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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Don Cook, 2002
West Nottingham Academy Historic District
Inventory No.: CE-1450
Date Listed: 7/26/1990
Location: Harrisville Road & Firetower Road , Colora, Cecil County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1864-1940
Description: West Nottingham Academy historic district is located in northwestern Cecil County, Maryland in the vicinity of the small, rural village of Colora. The academy complex, comprising approximately 85 acres, is characterized by a park-like setting of mature trees, a narrow stream, a small lake, and 19th and 20th century buildings. Most of the buildings are situated on high ground around the perimeter of the property, facing the small lake and stream. Firetower Road runs more or less parallel with the stream through the academy property. The principal historic buildings that comprise the district nomination include the Old Academy or Canteen (1864), a single-story, three-part Victorian brick building with a distinctive stick-decorated belfry; the Gayley House (c. 1830), a prominent 2 1/2-story Flemish and common bond brick dwelling that retains a large part of its Federal/Greek Revival woodwork; and Magraw Hall (1929), a large gambrel-roofed stone administration building. Wiley House (c. 1840), Becktel House (c. 1900), Hilltop House (c. 1900), the barn or old gym (c. 1930), as well as the stone entrance and stone bridges, are contributing historic buildings and structures. At the moment, six other structures found on the campus were built after 1940. Significance: Significance of the West Nottingham Academy Historic District derives from the history of the institution. Founded in 1774, the West Nottingham Academy is the oldest operating boys boarding school in Maryland. Since its inception, West Nottingham Academy has prepared privileged boys for university life. Included among the early graduates are Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton, signers of the Declaration of Independence. The campus, as it exists today, represents the institution's history from 1864, when a new academy building, presently known as the Canteen, was built, to about the start of World War II, when the highest enrollment was reached. West Nottingham Academy and other institutions of its type, the Tome School, also in Cecil County; Saint James School in Washington County; Charlotte Hall in St. Mary's County; and numerous others in the Baltimore vicinity, were the primary source of college preparatory work. Less than half of the institutions which existed by 1930 are still operating. Architecturally, two of the campus buildings have particular architectural significance. The 1864 academy building and the 1928 Magraw Hall are significant examples of academic institutional architecture. In Maryland, the 1864 building is the only known survivor of the small one-story school buildings once found relatively commonly on academic campuses. The monumental Magraw Hall with its heavy Georgian decoration is a typical campus building for its period but one of the grander buildings in Cecil County. Cecil County is a rural county east of the Susquehanna River with only small hamlets and villages beyond Elkton, the county seat, which is a medium sized town.


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