Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg , 08/22/2003

Property Name: Seneca Historic District
Date Listed: 11/15/1978
Inventory No.: M: 17-63
Location: Poolesville, Montgomery County

Description: The Seneca Historic District comprises 3,850 acres of federal, state, and county parkland and farmland in which 15 historic houses are situated. When the first patents were granted in the early 18th century to Daniel Dulaney, it was forested land. The first plantations, established by Georgetown residents and Anne Arundel County emigrants, were working farms of the same approximate size as today. The C&O Canal, including Riley's Lock House (Lock House #24), and the Seneca Sandstone Quarry and its associated buildings also stand within the district. The 15 historic houses are surrounded by dependencies of various periods, in most cases dating from the period of the dwelling. There are slave quarters, smokehouses, springhouses, corn cribs, and tobacco barns. Nearly every farm also contains a large bank barn built with Seneca sandstone foundations and red painted wooden siding with white trim. There are some sections of red standstone fence bordering fields. These are about three feet high and two to three feet thick. On the south side of the district, parkland rises steeply to form bluffs along the river. It is in one of these bluffs that the Quarry is located. From the highest elevation, 300 feet, north to River Road, there are cleared, level fields. A one-room schoolhouse located on River Road is surrounded on three sides by oak trees and farm fields. Along Great Seneca Creek there are many summer houses and a few year round homes built directly on the shores.

Significance: The section of Maryland where Seneca Creek flows into the Potomac River is a site of surpassing significance in the study of the changing of the American Colonies into a united nation. There is no place along the Potomac River which served more often as the theater for scenes of the developing history of Maryland from the 17th century to the early days of the 20th century, with each scene described in recorded history. In the latter part of the 17th century, the Potomac Rangers under the command of Colonel Mason ranged through the Seneca Section to the headquarters of Captain Richard Brightwell, whose land grant stretched along the river's edge above Seneca. In the early 18th century, great holdings of land were granted to favorite English families. In the late 18th century, the lands of Loyalist Daniel Dulany were confiscated and sold in 1781. Lots two through seven of the land were bought by Robert Peter, the Mayor of Georgetown, and lots one and eight were bought by William Deakins, also of Georgetown, a member of the Committee of Observation and friend of General George Washington. The red sandstone and marble quarries were opened in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and substantial houses were built. At first many of these houses were occupied only during the summer months. By 1828 the C&O Canal was being constructed along the edge of the Potomac, and the former summer houses were lived in year round by the sons of the builders. Seneca became the business center for the canallers, the quarrymen, and the farmers who brought their grain to the tall mill on Seneca Creek and their tobacco to the canal boats for shipment to Georgetown. Seneca saw fighting during the Civil War in both 1863 and 1864. On the whole, the Seneca Historic District, with its extra large barns, broad fields, and well built stone houses, remains unchanged, and is a priceless, unspoiled picture of Maryland as it must have been during the 19th and early 20th centuries.


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