London Town.Then & Now
In 1658, Colonel William Burgess lay claim and registered or 'patented' three hundred acres in the area of 'two creeks and a beautiful river'. The Colonel had a special vision for one hundred of these acres and gave them to the Assembly. The commissioners accepted on very special terms. Having his son, Edward, on the governing board secured for Colonel Burgess that the development would follow his dream.
Upon accepting the gift, the Lord Proprietary designated that a courthouse would be built as soon as possible. Archived records have John Larkin as holder of the London Town properties. In 1699 he sold all the buildings to John Baldwin except for the courthouse and enough 'surrounding land for a twenty foot house'. That designation was for the Almshouse which is the focal point at London Town today. Speculation is that the Almshouse was the London Town Courthouse when the port was opened in 1683.
There was great interest in owning land here because the South River was the north/south connection for all travel. Records indicate that as early as mid-1660 there was a ferry from London Town to what is now downtown Annapolis. The ferry business was so competitive that it was a major cause, along with the expanding Southern tobacco trade, of the demise of London Town as the major port starting in the mid 1700s.
Tobacco was the local product most traded. For safety, ships traveled in convoys, from Europe and Africa as well as the Caribbean. The English ships brought in much desired consumer goods such as tools, clothing and all household necessities. In fact, the business of London Town became provisioning the English ships as well as billeting their crews for long periods of time until the weather made their return safe. The ships left London Town laden with tobacco, corn, wheat, and precious wood. Then trade with Barbados came about when the island was desperate for wood needed to build barrels for their sugar cane and rum. This was a perfect match!
William Brown, perhaps sensing the decline of the Port of London Town, built the magnificent Publik House. This was a tavern, an inn and the gathering place for town meetings. It was 'the' place for all travelers on the North-South roads to stop, giving rise to, but never confirming, speculation that perhaps even George Washington was a guest.
In early 1800, the local economy weakened and the County leased the property from its then-owner, James Larrimore. The Annapolis almshouse had burned and they needed to relocate. Records show that Larrimore sold it in 1928 for $2800. The Almshouse closed in 1965. The county did its first land survey and designated the 10.24 acres a County Park.
Today London Town is once again buzzing with activity and growth. The Lost Towns Project is the largest, active dig exploration in Maryland. In fact, the blue mermaid logo for London Town is drawn from an exquisite, mostly intact, plate unearthed in these digs. The Lost Towns Project has 'open' digs throughout the good weather months.
London Town has learned to recreate its original place as a thriving community. There is a bustling entertainment area for private parties and weddings. The gardens provide plants and more to all gardeners. A new visitor and education center is nearing completion. This brings a new view into past as well as a bold step into the future.