Washington, D.C. (March 7, 2007) – An 18th-century jewel on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Chestertown dates to 1706 when it served as a thriving Mid-Atlantic port and prosperous shipbuilding and trading center. From its perch on the banks of the Chester River, the town today boasts a treasure trove of perfectly preserved 18th- and 19th-century homes that once belonged to Chestertown’s wealthy merchants. The historic buildings are the backdrop for visitors who enjoy ambling along red-brick sidewalks, peeking over garden walls and exploring antique shops, galleries, specialty stores and sidewalk cafes. Among the town's finest historic buildings are the Hynson-Ringgold House, renowned for its unusual antler staircase and hip roof, and Wide Hall, a masterpiece of Georgian architecture built in 1769 by Thomas Smyth, Kent County's most prosperous merchant and an illustrious Revolutionary War figure. The "Custom House," dating from the 1740s and known for its intricate Flemish Bond brickwork, stands beside the public dock at the foot of High Street. Chestertown’s popular Tea Time House Tour, sponsored each October by the Historical Society of Kent County, offers visitors the chance to steal a look into many spectacular homes. During Memorial Day weekend, history comes to life at the annual Chestertown Tea Party, where re-enactors celebrate the events of May 23, 1774, when, as oral tradition has it, local residents boarded the brigantine Geddes and consigned its shipment of tea to the depths of the river. For outdoor enthusiasts, Chestertown has it all -- kayaking and boating on the Chester River and hiking and biking along the drop-dead gorgeous Chesapeake Coast.
For these reasons, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the country's largest private, nonprofit preservation organization, today named Chestertown, Md., 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.”
The 2007 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations includes:
Charlottesville, Va. -- In the shadow of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Va., is a picture-perfect college town with vibrant shops, restaurants, wineries and a slew of presidential homes including Jefferson’s Monticello, Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland and Madison’s Montpelier, a National Trust Historic site located in nearby Orange, Va.
Chatham, Mass. -- Beloved by fishermen and sea captains for centuries, the charming coastal town of Chatham, Mass., boasts exquisite natural beauty, a charming, architecturally rich walkable downtown and some of the best, unspoiled beaches on the East Coast.
Chestertown, Md. -- An 18th-century jewel on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Chestertown was once a thriving Revolutionary-era port and today boasts a treasure trove of perfectly preserved 18th- and 19th-century homes, specialty stores, sidewalk cafes and scenic boating, biking and hiking along the drop-dead gorgeous Chesapeake coast.
Durango, Colo. -- Nestled between red sandstone bluffs in the lush Animas River Valley, Durango, Colo., offers natural beauty and a colorful history that is today reflected in a charming Victorian downtown and some of the most spectacular and well-preserved Puebloan ruins in the United States.
Ellensburg, Wash. -- Located in the heart of the beautiful Kittitas Valley and in the center of Washington State, historic Ellensburg is a wonderfully preserved Victorian town that’s home to Central Washington University, a delightful downtown historic district and some of the best fly fishing in the Northwest.
Hillsborough, N.C. --A picturesque and charming Southern town that played an important role in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Hillsborough, N.C. boasts a lovely downtown historic district, an original, rare NASCAR speedway from the inaugural 1949 season and festivals for war re-enactors and barbeque lovers.
Little Rock, Ark. --With a presidential library, scores of well preserved historic buildings, an important Native American site, a WWII era submarine, the world’s longest pedestrian bridge and a site that forever changed race relations in this country, Little Rock, Ark., has it all.
Mineral Point, Wis. -- A hidden gem nestled in the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, Mineral Point -- and its Cornish rock houses, Craftsman bungalows, simple log cabins and neoclassical confections -- is an architectural treasure trove, which celebrates its mining heritage and the abundant beauty of its pastoral setting.
Morgantown, W. Va. -- Nested along the Monongahela River in northern West Virginia, Morgantown, home to West Virginia University (student enrollment over 27,000), has a vibrant and active downtown, a Riverfront park with an amphitheatre and miles of paved rail/trail for recreational activities.
Providence, R.I. --The capital of one of the nation’s 13 original colonies and the home of several prestigious colleges, Providence, R.I., has a colorful four-century history proudly and prominently displayed in landmark structures, a Victorian-era park and a blazing riverfront festival that has revitalized this historic city.
West Hollywood, Calif. -- In a sprawling metropolis nicknamed the “City of Angels,” West Hollywood, Calif., maintains a unique identity as a quirky yet sophisticated urban village, which boasts diverse historic architecture, people watching along glittering thoroughfares, designer boutiques, hip restaurants and unique tourist attractions such as the 1922 Rudolf Schindler House.
Woodstock, Ill. -- Only 45 miles from Chicago, the small, warm, Victorian village of Woodstock, Ill., which served as a stand-in for Punxsutawney, Pa., in the 1992 movie Groundhog Day, has a unique and beguiling charm with a celebrated town square and downtown historic district, a nationally renowned Mozart festival and a Victorian Christmas -- right out of Dickens.
In addition, the National Trust recognized the city of New Orleans for exemplary achievement in heritage tourism. The citation reads, “New Orleans is a richly unique, authentic, historic community that is reinventing itself through preservation-based revitalization. The National Trust salutes the unflagging spirit of the people of New Orleans.”
This is the eighth time the National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced a list of Dozen Distinctive Destinations. To date, there are 96 Dozen Distinctive Destinations located in 41 states throughout the country. To see a complete list, visit www.nationaltrust.org. In each community, residents have taken forceful action to protect their town’s character and sense of place. Whether by enacting a local preservation law to protect historic buildings against demolition, rewriting zoning codes to prevent commercial sprawl, removing regulatory barriers to downtown housing, making downtown areas more walkable, enacting design standards, or taking some other major step that demonstrates a strong commitment to their town, residents have worked hard to preserve the historic and scenic assets of their communities, with rewards that transcend town limits.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America’s story. Staff at the Washington, D.C. headquarters, six regional offices and 28 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states. For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at www.nationaltrust.org.