Paul Baker Touart
Centreville Historic District
Centreville, Queen Annes County
Centreville, the county seat of Queen Anne's County, is situated on an elevated ridge of land framed by branches of the Corsica River. Primary road access is through MD 213 which splits at the south entrance of Centreville, with Commerce Street on the east as the northerly route and a parallel avenue, Liberty Street, which heads south. Route 213 follows roughly the historic north/south highway that connects the principal towns of the upper Eastern Shore. Centreville is laid out on a rough grid plan with several streets or alleys, principally MD 304 (Water Street), intersecting Commerce and Liberty Streets. The heart of Centreville is defined by the historic public square, which retains a late-18th century courthouse that still houses county government functions. The courthouse square is flanked on its south side by Lawers' Row, a particularly important street in Centreville boasting a fine assortment of 19th and early-20th century commercial and public buildings. The town's historic business district is primarily confined to the area bounded by Liberty Street on the west, Banjo Lane on the east, Godwin's alley on the south, and the juncture of MD 213 on the north end. The southeast end of this central business block was destroyed in a 1902 town fire. The Centreville National Bank at the southeast corner of North Commerce Street and Lawyers' Row and the former Queen Anne National Bank next door were both constructed in 1903-04 in the Beaux-Arts style, part of the rebuilding effort following the fire. Most of the central business district is defined by 18th, 19th, and 20th century structures in varying degrees of alteration and/or preservation. The historic housing stock of Centreville surrounds the business district on the north, south, east, and west. On the northwest side of Centreville, the section of MD 304 known as Chesterfield Avenue leads to a significant collection of historic buildings fronting the Corsica River. On the southeast side of Centreville the historic district embraces the oldest structure in town, the 1746 gambrel-roofed brick dwelling known as Providence. The collection of over two dozen brick and frame dwellings dating from the first generation of the town's history, between 1794 and 1820, includes a group of one- and two-story houses, many of which are based on center hall and side hall plans of single-pile and double-pile depth. Included in this group are many finely built Flemish bond brick houses distinguished by well executed Federal exterior and interior finishes. Particularly conspicuous is the large number of gambrel-roofed dwellings, the most known for an Eastern Shore town. Another cluster of early structures is located on the district's north end. Among these is the former Centreville Academy, a two-story c. 1803 Flemish bond building considered to be the oldest school in the county, and possibly the state. It operated in its original function for a century. The early stock of Centreville's domestic architecture is oriented largely to Commerce and Liberty Streets, the two principal avenues that constituted the town's focus during its formative years. Intermingled with the Federal dwellings is a smaller number of second-quarter 19th century houses that represent the influence of the Greek Revival of the 1840s and 1850s. A number of Federal houses along Commerce and Liberty Streets were heavily modified in Greek taste during this period. In the post-Civil War era, a range of popular romantic revival and eclectic Victorian house forms and designs were erected. Around 1880 a group of 1 1/2-story tenant houses was erected on the south shore of the Corsica River for merchant and ship captain John H. Ozmon. These rare structures have a one-room plan and two-story front porches facing the river. Chesterfield Avenue, between Broadway and the intersection of Watson Road, is lined with a series of late-19th and early-20th century houses, mostly of frame construction erected after 1880 when the town center had been substantially built out. Among these are Victorian revival styles as well as Colonial Revival and bungalow forms. Centreville's black population resided on the south side of the town, in the vicinity of the original African-American Methodist Church, erected in 1873. The Charles Wesley U.M. church on South Liberty Street stands currently near the site of the original structure. The lots south and east of the church were occupied by the town's black population during the third and fourth quarters of the 19th century, especially along Little Kidwell and Holton Streets. Standing at the end of Little Kidwell Street is the former black school, erected during the 1930s. The old National Guard Armory, built c. 1926 on South Liberty Street, was later converted to a residence and business site. By 1950, the town had substantially achieved its present form and appearance.
The Centreville Historic District is significant for its association with the development of Queen Anne's County. Laid out during the 18th century as a new county seat, Centreville has served as the center of commerce and government for over 200 years, and remains the largest and most diverse urban center in Queen Anne's County. The district derives additional significance for its exceptional collection of 18th, 19th, and 20th century buildings chronicling the architectural development of an Eastern Shore community. Among Centreville's residential, commercial, and ecclesiastical buildings are representative examples of the various architectural types and styles which characterized towns in the region during the period.