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An ear to Chestertown’s Colonial history

Date: July 21, 2015
The Starr Center’s award-winning audio tour provides an engaging history of Chestertown’s colorful Colonial days. It’s available free every Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Student tour manager Michelle Ramstack poses outside the Custom House, where the audio tour begins.Student tour manager Michelle Ramstack poses outside the Custom House, where the audio tour begins.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Outfitted with iPods and ear buds, visitors to Chestertown can easily lose track of time and find themselves engulfed in the sights and sounds of the town’s historic 18th and 19th century waterfront. 

The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, located in the historic Custom House at the end of High Street, offers a free audio tour of the town’s historic riverfront. History on the Waterfront: A Journey Into Chestertown’s Past is an immersive soundtrack, provided on iPods, that takes participants on a walk back in time to an era when the streets bustled with revolutionaries and convicts, slave traders, British soldiers, and heroes of the Underground Railroad. Connecting the rich history of this scenic Eastern Shore town to the stories of the colonial Chesapeake, and by extension to the larger story of America, the tour evokes the sights and sounds of an 18th century port. 

History on the Waterfront was researched, written, and performed by Washington College students, faculty, staff, and members of the wider Chestertown community. Beginning at the circa-1746 riverfront Custom House, the tour includes narrative, music, and firsthand accounts. At stops along the Chester River, historic Water Street, and throughout the Custom House, participants hear about colonial Chestertown’s role in the fight for independence, the Chesapeake and its waterways, and heroes and villains of the era of slavery. International jazz and soul performer Marlon Saunders, who grew up in the area, tells and sings stories of the slave era, including one about the exotic instrument of African origin – the banjo. 

The tour earned the Starr Center a New Heritage Initiative for Public Presentation Award from the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area. Funding for its production included a major grant from the Maryland Humanities Council. 

The thirty-minute audio tour is available anytime Fridays from noon to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Reservations are necessary only for groups of 10 or more. Tours begin at the Custom House, 101 S. Water Street.  For more information or group tours, call (410) 810-7165, or email jwortman2@washcoll.edu

Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For more information, visit www.washcoll.edu.  The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit starrcenter.washcoll.edu.


Last modified on Jul. 22nd, 2015 at 1:58pm by .