George J. Andreve
Princess Anne Historic District
Princess Anne, Somerset County
Princess Anne, the Somerset County Seat, is located at the head of the Manokin River. It is one of Maryland's Eastern Shore towns that has maintained much of its architectural integrity due, in large part, to a slow economy during the mid 20th century. Few new buildings have been constructed in the downtown area which has been the center of government and trade on this part of the Eastern Shore since the town was incorporated in 1733. Streets of the 18th century community were lined with small frame dwellings, almost all of which have disappeared. When prosperity came during the 19th century, many of the earlier houses were altered or replaced, and new construction spread beyond the town's original boundaries. Within the historic district are a few pre-Revolutionary structures, a high concentration of Federal and Victorian buildings, vernacular dwellings as well as 19th and early-20th century commercial and public buildings. The district contains approximately 270 structures of which nearly 90% are contributing to the character of the district.
Princess Anne is historically significant because of its architectural heritage, as the administrative center for the county and as an important regional trading center. Princess Anne has one of the finest collections of Federal and Victorian dwellings and late-19th to early-20th century commercial structures on the Delmarva Peninsula. Most of them have had few alterations. There has been little change due to industry or other development, and the town retains much of its historic character. It has been the governmental center since the county was formed in 1742 and the present courthouse is one of the most architecturally distinguished in the state. Since the beginning, Princess Anne, now with a population about 1500, has remained the important commercial and banking center for the surrounding countryside. During the 18th century, and especially the 19th, this community grew in importance as a shipping point for local farm produce since the Manokin River was navigable as far as the Princess Anne bridge. As late as 1900, three-masted schooners could still exchange fertilizer and manufactured goods for farm and forest products.