Berkley Crossroads Historic District
Darlington vic., Harford County
The Berkley Crossroads Historic District is a small rural crossroads community dating from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. The entire area is agricultural in nature, and is comprised mostly of two- and three-story residences. The earliest structures, dating from the late 18th and early 19th century are of log construction, in whole or in part. The Rigbie House and the McNutt House are existing examples of the construction of that period, one owned by one of the wealthiest men in the colony (Rigbie House) and the other a one-room log cabin. Several of the African-American early and mid-19th century houses still stand, including the earliest, the original Peca/Paca site. The 19th and early 20th century houses are clapboard with a predominance of slate roofs mined from the nearby Peach Bottom slate quarries. The late-19th century houses gave gentle nods to the Victorian period with high-pitched roofs and discreet scrolling and "gingerbread." Many of the large houses in Berkley were used as summer homes for Quakers from Philadelphia and Baltimore. The tenants stayed year round to maintain and work the farms. In the centuries before the construction of the Conowingo Dam in 1924 and the resultant broadening of the Susquehanna River (creating Conowingo Lake), Berkley would have been viewed as a community elevated high above the banks of the river, serving as the last major crossroads before crossing the Susquehanna by ford, boat, ferry, or bridge. Pre-dam access via Bekrley Road (old U.S. Route 1), which connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the Conowingo Station on the east bank of the river, resulted in the growth of activity and commerce at the Berkley Crossroads, including the Berkley Driving Park, a popular race track constructed by State Senator Charles A. Andrew; Oliver Thomas's blacksmith and wagon building shop, and later, a Ford dealership and gas station. A general store remained open until the 1960s, and the Berkley Post Office located in the General Store closed in 1923. There was also a feed and grain store, and close to the river were found the Towpath Tea House, a tanbark factory, a flint mill, a paper mill, and other industries. A free African-American community with land ownership can be traced to the late 18th and early 19th century with continued residence until today with the Hosanna AME Church continuing to thrive as it did in the mid 19th century and the Hosanna School standing as a testimonial museum to the education of Berkley's African-American citizens until the mid 1940s.
The Berkley Crossroads is significant as a representative example of a type of crossroads community that characterized rural Maryland from the 18th century through the early 20th. It is one of the few remaining rural crossroads in Harford County. It derives additional significance from the breadth and depth of its documented social and economic history--as an important 19th century Free Black community, and for its association with the development of transportation and commerce throughout the region.