Photo credit: Paul Baker Touart , 01/2005

Property Name: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Date Listed: 9/16/2005
Inventory No.: S-429
Location: Princess Anne, Somerset County

Description: The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is located on the northeastern side of the town of Princess Anne. The historic approach to the campus is from the west, via Broad Street; the new University Boulevard links the campus with State Route 13 north of the town. The core of the campus complex focuses on a large rectangular green or quadrangle bordered with paved walks. The quadrangle is oriented on a northeast/southwest axis. The quadrangle is surrounded by major buildings erected between 1938 and 1954 that reflect variations of neoclassical and Colonial Revival styles that were favored by many educational institutions during the early to mid 20th century. Exterior elevations are representative mainly of a variety of Colonial Revival designs recalling architectural massing and detailing from 18th century America. Several of these buildings are distinguished by colossal columned entrance porticos reflecting the resurgence of neoclassicism during the first half of the 20th century. For the most part, the buildings are faced with Flemish bond brick, and have gable roofs covered with slate. The buildings were designed by E. Wilson Booth, a local architect well known for a range of residential, educational, and institutional structures. At the southern corner of the district, a small fenced cemetery features grave markers honoring Benjamin Oliver Bird (1853-1897), the academy's first leader; his wife Portia E. Lovett Bird (1859-1899); Thomas Henry Kiah (1873-1936), the institution's fifth president; and his wife Mary Kiah (1879-1918). The historic district comprises the core of a much larger campus. It contains eight contributing resources and the contributing cemetery.

Significance: The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is historically significant for its association with the development of higher education for African Americans in Maryland. The institution began as an academy established in 1886 in an effort to provide higher educational opportunities for black men and women in the region, and grew to become an integral part of the Maryland state university system. The University stands out as the only land-grant institution for black education on the Eastern Shore and one of two in Maryland that were begun during the late 19th century. The early history of the school is closely tied to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which worked diligently to improve opportunities for blacks during the mid to late 19th century. In particular, the assistance of the Centenary Biblical Institute and the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Church were essential to its establishment and early development. The school's past is emblematic of the basic struggles experienced by the African-American population in pursuit of higher education during the period from the post-Civil War years until the mid 20th century. The district derives additional significance for its architecture, which is representative of the design and construction standards adopted by the State of Maryland for its university system during the mid 20th century. The arrangement of buildings around a quadrangle reflects Beaux-Arts ideals applied to campus planning, and the choice of Colonial Revival and neoclassical-inspired designs symbolically expresses democratic and academic values. The buildings replaced the frame and brick structures that had defined the school grounds between 1886 and 1938, and brought the institution's physical plant more into parity with other elements of the State university system. The first phase of rebuilding was financed in part by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration; J. T. Williams (originally Maryland) and Bird Halls date from the 1938-40 WPA period. The University campus contains the largest and most diverse concentration of mid-20th century educational buildings on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. The period of significance, 1886-1954, extends from the foundation of the institution through the mid 20th century, during which time the historic core of the campus substantially achieved its present form.


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