Historic St. Mary’s City

A costumed interpreter demonstrates cloth dyeing during the 17th century at Historic St. Mary’s City’s Town Center. |Photo courtesy of Historic St. Mary's City

Experience life in the 17th century, with a trip to Historic St. Mary’s City, the site of Maryland’s first colonial settlement and capital.

Located in Southern Maryland, St. Mary’s City was founded on March 27, 1634, by Leonard Calvert, who served as the first governor. It was the fourth oldest permanent English settlement in the U.S., and for 61 years it was Maryland’s capital.

A costumed interpreter plays a colonial game called hoop and stick in Historic St. Mary’s City’s Town Center. |Photo courtesy of Historic St. Mary’s City

To preserve this site, Historic St. Mary’s City, or HSMC, was established in 1966 by an act of the Maryland General Assembly, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1969. HSMC is an outdoor living history museum, and according to the website, it is “the best preserved English colonial archaeological site in North America.” The museum features living history encounters, hands-on activities, archeology and nature trails. About 40 acres of land is open to the public as exhibit space.

“The museum is unique in that it is one of the few living history museums in the country that is located on the actual land of the historic time period represented,” said Laurel Potyen, with HSMC. “There is also an active archeology program that guides our understanding of the past.”

Explore HSMC

Visitors to HSMC can explore reconstructed structures in the town center. These structures include a state house, a store, a hotel, a print house, and a tobacco plantation with livestock. The Maryland Dove, is a popular maritime exhibit. This fully-working ship was recreated to look like a 17-century coastal trading vessel.

Visitors work the windlass on the Maryland Dove, a fully-working ship recreated to look like a 17 century coastal trading vessel in Historic St. Mary’s City.

Another museum highlight is the reconstructed brick chapel, which according to the HSMC website, is “a powerful reminder of faith, perseverance and enduring American values.” St. Mary’s City is considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in America.

“Liberty of conscience and separation of church and state were mandated in colonial Maryland, far in advance of the laws and practices in other New World colonies,” the website states.

The oldest standing structure in HSMC is the Mackall Barn, built in 1785, which was used as a granary and tobacco barn. HSMC uses this building as an exhibit space where visitors can learn about St. Mary’s City after the capital moved to Annapolis in 1695.

Upcoming events

Throughout the year, HSMC hosts entertaining and educational events. On Sept. 23, the museum will host “RiverFest,” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will feature live music, kayaking children’s activities. During this event, the St. Maries Citty Militia, a volunteer group of reenactors, will perform drills, mock battles and fencing throughout the day.

On Nov. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., HSMC will host “Hearth and Home.” This event will feature colonial cooking demonstrations and learn about what it took to weather the winter before refrigerators, electric stoves and grocery stores.

For more information, visit http://www.hsmcdigshistory.org/visit/calendar/.

HSMC is part of the Blue Star Museum program, which offers free admission to Soldiers and their families during the summer months.

“Because many military families sacrifice so much in service for our country, not to mention their support of local communities, we feel it is important to give back,” Potyen said. “The ‘Blue Star’ program is one way we can thank them for their service by giving them the experience of exploring our unique sites and learning our stories. Essentially, we hope they will enjoy touring one of America’s National Historic Landmarks, because it is just one of the many cultural treasures they help protect with their service.”

About HSMC

HSMC is located at 18751 Hogaboom Lane, St. Mary’s City, MD, 20686. Admission is $10 for adults; $9 for seniors, ages 60 and older; $6 for students ages 6 to 18 with ID; $5 for children ages 5 and younger. HSMC hours vary by season. For more information, visit http://www.hsmcdigshistory.org.