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Historic London Town and Gardens gives visitors hands-on experience of life in the 17th, 18th centuries

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 07:18:40-04

EDGEWATER, Md. — Along the South River lies remnants of a lost colonial town. The story of London Town begins in 1683 when the first settlers arrived to the peninsula.

"We are older than Annapolis is, we were the original county seat," said Lauren Silberman, the deputy director of Historic London Town and Gardens. "You had big ships coming in, tobacco market, all sorts of activity going on."

For about 100 years, people around the world, both free and enslaved, traveled to and through the small yet bustling port city. Silberman said trade along the South River sustained the town until cities like Baltimore and Annapolis rose into prominence. As trade began to diminish in London Town, so did the town itself.

"The city kind of dwindles, fizzles and peters out," she said.

One of the only surviving structures in the town is the William Brown House, a brick building constructed around 1760 as a tavern. Silberman said in the 1820's, it was turned into an almshouse for the homeless.

"We have reports of commissioners calling [the almshouse] through the years an abode of misery, so not the most heartwarming of places," she said.

From misery comes re-emergence. Act Two of London Town's story begins when the almshouse closes in 1965. Silberman said the site was turned over to the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks and it began a transformation into a museum and garden.

"What we now have is rediscovering a lost colonial town."

Silberman said the William Brown House was reconstructed to its original state as a tavern. Archaeological digs on the property unearthed lost artifacts that are now on display in the museum. Buildings that would have existed in the town, the Lord Mayor's Tenement and Carpenter's Shop, were reconstructed in their archaeological footprint.

Visitors can get a hands-on experience with the help of historical interpreters of what life was like for London Town residents to prepare food, write letters and make their own clothes. Tools inside the Carpenter's Shop are just like the ones that would have been used to build it.

"Even being able to sit in the Carpenter's Shop and look at the ground and see the nails that were made by hand, that had to be hammered in by hand really gives people the appreciation for what they have now for modern convenience," said Diana Klein, the deputy of public programs.

Another special feature of the grounds is a 10-acre woodland and ornamental garden, filled with a variety of flowers and trees. Silberman said it was constructed in the 1960's and 70's and something is in bloom every season. The garden is known for its more than 70 varieties of Magnolia trees, as well as camellias, dogwoods and rhododendrons.

"This is what I tell people when they come here, go get lost in the gardens," she said. "Being underneath this canopy of trees is richly rewarding to escape from humdrum of life."

There is also a Sensory and Sound garden for kids with instruments, play tables and a pollinator hotel for bees and insects.

Historic London Town and Gardens is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also has a venue to host weddings. Admission prices vary from $10 for adults to children three and under who are free. Leashed pets are welcomed on the property, except inside the William Brown House.

On July 9 and 10, they are hosting an event called Revolutionary London Town. Historical interpreters will be on site to discuss what independence and the Revolution meant to the people of London Town. There are several interactive activities planned for families. Click here for more details.