205-207, South Commerce Street, Centreville, Queen Annes County
The Female Seminary is a large two-story gable-roofed brick building constructed c. 1876. The building exhibits Victorian eclecticism in its combination of elements from various popular styles applied to a traditional side-passage floor plan. Despite the school's conversion for residential use in the early 20th century, its exterior retains integrity to reflect its original function and exhibits the careful craftsmanship typically applied to public buildings of the period in the region. The two-story building is constructed of pressed brick laid in common bond. The west facade, originally two bays wide, was altered in the early 20th century when the school building was converted to a pair of residences; a central window opening on the first floor was altered to a door and another door was installed in the north bay for a total of three entrance doors. The original entrance was located in the south bay of the west facade, with double paneled doors surmounted by a transom. The entrance bay projects forward slightly and rises to suggest a tower. The upper stage of the tower is lighted by a narrow 4/4 window surmounted by a semicircular brick arch and is capped with a hipped dormer. Three narrow 4/4 windows, grouped closely together on each story originally lighted the south bay. A gable-roofed dormer that contains signage with "D.NO3 S.NO9" caps this arrangement. The gable roof, originally cedar, is now covered in asphalt shingles. The building was converted to residential use in the early 20th century. Windows with 1/1 sash were installed near the center of the west facade, and two 1/1 windows were added on the east facade to light the upstairs. A porch was added spanning the west facade. On the south gable end of the main block, a group of three narrow windows is centered on each story. The three bays of the rear wing are defined by 6/6 windows on both stories. The east gable end of the wing has a shed-roofed porch across the first story; two entrances are offset to the corners, and the area of the porch between them is enclosed. Two 1/1 sash windows light the upper story. The interior originally contained four classrooms, two on each floor, accessed by a side stairwell and passage. The stair, located at the southern junction of the main block and the wing, features turned balusters and newels. Bead-board wainscoting survives along the south wall of the stairwell. When a transverse partition was installed to convert the schoolhouse to two residences, another stairwell was added at the center of the building. Elements of the original decorative detailing such as door and window trim survive throughout the building. Original interior shutters and hardware remain on the windows in the upper northwest room. Original bead-board wainscoting remains exposed in the upper southeast bedroom and the bathroom adjoining that room on the west.
The Female Seminary is significant for its association with the development of education in Queen Anne's County in the late 19th century as the county's only public schoolhouse built exclusively for females. Built in 1876, the school was hailed as "an ornament to the town" of Centreville, the county seat, and reflects the county's civic pride and its interest in providing women with an education separate from their male counterparts. Despite its initial success--a c. 1880 class photograph shows 84 female students and three teachers--this experiment in education proved short-lived. Within 30 years the county returned to teaching both sexes in the same building. In 1907, the schoolhouse--deemed "unsuited and unnecessary" for school purposes--was sold and converted to residential use.