Sharpsburg Historic District
Sharpsburg, Washington County
Sharpsburg is located in southern Washington County, about three miles from the Potomac River, on the alignment of an 18th century road, now Maryland Route 34. The Sharpsburg Historic District covers the entire town plus a small amount of adjoining property adjacent to the town boundary, as well as Mountain View Cemetery, the town’s burying ground established in 1883. The town is laid out in a grid pattern with two streets, Main and Mechanic, crossing at a central square. Sharpsburg is one of only three towns in Washington County with a public square. The others are Hagerstown, the county seat, and Leitersburg. Established in 1763, Sharpsburg consists of a series of rectangular lots, each approximately 100 by 200 feet, facing onto Main Street (MD Route 34), an early road that led from Frederick, Maryland into Virginia (now West Virginia). Mechanic Street led north toward Hagerstown (then Elizabeth Town) and south to the Antietam Iron Works and on to Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Near the southwest quadrant of this intersection lies the Great Spring, which supplied water for the town for many years. The extant buildings range in age from the late 18th century to the present day. The character of the town is residential with most of the buildings being houses, along with assorted support buildings. In addition to dwellings the town has six churches, four of them active, an elementary school built in 1936 with more recent additions, and a former American Legion hall built in 1949. A two-story Italianate style Masonic Hall occupies the southeast corner of the square, with the Classical Revival-influenced IORM building containing the Town Hall and library next door. The Masonic building has commercial space with original storefronts on the first floor. Many of the town lots have been split in half with 50-foot fronts, leaving the streetscape fairly densely built along the main street. The oldest buildings are log, stone, or braced frame, with brick buildings dating from about 1820 and later. Later balloon frame buildings and more recent materials such as concrete block represent the late 19th and early 20th century. Surface materials, in addition to stone and brick, range from original wooden sidings from various periods to asphalt (“Insul-brick”), aluminum and vinyl siding.
The Sharpsburg Historic District is historically significant for its role during the American Civil War Battle of Antietam or Battle of Sharpsburg, as it was known in the South. Although much of the September 17, 1862 battle raged on the farm fields east of Sharpsburg, the town itself formed the Confederate rear with frequent artillery and small arms fire ripping across roofs and embedding into exterior walls of buildings. Both the Lutheran and Episcopal churches were used by snipers and were heavily damaged during the battle. After the battle those same church buildings and many houses in town were used to house first Confederate wounded prior to their retreat across the Potomac River into Virginia on the 18th of September, and then later became Union hospitals. Having been founded in 1763, the Sharpsburg Historic District derives additional historical significance for its association with the 18th century settlement of the then-western-frontier of Maryland and its role in the development of the lower Antietam Creek area as an agricultural and transportation center. The town of Sharpsburg served as a social and commercial hub for the surrounding agricultural region, and for travel and commerce on the C&O Canal. The Sharpsburg Historic District is also architecturally significant for a remarkably intact and cohesive collection of houses, churches, and other buildings chronicling the town’s development from the initial settlement period through the mid 20th century. Sharpsburg is well known for its impressive stock of Georgian-inspired stone houses. There are also several early-19th century Federal-style brick houses that anchor the town square. The town’s streetscapes are comprised of vernacular interpretations of Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Colonial Revival architectural styles. An unusually large proportion of the buildings in Sharpsburg are of log construction.