Colo­nial court­house in Queen­stown open to tour

Record Observer - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

QUEEN­STOWN — The colo­nial court­house in Queen­stown will be open on Satur­day, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — the first day of the Queen Anne’s County His­toric Sites Tour. Spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ties are planned. Take a step back in time to the early 1700s and learn about our coun­try’s 18th and 19th cen­tury ju­di­cial sys­tem. Sit in judges’ chairs and on jury benches. Beat the drum and be­come a Town Crier, or ex­am­ine the ar­ti­facts on dis­play found dur­ing arche­o­log­i­cal digs.

The Queen­stown Colo­nial Court­house is the old­est court­house still-stand­ing in the coun­try. In the early 1700s, Queen­stown was a bustling com­mu­nity. Large ships called at its port to un­load goods from all over the world. Queen­stown — “Parvus Urbs Ad Is Aqua” or Little Town on the Wa­ter — was des­tined to be­come the cen­ter of ac­tiv­ity for a new county, Queen Anne’s, and was the first county seat.

Court records re­vealed land was pur­chased from a Mrs. El­iz­a­beth Cousey for 1,100 pounds of tobacco, and the court­house was com­pleted in 1708. De­spite the wealth Queen­stown gen­er­ated from trade, an­ces­tors in Queen Anne’s County lived prim­i­tively. In the be­gin­ning, the old court­house had dirt floors, no glass in the win­dows, and no elec­tric­ity. Slaves were auc­tioned on its steps. The court had the means to pun­ish crime with meth­ods such as ex­po­sure in the stocks and pil­lory, whip­ping at the post, and hang­ing. At the out­break of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, Queen­stown was one of the most pros­per­ous towns in the state. How­ever, the end of the war gave the fin­ish­ing stroke to Queen­stown as the county seat.

The court was re­moved to a more cen­tral lo­ca­tion, in what is now Cen­tre­ville in 1782, and the old court­house was sold. The prop­erty was later used as a phar­macy, a gro­cery store and ware­house, and a fam­ily dwelling. By the mid-1970’s, the old struc­ture was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly. When the prop­erty was placed for sale in 1976, the Town of Queen­stown pur­chased it for restora­tion. The court­house was re­stored in 1978, and to­day it is a mu­seum. The court­house is a ven­er­a­ble land­mark of the com­mu­nity’s colo­nial her­itage for this and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The court­house, along with other county his­toric sites, will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Satur­day of each month be­gin­ning May 6 through Oct. 7.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

The Queen­stown Court­house will be open to the pub­lic Satur­day, May 6.

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