Williamsport Historic District
Williamsport, Washington County
The town of Williamsport is situated on the east bank of the Potomac River and is bordered on the north by the Conococheague Creek. Two major roads converge in Williamsport, U.S. Route 11 and Maryland Route 68, which become Potomac Street and Conococheague Street, respectively. Interstate 81 borders the corporate town limits on the east. The historic town of Williamsport was laid out on a grid pattern with wide streets of 80 feet to allow for turning wagons. Alleys running both north-south and east-west cross the interior blocks created by the grid. The streetscapes are therefore quite orderly and uncrowded with off-street parking available to nearly all residents in alley garages. The town was founded by General Otho Williams in 1786, with the requirement that lots be developed with a building of brick, log, or stone. Almost 20% of the buildings in the district date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They are generally of log or brick construction until the 2nd quarter of the 19th century. Much of this early development occurred on the west side of town, particularly along West Potomac Street and Vermont Street. Later as the C&O Canal and railroads led to a boom period, there was additional growth resulting in prominent late 19th century Italianate and Queen Anne style buildings for residential and commercial purposes and the renovation of some older structures. Slightly less than 60% of the buildings date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of particular interest are a series of Italianate commercial/residential buildings with original storefronts along Conococheague Street. The addition of early 20th century Colonial Revivals, Foursquares, and Bungalows, predominantly on the east side of town, represent the last period of historically significant development.
The Williamsport Historic District is significant for the important role the town played in the settlement and development of transportation in Washington County and the Mid-Atlantic region. Its location at the confluence of the Potomac River and Conococheague Creek provided a ready source of power and transportation. This was further enhanced by a series of good fords in the immediate area. One of the earliest migration routes from Pennsylvania to Virginia (Now U.S. Route 11) passed through the early settlement site. With the construction of the C&O Canal in the mid-19th century, Williamsport became a center for the transportation of products. The closure of the canal in 1924 served as an end-point for significant development within the Williamsport Historic District. The result is a remarkably intact district of buildings from the initial settlement period of the late 18th and early 19th century, the establishment of the C&O Canal in the mid-19th century, and the heyday of the canal in the late 19th century. The Williamsport Historic District is also significant for its collection of buildings from several architectural stylistic periods, including 18th century vernacular log, brick, and stone buildings, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Colonial Revival.