Collections of the Library of Congress
242, South Market Street (MD 355), Frederick, Frederick County
The Hessian Barracks is an L-shaped two-story stone structure with gallery porches. A gable roof covers the structure, including the porches. This structure remains of two original L-shaped buildings which, between the two, enclosed a yard. The reputedly older building was demolished c. 1870 to supply materials to erect the Maryland School for the Deaf brick building which overshadows the remaining "barracks." The longer (north) exterior wall of the existing building and the short (east) exterior wall (the short, base, of the "L") are pierced by occasional small, double-hung sash windows. The interior walls, along the galleries, are regularly pierced on both floors by sturdy doors with six deeply beveled panels, and with double-hung windows that show some early glass panes. Pegged frames with heavy cyma reversa mold surround each window opening; most of the wood trim throughout the structure appears to be early. The doorways on each floor open into a series of plain, rectangular rooms. At neither level is there an interior passageway. The inter-room door of each room leads directly into the next in line. The interior common wall between each two rooms are fitted with fireplaces, back-to-back; the stack of each couple rises to just above the ridge pole appearing as a series of wide, squat chimneys. There are two interior plain, narrow, wooden staircases between the two story levels. Two exterior, plain, wooden staircases rise from the lower to the upper galleries.
Two historians of Frederick, Maryland, Lucy Leigh Bowie (in 1939) and J. Thomas Scharf (in 1882) maintained that the Hessian Barracks were built during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The first principal (William D. Cooke) of the Maryland School for the Deaf located on the barracks grounds, in his history of the institution, was unable to date the barracks exactly. He did state: "It is known, however, that they were built during the reign of George II, and that they were occupied by General Braddock and his troops on their route to Fort Dusquene." The State of Maryland contracted to build "a" barracks in Frederick in the summer of 1777, but this structure was not completed in 1781. A letter from a British officer, a prisoner of war, to Governor Thomas Sim Lee, dated January 30, 1781, reveals the condition of the then-incomplete barracks, being at that time used as a prison. French prisoners of war captured during the undeclared sea war with France (1799) and British soldiers taken prisoner in the War of 1812 occupied the barracks. In the 19th century the Barracks served several state and community needs, including a state armory and a silk worm production site, and the barracks yard served as the Agricultural Fairgrounds from 1853 to 1860. After the Battle of Antietam in 1862, the Barracks building served as a hospital for the wounded from both North and South. Every available space in Frederick from hotels to high schools, including the Barracks, was taken up for the estimated 4,000 wounded hospitalized there. The State of Maryland chose the Barracks grounds for the location of a new school, the Maryland Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (1867). Before the construction of the first building in 1871, the school met in the barracks. The Industrial Department of the Maryland Institution for the Deaf and Dumb continued to use the barracks for a few years after the construction of the 1871 school building. The school's Board of Directors authorized demolition of the western of the two original barracks buildings.