Pictured above: Higgins, Dodson, and Eagle Houses: historic 19th century homes in St. Michaels, Maryland which are now used as the administration buildings of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Tolchester Beach Bandstand
From 1880 until 1962, musicians entertained summer visitors from this bandstand at Tolchester Beach, a resort town and amusement park in Kent County, Maryland. Constructed to attract day trippers traveling by steamboat from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Tolchester Beach was part of a golden era of nineteenth century amusement parks (with Coney Island serving as the most famous example). Like many amusement parks today, Tolchester Beach boasted a roller coaster, a penny arcade, and a shooting gallery.
Visitors could rent a bathing suit and take a dip, and enjoy an ice cream or picnic under the trees while listening to the latest tunes played on the bandstand. Today, the bandstand is one of the few structures remaining from Tolchester Beach, which was closed in 1962 and later demolished.
Tolchester Beach Bandstand. Built 1880. Collection of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Harris.
Point Lookout Tower
When fog hides a lighthouse’s beacon, sailors need an audible signal to guide them. So a fog tower containing a bell was frequently built alongside a lighthouse. Large bells, such as the 1,100 pound bell in this tower, were used because their sound carried a long distance. Point Lookout Lighthouse and this fog bell tower stood near the treacherous crossroads where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay—a place where both weather and shipping traffic were tricky. In 1965, the Coast Guard closed Point Lookout Lighthouse and the fog bell tower. Their function was taken over by a steel tower placed offshore. The fog bell tower was then moved to the Museum.
Fog Bell Tower, c.1888. Relocated with funds given in memory of Arthur Johnson Grymes, Jr. Bell striking mechanism given in memory of Frederick Fowler by Francis Fowler and friends.
Arks were floating cabins used by watermen as living quarters while they fished for shad and herring on the Chesapeake Bay, far away from home. As the fish made their spring run up the Bay, the watermen would follow, towing the arks behind their boats. When they reached the new fishing grounds, the arks were hauled out on land. Sometimes a dozen or more arks would haul out in the same area, creating a “shanty town.” In the fall or winter when the fishing season was over, arks were often used by oystermen and hunters. By the 1920s, with better roads and automobiles, making it easy for watermen to return home during fishing trips, the use of arks dwindled.
Eagle House, c. 1890
Once the retirement home of retired steamboat captain Edward Napoleon Dodson, Eagle House is named for the entry tower that is capped by an eagle—a replica of the carving that stood there for years. The eagle likely started life ornamenting the top of a steamboat or tugboat pilot house, and around 1907 it was removed from the vessel and placed on this house.
Dodson House, c. 1860
The brick Dodson House, named for longtime owner hotelier Richard Stearns Dodson and his son, State Senator Richard Slicer Dodson, was built sometime between 1851 and 1861. In 1886, Dodson expanded the house, added the triple deck porch, and began renting it out to summer visitors in St. Michaels. The house was rehabilitated in 2003 for Museum administrative offices.
Higgins House, C. 1860
Built between 1851 and 1861 with an earlier kitchen wing that was moved to the site, the Higgins House is named for its last owner before it was acquired for the Museum. The double porch with sawn baluster and bargeboard ornaments, were added in 1886 when the house was owned by Richard Stearns Dodson and used for summer vacation rentals.
Webb House, c. 1875
The Webb House was formerly the home of William H.T. Coulbourne, an African-American entrepreneur who co-owned the nearby Coulbourne & Jewett seafood packing house. Coulbourne & Jewett, which operated from 1902 to 1962, was once the largest seafood packer in St. Michaels and one of the earliest to specialize in crabmeat. The third floor of the house had a number of small rooms that were rented to seasonal workers. Today the house contains the Museum Store.