Owensville Historic District
Owensville, Anne Arundel County
Owensville is a small crossroads community located at the intersection of Owensville Road (MD 255) and Owensville-Sudley Road, both scenic country lanes in central Anne Arundel County. Surrounded by undulating hills and cultivated fields, the crossroads is comprised of a concentration of historic buildings leading up to and clustered around the intersecting roads. Just beyond the intersection in all directions, small farms and remnants of farms punctuating the former tobacco fields contribute to the area's scenic and architectural beauty. The district consists of 27 buildings, including two church complexes, 16 dwellings with their associated domestic outbuildings, and several agricultural buildings, including tobacco barns. Christ Church and three houses occupy the four corners of the intersection, while several other dwellings and small farm complexes are in close proximity. The buildings range in date from c. 1800 to the present, though a significant concentration of the historic building stock dates between 1825 and 1875. The resources within the historic district reflect a variety of building forms and stylistic influences of the region, ranging from vernacular expressions of the Federal and Greek Revival style to an exuberant Gothic Revival cottage. Two non-residential landmarks--Christ Church and Our Lady of Sorrows--visually attest to Owensville's historic role as the center of a larger rural community. Christ Church, a charming Carpenter Gothic frame building that befits its rustic site, is architecturally notable and gives the crossroads its main prominence. Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, designed in a mid-20th century Colonial Revival style and located at the approach to the village from the west, replaced its 19th century predecessor building that had an appearance more in keeping with the tradition of the community. In addition to the "town lots" several houses occupy larger parcels and are set well back from the road. Generally, these houses, not visible to the passerby, occupy hilltop sites at the end of long lanes, and offer spectacular views to open landscapes and wooded groves.
The rural setting of Owensville, with its cohesive concentration of 19th century buildings located at the intersection of two important rural roads, is representative of the 19th century crossroads communities that were once a common feature of the rural Anne Arundel landscape. Owensville is one of only three such surviving villages in the county (the other two are Davidsonville and Woodwardville) and provides a good representation of the rural village tradition. Owensville contains a rural clustering of 19th century buildings reflecting a variety of stylistic influences including Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, and vernacular building traditions of the early 19th century, that together represent a significant and distinguished entity. In addition, Owensville retains several tobacco barns, including two early-19th century examples, that embody the distinctive characteristics of the building type. Named after an early resident, Isaac Owens, and his descendents, Owensville first arose as a commercial and social center of the larger, rural West River area. The principal tract of land out of which Owensville eventually developed was platted in 1791. The town's first store opened c. 1809 at the intersection of the Sudley and Galesville Roads, and in 1814, the crossroads was selected as the site of the West River Post Office, providing mail service for the larger West River farming community, and propelling the future growth of the small village. By the mid 19th century, Owensville had developed into a self-sufficient village that was home to many outlying farms, numerous village residences clustered around intersecting roads, two corner stores, a tailor, a wheelwright shop, a saddler shop, three churches, two schools (one public and one private), and the post office. The West River Post Office, still in Owensville, is considered the oldest surviving post office in the county. Although Owensville has lost many of its original commercial and institutional buildings, it retains an important local landmark--Christ Episcopal Church-- and many of its original farms and dwellings still serving as important reminders of the village's 19th and early-20th century heyday.