Boonsboro Historic District
Boonsboro, Washington County
The town of Boonsboro is nestled against the wet side of South Mountain, just northwest of Turner's Gap on Alternate Route 40 the former National Road. It is a historically a linear town, its primary orientation along the Main Street or Alt. Rt. 40 corridor. The westward running Potomac Street (MD 34), the historic turnpike to Sharpsburg, and St. Paul Street to the east forms the primary cross street. Additional development occurred during the first decades of the 20th century along the Hagerstown-Boonsboro Electric Railway corridor on the north end of town, and around Shafer Park and the Boonsboro Cemetery after 1940. Historically, commercial businesses along the National Road (Main Street) catered to travelers with numerous taverns and hotels, and a variety of commercial craftsmen. Boonsboro of the early 21st century is generally a residential town with religious institutions representing several denominations and only a few scattered specialty businesses remaining in the historic town center area. The Boonsboro Historic District includes 562 contributing elements. Most of the late 18th and early 19th century development in Boonsboro occurred along Main Street, then part of a principal market road between Williamsport, Hagerstown, Frederick, and Baltimore. They are mainly of log, frame, or brick construction, with a few stone buildings interspersed. Residential buildings within the oldest section of town are primarily simple vernacular forms exemplified by the many 1- and 2-story, 3 bay log and brick houses. The larger stone and brick houses demonstrate Georgian or Federal influence with their 5 bay, central entrance symmetry. Many of the plain vernacular buildings were embellished during the period of the 1860s-1980s with Italianate, Gothic, or Queen Anne architectural elements such as brackets, gables, or towers and/or decorative trim. Nearly all buildings received a front porch with Queen Anne or Gothic trim or in the later Colonial Revival style. The majority of the buildings appear to date from the 1820-1850 period coinciding with peak use years of the National Road. Most houses near the town center are three, four, or five bays wide. Many have more than one front door suggesting combined residential and commercial use. In the early and mid 19th century, commercial and residential entrances were not particularly distinguishable from one another. A number of late 19th and early 20th century storefronts were added. The large and substantial brick and stone buildings located on the town square form the center of much of Boonsboro's earliest architecture. These buildings functioned variously as inns or hotels, a female seminary, a large merchandising house, and occasionally as dwellings. They are 5-7 bays in length with two or more entrances. There is a significant group of smaller Federal or Greek Revival-influenced brick structures from the 2nd quarter of the 19th century, with Flemish bond facades, 6/6 windows with jack arches, and formal doorways with transoms and sidelights. These date from the era when the turnpike from Baltimore to Cumberland was upgraded and became part of the National Road. Later (c. 1840-50) versions with a vague Greek Revival influence use 5-course common bond on the primary facade. The 1870-1900 period was one of continued prosperity, with additions and enhancements to existing buildings. Between 1910 and 1940 resulted in the signature mix of American Foursquare and Bungalow houses, and a few Colonial Revival and Dutch Colonial Revival styles, as well as Colonial Revival embellishments to existing structures. The 1940s-50s involved infill development of small efficient house designs intended by the FHA to provide the most space for the least cost. Other features of the district include the c. 1855 Boonsboro Cemetery laid out in a 19th-century curving plan with a number of exceptionally artistic gravestones, and the office/depot of the Hagerstown-Boonsboro Electric Railway and its right-of-way along the west side of N. Main Street.
The Boonsboro Historic District is historically significant for its association with the development of Western Maryland following the opening of the National Road in the early 19th century. The road linked rural Washington County with the port of Baltimore as well as points to the west, and was an important influence on the agricultural, economic, and commercial development of the region throughout the 19th century. Boonsboro's location along the National Road, adjoining Turner's Gap through South Mountain, was strategically important during the American Civil War, and throughout the conflict the town experienced the passage of thousands of troops and accommodated the wounded soldiers left to the care of townspeople. Its growth through the first half of the 20th century, associated with another transportation corridor, the Hagerstown-Boonsboro Electric Railway branch line, is clearly apparent in the architectural character of the areas that were annexed into the town during that period. The Boonsboro Historic District derives additional significance as an excellent example of a type of linear development characteristic of town plans in the region in the 19th century, and for the wide variety of architectural types and styles represented by its component buildings, which chronicle the town's development from its founding in 1792 through the mid 20th century. The period of significance, from 1792-1959 tracks the continuous growth and evolution of the town through the date by which the district had substantially achieved its current form and appearance.