Residences of Port Tobacco

Town life set Port Tobacco apart from much of Southern Maryland. From its agrarian beginnings in the 1630s until the onset of the Second World War, the area was profoundly rural.

Historic town and country houses in Southern Maryland are indistinguishable, but those in towns like Port Tobacco, Benedict, and Leonardtown occupied small lots and had few outbuildings in which to stable horses, smoke meat, or store dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Rural houselots--farmsteads--encompassed these and other kinds of outbuildings. They were the business offices of the most common type of business in 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century Maryland...the family farm.

Port Tobacco's residences generally did not house farming operations (although a few like the Compton House did), but in many, if not most, cases they headquartered a variety of professionals,retailers, crafters, and mechanics: milliners, jewelers, bakers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, printers, blacksmiths, and other trades.

The surviving historic buildings in town look like simple residences. The visitor must look beyond contemporary facades and imagine the locals and strangers coming and going from houses and shops attached to houses in the course of daily commerce.