Jennifer K. Cosham
Middletown Historic District
Middletown, Frederick County
Middletown Historic District, located on the Old National Pike about halfway between Frederick and Boonsboro. Middletown's lots were laid out primarily along the north and south sides of West Main Street. As the town grew to the east, Main Street was divided between East and West, with Church Street serving as the dividing line. Two large cemeteries are located within the historic district. The German Reformed Cemetery fronts onto East Main Street and dates to the settlement period of Middletown; it includes the graves of veterans from the Revolutionary War through the conflicts of the 20th century. The Lutheran Cemetery was moved to its Green Street location in 1928 and also includes a number of veteran interments. Historically Middletown was a bustling turnpike and interurban electric railway town with hotels, stores, and industries as well as a wide variety of houses. Middletown today retains much of its historic appearance, including many of its 19th century storefronts. However, the town now serves primarily as a bedroom community with greatly reduced commercial activity. The decline was influenced by the re-routing of U.S. Route 40 to the north in 1936, the loss of the electric railway in 1947, and the construction of Interstate 70 in the 1960s. The streetscape of the Middletown Historic District reflects the historic development of the town through several periods. Although most of the settlement period buildings were probably replaced in the mid 19th century, there are a few scattered buildings from the late 18th century, primarily of log construction. Later brick and log buildings from the early to mid 19th century, associated with the increased traffic along the National Pike, are located along Main and Jefferson Streets and reflect a melding of the Germanic vernacular with the nationally popular Greek Revival architectural style. In the second half of the 19th century, prosperity in the fertile Middletown Valley brought the addition of numerous Victorian period houses and storefronts. Many houses along West Main Street were modified with Gothic Revival stylistic elements, primarily on porches and with the addition of central cross-gables to the roofline. The larger High Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne style, and Colonial Revival houses along East Main Street, several used as tourist boarding houses, mark the coming of the electric railway in the last decade of the 19th century. Along the north side of East Main Street the houses in the 300 and 400 blocks have a particularly wide setback resulting from the railway right-of-way, the only real residual evidence remaining in Middletown of the electric railway's existence. The first three decades of the 20th century, the final period of significant growth in Middletown, are identified by the Prospect Street School, Colonial Revival houses, and numerous porch additions, Classical Revival commercial buildings, and a number of industrial-use buildings.
The Middletown Historic District is significant as an important center of transportation and commerce for the west-central Maryland region from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. The town enjoys an advantageous position on an important transportation route. Beginning in the 18th century, the little village in the "middle" of the valley provided a variety of services for travelers to the western "Barrens" of the Maryland colony, including lodging, blacksmithing, harness and wagon repairs, as well as spiritual sustenance in the churches established from the earliest years. Following the construction of the National Road and pike system, Middletown grew in importance as a center of commerce and culture for the valley throughout the 19th century. Its importance as a transportation hub was reinforced with the establishment of the Frederick and Middletown interurban electric railway line which eventually led to Hagerstown further west. In 1936 the new Route 40 was constructed between Frederick and Hagerstown, bypassing Middletown and undermining its central status. The closing of the electric railway line in 1947 further marginalized Middletown. The Middletown Historic District derives additional significance for its cohesive collection of architectural resources including residential, commercial, and ecclesiastical buildings reflecting a wide range of stylistic influences which mark the important periods of growth and construction in the town. Although little remains from the period of Middletown's initial settlement, the streetscape retains a number of late-18th century and early-19th century buildings of log and brick construction, which reflect the Germanic vernacular influence present throughout west-central Maryland. Several church buildings and numerous commercial buildings mark the mid-19th century construction period, and a noteworthy collection of Late Victorian period dwellings identify the late-19th and early-20th century expansion of the town to the east.