Colonial courthouse in Queenstown open to tour
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.
The Queenstown Courthouse will be open to the public Saturday, May 6.