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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Pine Street Neighborhood Historic District
Inventory No.: D-390
Date Listed: 11/28/2012
Location: Cambridge, Dorchester County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1825-1960
Description: The Pine Street Neighborhood Historic District comprises approximately 100 acres within the city of Cambridge, county seat of Dorchester County, Maryland. Centering on the triangle created by Pine, High, and Washington Streets, the district is characterized by a variety of commercial, residential, and religious building types that reflect the development of the predominantly African-American community over a period of 150 years. The district retains an exceptionally large concentration of frame duplexes or gable-front houses originally occupied by workers of the city's booming canning industry at the turn of the 20th century. A group of houses reflecting popular Victorian styles attest to the success of several businessmen in the neighborhood in the last quarter of the 19th century. Houses throughout the district chronicle its continuous evolution into the mid-20th century. Churches and commercial buildings represent the religious, social, and economic life of the community. Significance: The Pine Street Neighborhood Historic District in Cambridge is architecturally and historically significant on several counts. Primarily an African-American neighborhood, this large residential and commercial district started out as a distinctly segregated section of the city, inhabited by free black citizens of the county seat during the first quarter of the 19th century. The district is historically significant for its association with the history of the African-American community of Cambridge. The district derives architectural significance for its cohesive collection of structures representing various architectural forms and types characteristic of African American neighborhoods in the region during the late 18th and early 19th century. The district comprises the most extensive collection of factory associated, repetitive form housing to remain on the Eastern Shore. Rows of two-story, two-bay, gable-front frame dwellings, or in some cases, two-story, four-bay frame duplexes, constitute a dominant percentage of the district's contributing resources. The most common house type, a two-story, gable-front, two-room plan main block with rear kitchen, was built in distinct rows on narrow lots that minimized street frontage and maximized the number of dwellings on a specific parcel. Assembled with a lightly framed skeleton, the houses were often finished with a decorative front porch of turned posts, sawn corner brackets, and slightly extended eaves with returns. Variations on this predominant form include slightly shorter story-and-a-half examples as well as those of only one-bay width. Intact rows of these houses line many of the principal and side streets. Intermingled within the rows of company-type dwellings are individual examples of late-19th century Victorian and early-20th century bungalow or four-square dwellings built on modest scales indicative of the narrow lot lines and/or the typically more conservative budgets of African-American owners who financed dwellings during this period. The Cyrus St. Clair, Jr. house at 435 High Street is a distinctive example of the century-old, owner-occupied houses built by the successful black business class of the late 19th century. Another is the Lemuel Kiah house, a 2 1/2-story, three-bay cross-gabled dwelling located at 523 Cedar Street. The district includes as well as host of small frame commercial buildings, former stores or shops, that housed African-American businesses which served the resident population that increased steadily during the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the overall growth of Cambridge's industrial and commercial base. The commercial and economic growth of the Second Ward peaked with the rest of the city and county during the late 1920s and then followed a distinct stagnation after the 1929 sock market failure and attendant depression. Located in the heart of the district is Waugh United Methodist Church, a modern structure erected on the site of an original chapel built in 1826. A second black congregation of Bethel A.M.E. Church, was established on Pine Street in 1847, and it is represented by a large Gothic Revival brick building erected in 1903. Historically, the Pine Street neighborhood, potentially the Second Ward voting district, is known for being the first Eastern Shore jurisdiction to elect its own African-American councilman, Joseph I. Collins, in 1882. A second black representative, H. Maynadier St. Clair, also a resident of the Second Ward, served on the county council from his initial seating in 1894 to his retirement from the post in 1946.
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