St. Peter's Church
The Ocean Gateway (US 50), Queenstown, Queen Annes County
St. Peter's Church is of brick construction and laid out in a cruciform plan. The most distinguishing features of the building are the steeply pitched slate roofs, decorated Victorian-Gothic vergeboards, large rose windows, and a small, frame Victorian bell cupola on the south gable. The exterior appearance of St. Peter's Church is a result of two separate building periods. Constructed in the 1820s, the earliest section was a large rectangular building 45' long by 30' wide, oriented on an east-west axis. This early building was laid in two different types of brickwork. The west gable and the south facade, visible from the road, are laid in Flemish bond, while the east gable and the north facade, oriented away from the road, are laid in five-course American bond. The brick shell is virtually all that remains of this early church. By 1877 the congregation had outgrown the building, and it was enlarged. As executed, these alterations dramatically affected both the exterior appearance and the interior arrangement of the church, to the extent that a cornerstone in the southwest corner of the entrance gable states: "Rebuilt 1877." An octagonal apse added on the north facade and a buttressed nave and vestibule on the south facade created a new, cruciform plan, with entrance shifted from the west gable to the south, and the altar moved from the east gable to the apse on the north facade. The new additions were laid in seven-course American bond, with corbeled buttresses at the corners.
St. Peter's Church has played an important role in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Maryland. A Catholic community was established in this area soon after Claiborne founded his colony on Kent Island in 1631, and this group, with the communities in St. Mary's and Charles Counties, formed the earliest enclave of Catholicism in the American colonies. The parish of St. Peter's was formed in 1765; the chapel constructed soon thereafter was the third permanent mission established on the Eastern Shore. The present church was built in 1823-1827 and expanded in 1877. Though little more than the exterior shell remains of the 1827 church, the enlarged 1877 structure is a notable example of Victorian-Gothic church architecture. The bold, Stick-Style roof and handsome vergeboards make the church a well-known landmark along U. S. Route 50. The interior is virtually intact from the Victorian construction period, and contains all of the 1877 stained glass and altar furniture.