Dorchester County is known as the Heart of the Chesapeake – and not just because it’s physically shaped like a heart. It’s also rich in Chesapeake Bay history, folklore and tradition. With 1,700 miles of shoreline (more than any other Maryland county), marshlands, working boats, quaint waterfront towns and villages among fertile farm field – much still exists of the authentic Eastern Shore landscape and traditional way of life along the Chesapeake.
1. FREDERICK C. MALKUS MEMORIAL BRIDGE is the gateway to Dorchester County over the Choptank River. It is the second longest span bridge in Maryland after the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. A life long resident of Dorchester County, Senator Malkus served in the Maryland State Senate from 1951 through 1994. Next to the Malkus Bridge is the 1933 Emerson C. Harrington Bridge. This bridge was replaced by the Malkus Bridge in 1987. Remains of the 1933 bridge are used as fishing piers on both the north and south bank of the river.
2. LAGRANGE PLANTATION – home of the Dorchester County Historical Society, LaGrange Plantation offers a range of local history and heritage on its grounds. The Meredith House, a 1760s Georgian home, features artifacts and exhibits on the seven Maryland governors associated with the county, a child’s room containing antique dolls and toys, and other period displays. The Neild Museum houses a broad collection of agricultural, maritime, industrial, and Native American artifacts, including a McCormick reaper (invented by Cyrus McCormick in 1831). The Ron Rue exhibit pays tribute to a talented local decoy carver with a re-creation of his workshop. The Goldsborough Stable, circa 1790, includes a sulky, pony cart, horse-driven sleighs, and tools of the woodworker, wheelwright, and blacksmith. The grounds also include a Colonial-style herb garden, a stronghouse, and a small boardwalk through restored wetlands. A boat landing offers access by canoe or kayak on Shoal Creek. For more info. tel: 410-228-7953 or visit dorchesterhistory.org.
3. DORCHESTER COUNTY VISITOR CENTER – The Visitors Center in Cambridge is a major entry point to the lower Eastern Shore, positioned just off U.S. Route 50 along the shore of the Choptank River. With its 100-foot sail canopy, it’s also a landmark. In addition to travel information and exhibits on the heritage of the area, there’s also a large playground, garden, boardwalk, restrooms, vending machines, and more. The Visitors Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Dorchester County call 800-522-8687 or visit www.tourdorchester.org or www.tourchesapeakecountry.com.
4. SAILWINDS PARK – Located at 202 Byrn St., Cambridge, Sailwinds Park has been the site for popular events such as the Seafood Feast-I-Val in August, Crabtoberfest in October and the Grand National Waterfowl Hunt’s Grandtastic Jamboree in November. For more info. tel: 410-228-SAIL(7245) or visit www.sailwindscambridge.com.
5. CAMBRIDGE CREEK – a tributary of the Choptank River, runs through the heart of Cambridge. Located along the creek are restaurants where your can watch watermen dock their boats after a day’s work on the waterways of Dorchester.
6. HISTORIC HIGH STREET IN CAMBRIDGE – When James Michener was doing research for his novel Chesapeake, he reportedly called Cambridge’s High Street one of the most beautiful streets in America. He modeled his fictional city Patamoke after Cambridge. Many of the gracious homes on High Street date from the 1700s and 1800s. Today you can join a historic walking tour of High Street each Saturday at 11 a.m., April through October (weather permitting). For more info. tel: 410-901-1000.
7. SKIPJACK NATHAN OF DORCHESTER – Sail aboard the authentic skipjack Nathan of Dorchester, offering heritage cruises on the Choptank River. The Nathan is docked at Long Wharf in Cambridge. Dredge for oysters and hear the stories of the working waterman’s way of life. For more info. and schedules tel: 410-228-7141 or visit www.skipjack-nathan.org.
8. DORCHESTER CENTER FOR THE ARTS – Located at 321 High Street in Cambridge, the Center offers monthly gallery exhibits and shows, extensive art classes, and special events, as well as an artisans’ gift shop with an array of items created by local and regional artists. For more info. tel: 410-228-7782 or visit www.dorchesterarts.org.
9. RICHARDSON MARITIME MUSEUM – Located at 401 High St., Cambridge, the Museum makes history come alive for visitors in the form of exquisite models of traditional Bay boats. Some were built as replicas by local modelers, while others were crafted by the boatbuilders themselves. All contain a wealth of minute details that will leave visitors awestruck at the craftsmen’s skill, while imparting an appreciation for the grace and beauty of these boats. The Museum also offers a collection of boatbuilders’ tools and watermen’s artifacts that convey an understanding of how the boats were constructed and the history of their use. This history is not ancient. Aerial photographs in the Museum’s collection, taken in the 1930s, show Cambridge Creek bustling with bugeyes, buyboats, skipjacks and schooners, even as steamboats tie up at the old ferry terminal at Long Wharf. The Museum’s Ruark Boatworks facility, located on Maryland Ave., is passing on the knowledge and skills of area boatwrights to volunteers and visitors alike. Watch boatbuilding and restoration in action. For more info. tel: 410-221-1871 or visit www.richardsonmuseum.org.
10. HARRIET TUBMAN MUSEUM & EDUCATIONAL CENTER – The Museum and Educational Center is developing programs to preserve the history and memory of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Local tours by appointment are available. The Museum and Educational Center, located at 424 Race St., Cambridge, is one of the stops on the “Finding a Way to Freedom” self-guided driving tour; pick up a brochure at the Dorchester County Visitor Center. For more info. tel: 410-228-0401.
11. SPOCOTT WINDMILL – Since 1972, Dorchester County has had a fully operating English style post windmill that was expertly crafted by the late master shipbuilder, James B. Richardson. There has been a succession of windmills at this location dating back to the late 1700’s. The complex also includes an 1800 tenant house, one-room school, blacksmith shop, and country store museum. The windmill is located at 1625 Hudson Rd., Cambridge.
12. HORN POINT LABORATORY– The Horn Point Laboratory offers public tours of this world-class scientific research laboratory, which is affiliated with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The 90-minute walking tour shows how scientists are conducting research to restore the Chesapeake Bay and how individuals and families can be stewards of the bay. Horn Point Laboratory is located at 2020 Horns Point Rd., Cambridge, on the banks of the Choptank River. For more info. and tour schedule tel: 410-228-8200 or visit www.hpl.umces.edu.
13. THE STANLEY INSTITUTE – This 19th century one-room African American schoolhouse, dating back to 1865, is one of the oldest Maryland schools to be organized and maintained by a black community. Between 1867 and 1962, the youth in the African-American community of Christ Rock attended this school, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours available by appointment. The Stanley Institute is located at the intersection of Route 16 West & Bayly Rd., Cambridge. For more info. tel: 410-228-6657.
14. BUCKTOWN VILLAGE STORE – Visit the site where Harriet Tubman received a blow to her head that fractured her skull. From this injury Harriet believed God gave her the vision and directions that inspired her to guide so many to freedom. Artifacts include the actual newspaper ad offering a reward for Harriet’s capture. Historical tours, bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals are available. Open upon request. The Bucktown Village Store is located at 4303 Bucktown Rd., Cambridge. For more info. tel: 410-901-9255.
15. HARRIET TUBMAN BIRTHPLACE – “The Moses of her People,” Harriet Tubman was believed to have been born on the Brodess Plantation in Bucktown. There are no Tubman-era buildings remaining at the site, which today is a farm. Recent archeological work at this site has been inconclusive, and the investigation is continuing, although there is some evidence that points to Madison as a possible birthplace. Known for her role in the Underground Railroad, she returned to Delmarva 19 times to free other slaves. During the Civil War, she served as a Union nurse, scout, and spy.
16. HARRIET TUBMAN VISITOR CENTER – Located adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center immerses visitors in Tubman’s world through informative, evocative and emotive exhibits. The immersive displays show how the landscape of the Choptank River region shaped her early years and the importance of her faith, family and community. The exhibits also feature information about Tubman’s life beginning with her childhood in Maryland, her emancipation from slavery, her time as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and her continuous advocacy for justice. For more info. visit dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/tubman_visitorcenter.aspx.
17. BLACKWATER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, located 12 miles south of Cambridge at 2145 Key Wallace Dr., has been referred to as the “Everglades of the North,” and has been called one of the “Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy. With more than 25,000 acres of tidal marshland, Blackwater Refuge is an important stop along the Atlantic Flyway (a migratory bird route that stretches from Canada to Florida). In addition to more than 250 species of birds, Blackwater is currently home to the largest remaining natural population of endangered Delmarva fox squirrels and is also home to the largest breeding population of American bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. The refuge features a full service Visitor Center with a bookstore, restrooms, butterfly garden, and observatory, as well as the four-mile Wildlife Drive, walking trails, water trails for paddling, and a photo blind. For more info. tel: 410-228-2677 or visit www.fws.gov/blackwater.
18. EAST NEW MARKET: Originally settled in 1660, the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Follow a self-guided walking tour to see the district that contains almost all the residences of the original founders and offers excellent examples of colonial architecture.
19. HURLOCK TRAIN STATION – Incorporated in 1892, Hurlock ranks as the second largest town in Dorchester County. It began from a Dorchester/Delaware Railroad station built in 1867. The Old Train Station has been restored and is host to occasional train excursions. For more info. tel: 410-943-4181.
20. VIENNA HERITAGE MUSEUM – The Vienna Heritage Museum displays the Elliott Island Shell Button Factory operation. This was the last surviving mother-of-pearl button manufacturer in the United States. Numerous artifacts are also displayed which depict a view of the past life in this rural community. The Vienna Heritage Museum is located at 303 Race St., Vienna. For more info. tel: 410-943-1212 or visit www.viennamd.org.
21. LAYTON’S CHANCE VINEYARD & WINERY – This small farm winery, minutes from historic Vienna at 4225 New Bridge Rd., opened in 2010 as Dorchester County’s first winery. The Layton family has been farming in this part of Dorchester County for several generations. Today, their 1,800 acres is known as Lazy Day Farms. Layton’s Chance offers wine tasting, nature trails, places to picnic, vineyard and farm tours, and more. For more info. tel. 410-228-1205 or visit www.laytonschance.com.
22. HANDSELL HISTORIC SITE – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the site is used to interpret the native American contact period with the English, the slave and later African American story and the life of all those who lived at Handsell. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. Visitors can view the exterior of the circa 1770/1837 brick house, currently undergoing preservation work. Nearby is the Chicone Village, a replica single-family dwelling complex of the Native People who once inhabited the site. Special living history events are held several times a year. Located at 4837 Indiantown Road, Vienna. For more info. tel: 410-228-745 or visit www.restorehandsell.org.