Leitersburg Historic District
Leitersburg, Washington County
Leitersburg is an early-19th century village located in the northeast corner of Washington County, about 3 miles south of the Pennsylvania state line. The village square is centered on the intersection of the old Nicholson's Gap Road, which runs gently downhill from northeast to southwest, and the Smithsburg-Leitersburg-Greencastle (PA) road, which runs downhill from the southeast to the Antietam Creek several hundred yards to the northwest. This square retains three original early 19th century brick buildings, a tavern, general store, and dwelling; as well as a late-19th century wooden frame grocery store/meeting hall. Most of the original 30 log buildings, somewhat altered, remain. These are typically simple, vernacular buildings. Several examples of brick, stone, and wood frame buildings are found in the village, as well as historic institutions including churches and a 1914 school. With its location at this busy crossroads, the town thrived commercially. Many buildings served as hotels and stores. Andrew Leiter's c. 1812 one-story stone tavern was rebuilt as a spacious two-story brick structure in the 1830s. Ground's Store was built as an impressive two-story 6-bay long brick building whose facade was laid in a distinctive diapered, or diamond pattern, unique in this region. Burkhart's Hotel was built in stone and log, Samuel Lyday's hotel was built in brick, and Lahm's Hotel was constructed in log with one stone end wall. With the exception of the Leitersburg Hotel, commercial structures in the town have been adapted for residential use. Although their use has changed, they have been maintained and except for modern claddings, these buildings survive in their original form. The wagonmakers, blacksmiths, tailors, weavers, and shoemakers worked out of their homes. The houses that were built for these working-class residents were primarily of practical log construction. These houses were intended to be covered and protected from the elements with clapboarding, but they were often whitewashed as a temporary measure until finances allowed for proper siding. They ranged in size from one-story two-room cabins to two-story Georgian plan buildings extended by additions. Even the smallest structure was later enlarged with additions or raised in height. Every building stood on a stone foundation, usually with a cellar, and was heated by an exterior stone chimney or an interior brick chimney. As the town prospered, several houses of more expensive stone or brick construction appeared. The 1846 brick Leiter House is the single representative of high-style Greek Revival interior detailing in the village. Mid-19th through early-20th century buildings were more often constructed of brick or frame. Victorian details such as bay windows and jigsawn porch trim proliferated. Several examples of the early-20th century Foursquare style represent the last significant building period in town. Several original sections of sidewalk are paved with large flat slabs of limestone. Stone walls, dry-laid along alleys and finished with crenelated caps when bordering yards, are found throughout the village. The tree-shaded town retains its approximate 1815-1926 appearance and its rural setting amidst 200-year-old farms.
The Leitersburg Historic District is significant for its association with the development of commerce and transportation in Washington County and the surrounding region in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Leitersburg was founded in 1815 by Andrew Leiter after the 1807 Greencastle-Baltimore Road was constructed to intersect the Nicholson's Gap Road on his property. The town developed with many hotels and commercial establishments to serve travelers on the two roads. The town also served as an exchange point between the many mills and distilleries located on the nearby Antietam Creek. The village continued to prosper when nine miles of the Nicholson's Gap Road was rebuilt as the Leitersburg Turnpike in 1847. The Leitersburg Historic District derives additional significance as a well-preserved example of crossroads community which characterized the region in the 19th century, and for its variety of historic architecture. Leitersburg's town plan, comprising a public square at the intersection of two major thoroughfares, typified communities in southern Pennsylvania and adjacent Maryland throughout the period. The village comprises a cohesive collection of architectural resources reflecting a wide variety of vernacular types and popular expressions dating from the early 19th century through the early 20th century. The majority of early buildings were of log construction. The 30 extant examples range from small workers' cottages to large houses which served as hotels. A pair of substantial brick buildings on Leitersburg's central square which operated as a store and a tavern are among the most distinctive early-19th century commercial buildings in the county. Stone and frame buildings representing the Federal and Victorian periods and the early 20th century are found in the village. The preservation of Leitersburg's 19th and early-20th century architectural character is a fortunate consequence of its having been bypassed by major transportation modes: the town's failure to secure a railroad line in the early 20th century slowed its growth, and the construction of Maryland Route 60 in the 1950s diverted motor traffic around Leitersburg.