Driving down the dusty dirt roads of Brandywine, Maryland, one gets the impression that not much happens here.
Established in 1873 as a railroad town, not much has changed since. It's a slow place, decidedly rural, sandwiched between two suburbs, one affluent, the other declining.
The Village of Brandywine, once defined by the railroad and a vast expanse of tobacco plantations, is undergoing a transformation. Once barren plantations are being developed into gated housing communities. Grandiose mansions adorn sprawling land that once housed modest farmhouses, barns, and shacks.
Brandywine is well on its way to becoming a mega-suburb. However beneath all of the new development and suburban shine, there lies a deeper story. Brandywine is home to historic sites and landmarks that bear testament to its founding and early vision.
The site of a bloody slave rebellion in 1739, home to Francis Scott Key and John Wilkes Booth, Brandywine, Maryland has played host to a slew of significant historic moments and individuals.
If you should find yourself in Brandywine, Maryland, off of US route 5 and 301, you may find these sites fascinating:
Woodville Colored School
21500 Aquasco Road, Brandywine, MD
Built on two acres of land purchased by James Gray, a former slave, this one story, three room school served as the first school open to blacks in the area. Built by the Freedmen's Bureau in 1868, the Woodville Colored School was in operation until 1955.
Hidden behind two country homes, the school and its surrounding land is eerily vacant. I was free to explore and poke around. I was disturbed that this historic landmark was left unkempt and unguarded. A piece of history like this should most definitely be preserved and perhaps turned into a museum.
St. Thomas Methodist Church
18810 Aquasco Road, Brandywine, MD
Built in 1868, the St. Thomas Methodist church is a single story rural meeting house style church. I really had to search to find this property. It was down a winding dirt road, behind a farmhouse. There was no marker on the main road. How this structure is still standing, I have no idea.
It is dilapidated but completely beautiful with it's still intact stained glass and immaculate detailing (particularly around the windows). Why this church isn't preserved and used as a museum or presently as a church I completely don't understand. Come on Brandywine, where is your historical preservation society?
To the left of the church is an old cemetery with tiny headstones dating back to the early 1800's. It was a sacred quiet place that seemed forgotten by time. Standing on the property, you can almost imagine how it must have looked in the late 1800's, with the rolling green hills in the back and the clear blue sky above.
Chapel of the Incarnation
14070 Brandywine Road, Brandywine, MD
Built in 1916 by architect William J. Palmer, the Chapel of the Incarnation functions today as a church. It is a stunning Spanish colonial structure, slightly out of place amongst the old Victorian farm homes that stand guard over much of Brandywine Road.
You really can find some beautiful gems in the most unexpected of places. Brandywine, Maryland is one such unsuspecting locale. This post is for Brandywine, a town in the midst of transition from rural to suburban, a town in need of historical preservation to ensure that her special places and quiet beauty are celebrated and appreciated.
Do you know of a small town with unsuspected history and charm?