Kitty Knight House closed, put up for sale
— More than a month after the historic Kitty Knight House restaurant and inn closed its doors, its future is still uncertain as its owner has put it up for sale.
The popular eatery and wedding venue on the Kent County side of the Sassafras River has been a mainstay for generations, but it quietly closed on Sept. 11, according to postings on its Facebook page.
Its owner, Ford Hall Sr., who also owns the nearby
Georgetown Yacht Basin, did not return several inquiries from the Whig as to the reasons for the closure or the potential future for the property.
The restaurant’s executive chef Bruce Wetterau, who owned both the Kitty Knight House and The Granary at one time, has since announced that he has moved to Hemingway’s Restaurant in Stevensville.
The property now features prominent “closed” signs and a “for sale” sign that lists the property as for sale by the owner. It does not present a suggested sale price nor could one be found anywhere online.
Today’s Kitty Knight House is actually two connected buildings that date their history back several centuries. The older but less prominent Archibald Wright house, which fronts Route 213 in the southern position, was built between 1773 and 1783. The house that most identify as the Kitty Knight House, which faces the Sassafras River with its columns
and porch, was likely built around 1800 — although it originally faced east like the Archibald Wright House and later reoriented in the 20th century. The two buildings were connected sometime in the 1930s or ‘40s.
While the building’s age makes it historically significant, it is the story attached to it that makes the property most memorable.
Kitty Knight — a socialite daughter of John and Catherine Knight, niece of a member of the United States House of Represen- tatives and supposed onetime dance partner of Gen. George Washington — is referred to as “the defender of Georgetown” by local historians.
During the British invasion of the Eastern Shore during the War of 1812, a common defense tactic for the army was to burn waterfront communities down in order to prevent resupply efforts of the Americans. British forces landed at Fredericktown, on the Cecil County side of the Sassafras River, and the lower part of Georgetown, laying siege to the communities.
According to the story, as the British troops approached the hill where the two brick houses were located, they were met by Knight. She stood her ground and pleaded with Adm. George Cockburn not to burn the houses after they began to torch the first, which was occupied by a sick and elderly lady.
After stamping out the flames twice, Knight’s tenacity and appeal so moved Cockburn that he ordered the troops to their barges, leaving several structures standing there as monuments to her noble and hazardous act.
While she is credited with saving the Henry home, she may not have even been inhabiting it at the time, let alone owning it. The home’s builder, William Henry, died in the 1790s, and left several heirs, who apparently rented out the property, according to historical records. Knight purchased a riverside lot below the Henry home in 1803 and didn’t purchase the historic home until 1839 — some 26 years after the burning of Georgetown.
While Knight’s story of saving Georgetown is widely recounted by locals, the historical record has scant proof to back the claim — mainly an account from her obituary and memories passed down by locals. If she was responsible for saving the houses in question, however, she may also be given credit for saving Montebello and Valley Cottage as well as the Presbyterian church to the south.
While the Kitty Knight House is listed on the Maryland Historical Trust’s Inventory of Historic Places, it does not have a state preservation easement. The historic property is also not in one of Kent County’s six local historic districts, which essentially act as easements on historic properties preventing drastic changes to their appearance. That means that while any drastic changes made to the property in the future may draw public rebuke, such potential changes are currently not precluded by law.
Reporter Cheryl Mattix contributed to this story.
The Kitty Knight House restaurant and inn in Georgetown has closed and been put up for sale, posing questions about the future of the historic establishment.
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Owned by the Hall family for decades, the Kitty Knight House may soon find new ownership after the historic property was put up for sale.