Bryantown Historic District
Bryantown, Charles County
Bryantown Historic District consists of 19 contributing buildings, structures, and sites and 5 non-contributing buildings and structures. The nucleus of the district is a group of four 19th century buildings flanking Old Route 5 west of the former crossroads. Included among these are two c. 1820 structures of major interest, the Bryantown Tavern and Brick House Lot, both of which stand on adjoining lots on the north side of the road. The Tavern is a two-story, four-bay brick building of plain Federal styling that has end chimneys, a two-story front porch, and an early-20th century two-part frame wing. Painted white since at least the mid 19th century, it was initially built as a hostelry but early in the 20th century was converted to a private residence. Brick House Lot, a two-story, five-bay, Federal-style dwelling, has gable parapets, sawtooth-patterned corbeled cornices, and a single flush gable chimney at each end of the roof. Facing these buildings from the opposite side of the road are two frame houses, both built within the c. 1840-1860 period. Each is of two stories and has a brick exterior chimney at one end. Both are of simple architectural styling, but one, the Lawton House, was significantly enlarged early in this century by a two-story addition that gave it its existing L-shaped plan. The two most physically prominent structures in Bryantown, Evergreen and Smith House, were both built near the turn of the 20th century. Built in 1874, Evergreen is a fine example of Victorian Italianate-influenced architecture and possesses many interesting features, including decoratively embellished cantilevered hoods over several second floor windows. The Smith House is a large, two-story, two-part frame structure built in 1913. In overall plan it shares some architectural similarities with Evergreen, though in a somewhat more restrained manner. Contributing structures dating from the closing years in Bryantown's viability as a mercantile center early in the 20th century include the John T. Mudd House and the Carrico House, both of which are two-story, three-bay dwellings architecturally typical of a rural community in this region. There are also two, two-story, gambrel-roofed tobacco barns located near the northwest corner of the village that preserve the community's ties to the agricultural region it once served. Also significant are the sites of the frame, mid-19th century storehouses of "Boarman and Mudd" and "William N. Bean & Co." that were located at the southwest and southeast corners of the crossroads respectively. At the northeast corner of the same junction, on the property now occupied by the Decker House, stood a smithy, workshop, a stable, and an icehouse. On the east side of MD 232, just south of the crossroads, are the sites of several significant early buildings, including at least one house and a store dating from 1783, the 19th century "Burch's Storehouse," and the site of the George D. Mudd House, presumed to have been built in the early 19th century.
Bryantown, with its origins dating to the 18th century, is significant as one of Charles County's four earliest principal settlements. The land on which Bryantown is situated is comprised of part of Boarman's Manor, a 3,333 acre proprietary manorial grant awarded to Major William Boarman in 1676. Its growth as a prosperous trade and mercantile center by the mid 19th century is closely intertwined with many of the most important individuals, families, and events that shaped the social, economic, and cultural history of this area. As one of the oldest communities in a rural agricultural region where few physically cohesive settlements ever developed, Bryantown is unique in that it is one of the few towns that existed in lower Southern Maryland during the 1780 to 1900 period that today retains more than two or three early structures. Two of Bryantown's most prominent buildings, Brick House Lot and Evergreen, are both significant architectural landmarks, Brick House Lot for its formal Federal design and Evergreen as the finest example of Victorian Carpenter Gothic architecture in Charles County. Another important landmark is the early-19th century Bryantown Tavern, which is the oldest surviving commercial structure in this county, and one of the few extant early buildings of its type in Southern Maryland. In 1865, Bryantown played a minor role in an event of national consequence, the assassination of President Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth, having broken his leg in his jump from the President's box, stopped at the nearby home of Dr. Samuel Mudd for treatment before resuming his escape south to Virginia. Mudd, whom Booth had reportedly met when he visited Bryantown over a year earlier claiming to be interested in purchasing a horse, was convicted and imprisoned for his alleged involvement in Booth's escape through Charles County, but was later pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. Two other county residents accused of aiding Booth, Samuel Cox and Thomas Jones, were arrested and incarcerated at the "old brick tavern at Bryantown" before being taken to Washington where they were eventually released for lack of evidence. In the aftermath of the assassination, thousands of Federal troops were garrisoned throughout the area, and Bryantown was designated a military station where county residents, "notorious for their hostility to the government," were required to take an unconditional oath of allegiance.