Old Mansion, Queen Anne, Maryland

The Story of this House

Captain Morgan owned a farm at the northeast corner of Queen Anne's County, and a bit of the northern edge of Talbot County, bordered by Tuckahoe Creek and about 3 miles north of Harriet Bailey's cabin, where her grandson Frederick Douglass was born.

Sometime around 1864, Capt. Morgan tore down a small house there and rebuilt a simple, square 2-story house, and started marking off lots for a town. The town was named Morganville, but near the end of the nineteenth century, a railroad was built, running from the Baltimore ferry to the Cape May ferry in Lewes, Delaware. Since it was the first station (going west) in Queen Anne's County, the railroad called it Queen Anne, and the town was renamed: Queen Anne, Maryland.

Sometime in the 1870s, the house was added onto; the addition was bigger than the original house, and included a kitchen and pantry, a bathroom, more bedrooms, and what would become the library. Then, around 1900, give or take 10 years, the owners added 4 more rooms, with 9-foot ceilings, and decorated the front of the house with Italianate flourishes, put in a beautiful curved staircase, and two fireplaces. They also dug a basement below the original part of the house (most Eastern Shore homes did not have basements) to house an oil furnace, water heater, and breaker panels for the newly added electricity; the basement is reached from an entrance at the back of the house. This Victorian mansion was the fanciest house in town. People in town still call it "the mansion house".

In the 1930s, Harold Eley moved to Queen Anne and bought the house, and the land nearby, where his business, Eley Lumber Co., had a lumber yard and brick kiln. Among other projects, he constructed the Tidewater Inn in Easton; it's on the National Register. Eley loved hunting wildfowl. He built a brick fireplace in the backyard, where he and his friends would congregate after hunting, to grill ducks and geese, and oysters.

Since Mr. Eley died in the late '70s, only 3 other families have owned the house (one briefly). The house is waiting for another family to move in and grow to love it.

The town of Queen Anne is very small, and the railroad, which was the main engine of prosperity, doesn't run anymore. We're a bedroom community now. The population is a bit over 200. It is, in many ways, just how you'd imagine a small town (a village, really) would be. Neighbors help neighbors, children can play in the yards and streets (most of the time, traffic on Main Street amounts to one car every few minutes); the older pre-teens love to wander, from time to time, through the wilds (in their imaginations) of my yard. All the adults keep an eye out; the kids are safe here. It's nothing fancy, but a really nice place to call home.

The town is surrounded by farmland; Tuckahoe State Park is just across Rt.404; it has an arboretum, an equestrian center, and a lake stocked with fish; the Delmarva Stargazers use it for annual overnight gatherings, because the night sky is so clear here.

The John Deere dealership is the biggest business in town, along with the Royal Farms at the edge of town on 404.

We're about half an hour from the Bay Bridge and 40 minutes from Annapolis. The beaches of Delaware are a bit over an hour away.

We're in the Chapel School District of Talbot County. Wye River Upper School and Chesapeake Community College are nearby, and Washington College is 40 minutes away in historic Chestertown.