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Chestertown, Maryland facts for kids

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Chestertown, Maryland
High Street in Chestertown
High Street in Chestertown
"Historic colonial town on the Chester River"
Location in Kent County and the U.S. state of Maryland
Location in Kent County and the U.S. state of Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland is located in Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland
Location in Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland is located in the United States
Chestertown, Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Maryland
County Kent
Incorporated 1805
 • Total 3.29 sq mi (8.51 km2)
 • Land 2.92 sq mi (7.56 km2)
 • Water 0.37 sq mi (0.95 km2)
20 ft (6 m)
 • Total 5,532
 • Density 1,895.82/sq mi (731.98/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
21620, 21690
Area code(s) 410 and 443 (410 Exchanges: 556,778,810)
FIPS code 24-16225
GNIS feature ID 0589954
Website Chestertown, Maryland

Chestertown is a town in Kent County, Maryland, United States. The population was 5,252 as of the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Kent County.


KentCountyCourthouseMD 2015
Kent County Courthouse in Chestertown, MD.

Founded in 1706, Chestertown rose in stature when it was named one of the English colony of Maryland's six Royal Ports of Entry. The shipping boom that followed this designation made the town at the navigable head of the Chester River wealthy. In the mid-eighteenth century, Chestertown trailed only Annapolis and was considered Maryland's second leading port.

A burgeoning merchant class infused riches into the town, reflected in the many brick mansions and townhouses that sprung up along the waterfront. Another area in which Chestertown is second only to Annapolis is in its number of existing eighteenth century homes.

As of the 1790 census, Chestertown was the geographical center of population of the United States.

Chestertown was incorporated in 1805, and was named for the Chester River.

Airy Hill, the Bernice J., Brampton, Carvill Hall, Chester Hall, the Chestertown Armory, the Chestertown Historic District, Chestertown Railroad Station, Denton House, Gobbler Hill, Godlington Manor, the Island Image, Lauretum, Radcliffe Mill, Reward-Tilden's Farm, Rose Hill, the Silver Heel, the Charles Sumner Post No. 25, Grand Army of the Republic, Thornton, Washington College: Middle, East and West Halls, and White House Farm (Chestertown, Maryland) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Chestertown is located at 39°13′10″N 76°4′6″W / 39.21944°N 76.06833°W / 39.21944; -76.06833 (39.219328, -76.068424).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 2.91 square miles (7.54 km2), of which, 2.60 square miles (6.73 km2) is land and 0.31 square miles (0.80 km2) is water. As of the first US Census in 1790, Chestertown was the geographical center of the nation's population.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and cool, wet winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Chestertown has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,539
1870 1,871 21.6%
1880 2,359 26.1%
1890 2,632 11.6%
1900 3,008 14.3%
1910 2,735 −9.1%
1920 2,537 −7.2%
1930 2,809 10.7%
1940 2,760 −1.7%
1950 3,143 13.9%
1960 3,602 14.6%
1970 3,476 −3.5%
1980 3,300 −5.1%
1990 4,005 21.4%
2000 4,746 18.5%
2010 5,252 10.7%
2020 5,532 5.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,252 people, 1,971 households, and 984 families living in the town. The population density was 2,020.0 inhabitants per square mile (779.9/km2). There were 2,361 housing units at an average density of 908.1 per square mile (350.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 74.2% White, 20.4% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 1.0% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.2% of the population.

There were 1,971 households, of which 18.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.7% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.1% were non-families. 42.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 22.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.00 and the average family size was 2.65.

The median age in the town was 34.9 years. 12.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 28.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 16.4% were from 25 to 44; 19.1% were from 45 to 64; and 23.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 43.1% male and 56.9% female.

Arts and culture

Garfield Theater in Chestertown, Maryland
Garfield Theater on High Street in Chestertown, Maryland

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

In May 1774, five months after the British closing the port of Boston after the Boston Tea Party, the citizens of Chestertown wrote a set of resolves that prohibited the buying, selling, or drinking of tea. Based on these resolves, a popular legend has it that the citizens held their own "tea party" on the Chester River, in an act of colonial defiance.

The Chestertown Tea Party Festival celebrates Chestertown's colonial heritage with a weekend of events including a re-enactment of the legendary "tea party." A parade begins the festival, marching down High Street to the Chester River, and then follows with colonial music and dance, fife and drum performances, puppet shows, colonial crafts demonstrations and sales, military drills, and a walking tour of the historic district. In the afternoon, re-enactors, playing the part of angry citizens and Continental Soldiers, march to the docks where redcoats (played by members of the Maryland Loyalist Battalion) defend the ship for a short skirmish, then retire. The ship, the schooner Sultana, is then boarded by the angry citizens, and the tea is thrown into the Chester River. It is the town's biggest weekend of the year, as tourists fill the streets, strolling among booths filled with crafts, activities, and food. In 2015, due to insurance, the reenactors were prohibited from boarding the boat.

It is always held on Memorial Day weekend.

Schooner Sultana

In 1997, John Swain came up with blueprints for a reproduction of the American-built yacht, later Royal Navy schooner HMS Sultana, planning the construction and home of the ship to be centered in Chestertown. In the same year the non-profit group Sultana Projects, Inc. was formed by Swain and supporters to fund construction of the ship. A shipyard was constructed and the keel for the Sultana was laid in October 1998. Over 3,000 students participated in the community and educationally led effort, with a core group of volunteers logging over 150,000 hours of time building the ship. Over 10,000 people were at the launching of the ship in March 2001, and since then more than 8,000 students a year have boarded the Sultana for educational trips. The Sultana also plays a key role in the Chestertown Tea Party, as it is now the official boat of the staged re-enactment. The Schooner Sultana website offers more detailed information on the ship.

Honors and accolades

ChestertownMD Rivershot
Chestertown's historic waterfront

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the country's largest private, nonprofit preservation organization, named Chestertown, Maryland, to its 2007 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States. Chestertown was selected from 63 destinations in 27 states that were nominated by individuals, preservation organizations, and local communities.

"Chestertown is a treasure hidden in plain sight," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "A small, historic and relatively unspoiled Eastern Shore town, Chestertown had the good sense to hang on to what makes it so special. The result is a vibrant community that offers travelers an ideal retreat."

Progressive Farmer magazine honors Kent County and Chestertown by naming it #1 in Best Rural Places to Live in America for 2008. "For a county to be in Progressive Farmer's Best Places list, they hold them to the usual standards — good schools, health care, safety and other desirable qualities. But what makes Kent stand out is its residents' resolve to maintain a solid rural heritage."

In popular culture

Chestertown was mentioned in the Roland Emerich film The Patriot. In the scene before the family goes to Charlestown to vote on independence, Gabriel Martin (Heath Ledger) reads in the paper that there was an uprising in Chestertown, with British officials being "tarred and feathered", later dying of burns. This is most likely a nod to the Chestertown Tea Party.

Chestertown is also the setting for Gilbert Byron's book The Lord's Oysters. Through its central character, Noah Marlin, Byron tells largely autobiographical tales of growing up a waterman's son on the banks of the Chester River.

Chestertown's Tea Party is referenced in Joseph Cummings book, "Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot" (2012).

Chestertown is the scene of a section of the memoir Too Good to Be True (2012) by Benjamin Anastas describing his period on the faculty of Washington College while his marriage to his wife in Brooklyn broke up. He described it as: a quaint tiny village with antique shops and B&Bs and narrow backstreets where the houses were all built in the Federal style--a destination for weekenders and retirees from bigger cities who wanted to buy the paper every day in the same overstuffed curio shop and sip twenty-ounce lattes in the shade of tree-lined sidewalks where no one was in a hurry.


Seal Of Washington College

It is in the Kent County Public Schools. Henry Highland Garnett Elementary School (Henry Highland Garnet), which had about 264 students as of 2021, and Kent County Middle School are in Chestertown, while Kent County High School is in an unincorporated area with a Worton postal address. The former Chestertown High School moved from its original 1915 building in 1953. In 1971 Kent County High opened and the former Chestertown High became Chestertown Middle School. The middle school became the consolidated Kent County Middle in 2010.

The town is home to Washington College, a private liberal arts college founded in 1782. Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the USA. George Washington was a founding patron.

Kent County public library maintains the Chestertown Branch.

The college is known nationally as the home of the Sophie Kerr Prize, which is awarded to the graduating senior with the most literary potential. The award is near $50,000 annually. The most recent prize, worth $61,382 was awarded at a ceremony in Baltimore to Alex Stinton, an Eastern Shore native.

The town is also home to Radcliffe Creek School, founded in 1996. The school is open to students with, and without, diagnosed learning disabilities. Radcliffe Creek was created for students ages 4 through 14, but a preschool program called 'little creek' was recently added as well. Students from several counties throughout Maryland attend the school.

Notable people

  • Tallulah Bankhead, actress (buried at St. Paul's Church in Fairlee)
  • Gilbert Byron, author, born in Chesterton
  • James M. Cain, author of Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice, lived in Chestertown in his youth
  • Ezekiel Chambers, U.S. senator for Maryland, 1826–1834, and judge
  • Miriam Cooper, silent film actress, best known for The Birth of a Nation
  • Richard Ben Cramer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author
  • Samuel Eccleston, Roman Catholic bishop, fifth Archbishop of Baltimore, from 1834 to 1851
  • Henry Highland Garnet, abolitionist
  • R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., member of Maryland House of Delegates, 1971–1993, and its Speaker from 1987 to 1993
  • Bill "Swish" Nicholson, two-time National League home run and RBI leader
  • James Nicholson, officer in the Continental Navy during American Revolutionary War
  • Joseph Hopper Nicholson, U.S. congressman for Maryland's 7th congressional district, 1799-1806 and judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, 1806-1817
  • Constance Stuart Larrabee, photographer/photo-journalist, best known for her South African portraiture and World War II European photo-journalism as South Africa's first female war correspondent
  • James Peale, painter
  • James Pearce, U.S. senator for Maryland, 1843–1862, and congressman; buried in New Chester Cemetery in Chestertown
  • Ira Smith, college baseball player
  • William Smith, founder of the Protestant Episcopal Church and first president of Washington College
  • Ryan Thompson, Major League Baseball player
  • George Vickers, U.S. senator for Maryland, 1867-1873
  • William Holland Wilmer, president of William and Mary, president of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies of the Protestant Episcopal Church
  • Robert Wright, U.S. senator, 1801–1806, Governor of Maryland, 1806–1809, and U.S. congressman for Maryland's 7th congressional district, 1810-1817 and 1821-1823

See also

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