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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Michael O. Bourne, 05/1997
Port Deposit Historic District
Inventory No.: CE-1291
Date Listed: 5/23/1978
Location: Port Deposit, Cecil County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1812-1910
Description: Port Deposit is a small town in western Cecil County, Maryland. Its main street, running parallel to the northeastern bank of the Susquehanna River, is a 1.4 mile segment of U.S. Route 222. Between Main Street and the river are the Penn Central railroad tracks, the railroad yard, and, along about half of Port Deposit's length, industrial buildings and wharves. For about a mile beginning at the southeastern end of town, there are lots on both sides of Main Street. With few exceptions, the buildings are residential or small-scale commercial structures. Most of the larger houses of the more wealthy businessmen were built during the latter part of the 19th century. The town of Port Deposit, known as Creswell's Ferry until 1812, was built in the floodplain of the Susquehanna, and prospered because of various industries. Merchants Mill (or Rock Run Mill), at the intersection of North Main Street and MD 269, was built in 1731 and was still in operation in 1913. In 1789, the granite quarry north of the mill was in operation, and stone was shipped over a wide region. Port Deposit granite was in demand from the 1830s through the turn of the 20th century. This industry not only was an integral part of Port Deposit's economic prosperity, but it provided the town with a unique character. The bluish-gray granite was used in some way in almost every building, for some sidewalks, for retaining walls to protect against floods and ice jams, and for the terraces and steps up the hillside. The movement to lay stone pavements began in 1837. Floods have been a continuing problem for Port Deposit residents, and one in 1886 partially destroyed the town's records. Most of Port Deposit's buildings are simply designed and have a high basement for flood protection. Some of those facing the river from the northern side of Main Street sit back and are elevated from the street level. Others have a full-story stone basement which can be entered from the sidewalk. Throughout Port Deposit there are several groups of modest row houses, some with Second Empire and Eastlake details. There are several Queen Anne style houses, and a scatter of Greek Revival, Colonial Revival and Bungalow styles. Most of the inns which existed throughout the 19th century still stand, but are used for other purposes, mostly apartments. Significance: Port Deposit, Maryland, located on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River, is a small town of about 900 people. Early in the 18th century this area became a river-crossing point and a large mill was established. By 1729, Thomas Cresap operated Smith's Ferry just north of Port Deposit, probably then known as Rock Run. Adjacent to Port Deposit, Anchor and Hope farm was acquired by the Creswell family before 1700 and was probably the area's first inn. When the family acquired the ferry operation, the village became known as Creswell's Ferry. Much of the land in the area was owned by Philip Thomas. When Mr. Thomas died in 1811, his son purchased the various parcels from the heirs and had surveyor Hugh Beard draw a plat (dated October 21, 1812) for the southern part of Creswell's Ferry. It showed a 33' wide street with only a few lots on the river side. On December 5, 1812, Governor Winder signed a bill changing the name to Port Deposit. The town's first charter was signed by Governor Samuel Stevens on January 17, 1825. Much of the town's great prosperity during the 19th century resulted from its role as a port of deposit for raw materials such as flour, potatoes, whiskey, lumber, grain, and coal brought down the Susquehanna on rafts. North of Port Deposit the river was not navigable by ship, so the town served as an exchange point where the goods could be unloaded and reloaded on ships for Baltimore and other ports. Completion of the Maryland Canal in 1812 contributed much toward the town's growth. The town also established itself as an important processing and distribution center, having lumber mills, gin mills, foundries, and other industries. The first bridge across the Susquehanna was built at Port Deposit.

District Resources

Resources not specifically itemized in a list within NR nomination form.

 

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