About Us

In an old colonial building beside a tidal river, in the heart of a historic town, there’s a place where scholars and students, eminent authors and community leaders, come together to study America’s past and present.  

Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is a base camp for exploring one of America’s richest and most fascinating regions. Our programs bridge the gap between the academic realm and the world at large, supporting gifted writers and thinkers from around the country and beyond. From our home in the circa-1746 waterfront Custom House in Chestertown, Maryland, the Starr Center also serves as a portal onto a world of opportunities for Washington College students, offering hands-on learning experiences unparalleled at other small liberal arts colleges.

We believe in the transformative power of the long view. That means understanding where each one of us — the lives we live and the decisions we make — fits on the centuries-long arc of history. We think that this broad perspective on our nation and world is one of the most vital lessons that a liberal arts education can teach. The Center draws inspiration from its historic surroundings on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and from Washington College’s legacy as a place where a revolutionary American vision of higher education has flourished since the 18th century.


Since its founding in 2000, the Starr Center has advanced its mission in a myriad of ways. We’ve collaborated with U.S. senators, Pulitzer-winning writers, Smithsonian curators, New York Times editors, schoolteachers, a legendary Hollywood director, an opera librettist, and even a cabaret troupe. We’ve awarded prizes and fellowships to some of the most inspired history-makers of our time. Through it all, we’ve taught and mentored hundreds of Washington College students from every department and major.

Custom House balcony

The Starr Center has been sustained with the generous support of The Starr Foundation, the Hodson Trust, and the National Endowment for the Humanities; with project grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the state of Maryland; and with the contributions of many individual donors and friends.

Read more of our story here.