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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Christopher Weeks, 06/1981
Dorchester County Courthouse and Jail Site
Inventory No.: D-143, D-185
Date Listed: 12/16/1982
Location: 206 High Street , 500 Court Lane , Cambridge, Dorchester County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: Courthouse: 1850s; Jail: c. 1882
Architect/Builder: Richard Upjohn; Charles L. Carson
Description: The Dorchester County Courthouse is an 1850s Italianate influenced, painted brick structure which was enlarged and extensively remodeled with Georgian Revival decorative detailing in the 1930s. The facade of the courthouse is divided into three nearly equal parts, each being entirely different. The central division contains the entrance to the building and is flanked on the north by a 3-story tower, and on the west by an identical block, only two stories in height. Supporting the large brick structure is a granite foundation of enormous slabs with a chamfered water table course above. Three Romanesque arches in the central section of the building contain double doors with semicircular wood panels above bearing a large recessed circle with flanking triangular recesses. Large quoins ornament the corners of the building and towers, and three stringcourses divide the building vertically while providing continuity horizontally. The first separates the first two floors, and the second ornaments the top of the second floor, arching over the large round-arched windows. A third surrounds the third story of the tower, arching over its pair of windows on the front facade. All windows on the front facade and the second floor are round-arched large sash windows. A modillion cornice ornaments the overhanging eaves of the hip roof. The County Jail, which stood to the southeast of the courthouse from c. 1882 until its demolition in 1994, was a Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival style granite structure with brick and terra cotta appointments. The building had two intersecting rectangular wings, each under a hip roof. A cupola with a finial crowned both the front and rear portions, and a circular tower stood at the northeast corner. The second-story windows on the rear portion were tall and narrow-proportioned under brick arches. Beltcourses of brick and terra cotta ornamented the exterior walls and contrasted crisply with the stonework. The building had a dentiled cornice, embellished by brackets around the front portion. A low-lying open space to the southwest, known as Spring Valley Park, has cast iron fountain as its focal point. Significance: The significance of the Dorchester County Courthouse and Jail site is drawn from two sources. First, in the area of politics and government, the buildings have been a symbol of government and law in Dorchester County since their construction in the 19th century. The courthouse also has architectural significance. Although altered extensively on the inside, the building still retains the basic exterior design and shape as prepared by Richard Upjohn in 1851. Upjohn designed a number of buildings in Maryland, mainly churches, but the Dorchester County Courthouse is the only courthouse. The jail, which was one of the few governmental buildings on the Eastern Shore designed in the Queen Anne style, was the work of the Baltimore architect, Charles L. Carson, who practiced in the late 19th century.
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