Paula S. Reed
Emmitsburg Historic District
Emmitsburg, Frederick County
The Emmitsburg Historic District in northwestern Frederick County includes most of the older area of the town extending along Main Street and Seton Avenue. The character of the district is predominantly residential with several commercial buildings and churches interspersed among the dwellings. The majority of buildings are two-story sided log or brick, dating from the late 18th to the mid 19th centuries. A two-block area of Main Street from the square east to Federal Street was substantially destroyed by fire on June 16, 1863, resulting in some later 19th century buildings in this area, most notably the large Italianate-influenced buildings forming the northeast and southeast corners of the square. In general, the buildings are placed against the sidewalk without set-backs with side-gabled roofs. Buildings are influenced by early Maryland Vernacular traditions, as well as the Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and American Foursquare styles. Other elements which contribute to the historic character include brick walks, cast iron trim, fences and hitching posts, period outbuildings, and back lot wood fences. The buildings are in good condition. The basic street plan is a grid.
The Emmitsburg Historic District is significant because it reflects the growth and development of this northern Frederick County market center. Furthermore, the buildings which line it streets reflect small town interpretations of most of the major styles which characterized American architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries and the pre-World War II period of the 20th century. Most of the town remains architecturally intact with some buildings remaining from the initial development of the town in 1785. Settlement occurred in the vicinity from the 1730s on with three cultural forces involved: Protestant Germans and Scots-Irish from Pennsylvania who were responsible for the settlement of most of the Piedmont and western part of Maryland, and English Catholics from Tidewater Maryland who established a settlement near Emmitsburg. Their community eventually became one of the largest Catholic educational complexes in America, and although not located in the Emmitsburg Historic District, the presence of this large institution has helped to form and guide Emmitsburg's history. The Emmitsburg Historic District is also significant for the fine collection of 18th and 19th century architecture in the Emmitsburg Historic District extends almost interrupted through the town. A substantial number of 18th century buildings survive from initial development of the town and are particularly preserved with relatively few alterations; others retain 18th century form and features despite later surface treatments and additions. Also significant are several extant examples of mid-19th century architecture influenced particularly by the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. These buildings reflect the town's continued growth and prosperity in the mid 19th century and its rebuilding efforts after the fire of 1863.