dorchester County has more shoreline than any other county in Maryland. From the Chesapeake Bay to the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers to dramatic marshland, water is central to life here. Watermen (and women) still harvest crab, oysters, clams, and fish from these waters, making this county authentically unique from others. Cambridge has seen a revitalization in the last few years with the addition of many wonderful restaurants, shops and museum sites. Enjoy your visit to the “new” historic Dorchester and “Main Street” Cambridge.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ DIRECTIONS ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


BALTIMORE: East on Rt. 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  South on Rt. 50 past Easton to the Choptank River Bridge.  After crossing the bridge, turn right at the first light onto Maryland Avenue.  Go one block and turn right on Dorchester Avenue.  Go to two blocks to the Visitors Center parking lot on the right.
WASHINGTON: Same as above.
SALISBURY AND NORFOLK: Route 13 North to Salisbury; then Rt. 50 West to Cambridge.  Before Choptank River bridge, turn left at light onto Maryland Avenue.  Go two blocks and turn right on Dorchester Avenue.  Go two blocks to the Visitors Center parking lot on the right.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ LUNCH ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Box luncheon (pick-up Stop #7).  A delicious Box luncheon, including drink and dessert will be available at the Dorchester Center for the Arts between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. by advanced reservation only.  The cost is $15 per person and your check will be your reservation.  Please mail check, payable to the Dorchester Center for the Arts to DCA, 321 High Street, Cambridge, MD 21613 no later than May 2.





With its huge sail soaring more than 100 feet in the air, the Dorchester County Visitor Center is an Eastern Shore landmark on the shores of the Choptank River in Cambridge. In addition to free visitor information and friendly staff members who are happy to answer your questions, the Visitor Center includes two levels of exhibits about Dorchester County and the area.  The Visitor Center and its park also offer beautiful riverfront views, restrooms, a mile-long boardwalk, and a playground. 




Step back to the 1500’s before the English arrive and you are in the Chicone Village at Handsell.  Located on the site of the pre-historic native village encountered by John Smith in 1608, this thatch and reed lodge home is a functional replica of those used by the Nanticoke people on the Eastern Shore.  Built from material harvested from county fields and forests, it was constructed by volunteers who logged in 2500 hours.  Accompanying the longhouse is a native garden surrounded by a “waddle” fence  as well as a new Work Shelter currently under construction.  You will be greeted  by living history interpreter Daniel Firehawk Abbott when you arrive at Handsell, a National Register Historic Site.  



The German Salem Evangelical Church has been converted to a charming residence in this historic village. Built in 1899, the church is the oldest of its denomination on the Eastern Shore.  In the 1920’s the church was deconsecrated and the building was used for several purposes then finally abandoned.  In 1990, the building was restored as a private home. The original gothic woodwork was discovered in the tower. Although the building was modified to function as a home, the original pews, wainscoting and simple stained glass windows remain.  Today the church is a private home, which houses the owners’ collections of art.


BUCKLAND, Railroad Avenue

Buckland is a two-story frame “saltbox” structure, a style most unusual for Dorchester County in the 18th century.  The land was purchased by John Rix and early records indicate a house had been built by 1742.  The Parlor of Buckland is especially noted for its ornately carved plasterwork which is considered the oldest ornamental plaster ceiling in Maryland.  Buckland is the current home of the Mayor of East New Market who has furnished it in a authentic period style with antiques, carpets and accessories most suitable for this lovely historic home.   



Built in 1979, the home is on a gorgeous waterfront lot that was part of a larger parcel later developed by the Davis family.  The owner-designed house is based on 18th century New England saltbox with the long pitched roof in the back, center chimney and symmetrical front windows.  The inside takes a more modern approach with a balcony overlooking the living room and French doors offering expansive views of the swimming pool and the great Choptank River beyond.  The house is furnished with country style antiques.


CEDAR HAVEN, Beach Haven Road

This entire area was all once inhabited by the Native Choptank and Nanticoke people who later were forced to live on the Locust Neck Indian Reservation on nearby Indian Creek.  Starting with a modest summer cottage, built in the 1930’s, the house has expanded into a private retreat on the banks of the Choptank River.  There are “historic” trees on the property which include the two Ginkgo trees, two historic poplar trees grown from seedlings from poplars that George Washington planted at Mount Vernon, and a direct descendant of the Wye Oak tree.   



The first light at this location, built 1871, replaced a lightship which was stationed there the previous year.  In 1881 ice piled up around the foundation, then a second ice flow in 1918 knocked the house from the piles, destroying it.  The Cherrystone Bar Light was then moved by barge and placed on a new foundation in 1921, the only working lighthouse to be moved from one location to another in the Bay. This light lasted until 1964, when the house was dismantled during a general program of eliminating such lights. Screwpile lighthouses were once very common in the Chesapeake Bay. Today, only a few remain.  The current Choptank River Lighthouse, dedicated September 22, 2012 is a replica of the replacement lighthouse that once guided ships along the Choptank River.  It houses the marina dockmaster’s office and a small museum.





This late Victorian home was built in 1894-5 by Henry Lloyd who had a grander home down the street.  Typical of many homes built in Cambridge during this period, it contains an ornate parlor and dining room with a  side hall back to the kitchen and two bedrooms and study on the second floor.  The present owner has lovingly assembled suitable late 19th century furnishings to authentically enhance the style of the home and accessorized with her own paintings and several interesting collections.  The kitchen is scaled to the house and since little updating has been done, has a vintage appeal.  The stairway to the second floor is narrow and steep and should be avoided by those who might have difficulty climbing steps.




HALLER HOME, GARDEN ONLY, Hambrooks Boulevard 

Located at the site of the grand 19th century Oakley Hotel, this home was purchased by the present owners just three years ago with a backyard that was a barren space, with the exception of two trees perfectly placed for a small hammock.  After choosing just the right hammock, they set out planning the style for the future rectangular shaped garden.  The formal lay-out and plantings transpose the visitor to another time reminiscent of the formality of the 18th century.  The lovely garden shed and a recently completed arbor entrance enhances the overall design of this exquisite space. 



SUMMER INN, Sandy Acres

The origin of “Summer Inn” began as a small brick cottage which is now set in the middle of many additions. The last addition is a large three story shingled style home crowned with a widow’s walk.  The house is nestled by the side of a creek teeming with wildlife and lovely views of the Choptank River beyond.  Two perennial gardens showcase a five foot bronze sculpture of a Great Blue Heron entitled “Queen of the Waterway” .

Buy Tickets (Dorchester)



This home was originally built as a brick rancher in the early 1950’s. In 2003 Hurricane Isabel flooded the house with about one foot of water. Thehouse was subsequently elevated six feet. This renovation of the house created what is now a two story Eastern Shore Colonialwith a  porch that commands a spectacular view of the Choptank River. With five bedrooms and three and a half baths, the home is furnished with a mix of American, French, and English antiques.


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