The Custom House

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Address: 101 South Water Street, Chestertown, MD 21620

Latitude/Longitude: 39.207400, -76.063275

Web site: click here

Phone: (410) 810-7161

Pricing: Free


The Custom House is home to Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

Located right on the shore of the beautiful Chester River, the Custom House is in the center of a National Historic District, surrounded by 18th– and 19th-century houses. The Custom House has been painstakingly restored and features impressive accents like original Georgian paneling, wide-board floors, a beautiful porch and several fireplaces.

The house was built in 1746 by Thomas Ringgold, a local leader of the Sons of Liberty, yet also one of the most prominent and active slave traders in the Chesapeake region. The lower level served as a warehouse and store, while the upper floors served as residency to Ringgold and his family. Since vessels traveled through the area to bring cargo to and from Europe, Africa, the West Indies, and other major trade hubs, an office was once adjacent to the house through which Chestertown’s inspector of His Majesty’s Customs worked to record and document the cargoes of such vessels passing through.

During the French and Indian War, British redcoats quartered here. And in 1774, oral tradition maintains that the town held its own turbulent Chestertown Tea Party right below the windows of the Custom House (a point of constant debate with local and collegiate historians.)

From the Author: Easy parking is available next to the Customs House. I recommend that you grab a sandwich at one of the bakeries in town and enjoy lunch on a bench at the foot of High Street overlooking the Chester River before taking a tour.

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