Today is March 25th, also known as Maryland Day throughout our state. On this day in 1634, Governor Leonard Calvert and a small group of colonists came ashore at St. Clement’s Island and settled the colony of Maryland. After negotiating with the local Native Americans, a permanent settlement was established on the mainland and would be known as St. Mary’s City, which would serve as the state capital until 1695. In honor of Maryland Day, why not consider a visit to these two sites?
St. Clement’s Island would later become owned by the Blackistone family starting in 1669 and the island would become known as Blackistone Island. The name would revert back to St. Clement’s Island in 1962 after the island was leased to the state of Maryland to become St. Clement’s State Park.
In 1851, construction was completed on what would become known as Blackistone Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse would be manned until 1932, when it became automated. In 1956, the original lighthouse was gutted by fire and was ordered razed by the U.S. Department of the Navy, which had bought the island in 1919. In 2008, a replica of the Blackistone Island Lighthouse was erected. The interior of the lighthouse is generally only open by appointment.
During the celebration of the Maryland Tercentenary that took place on Maryland Day 1934, a giant 40 foot cross was dedicated in memory of the first colonists arriving that day in 1634 who established religious tolerance on this continent. It is believed that those colonists celebrated the first Catholic mass in North America that same day, led by Father Andrew White, S.J.
The island has a covered pavilion, which is very nice for picnics. There are trails throughout the island or hiking. Hunting and fishing is also allowed. The island is only accessible by boat. There are weekend water taxis from the first weekend in June through September 1st and depart from the St. Clement’s Island Museum. The museum is open daily from 10A-5P from March 25th through the end of September, open Wednesday through Sunday 12N-4P from October 1 through the end of December, and open 12N-4P Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from January 1 through March 24th.
Historic St. Mary’s City has been set up as a living history area, trying to recreate life in the late 1600’s. At the waterfront is the Maryland Dove, a recreation of the Dove, one of the two ships that brought the colonists over in 1634.
There are many recreated sites throughout the town center, including the first Catholic Church in the colonies (originally erected in 1667), the 1675 State House, a printing house and a typical inn to provide lodging to a traveler. The living history exhibits are open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10A-5P. Check with the Historic St. Mary’s City visitor center for admission fees and additional information. Plan to spend 4-5 hours to see all there is offer.
If you happen to be driving by St. Mary’s College on Trinity Church Road, be on the lookout for the Freedom of Conscience memorial. Designed by Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler, this monument was donated by all the Maryland counties as a gift for the state’s tercentenary in 1934. In 2000, a Bayscapes garden was designed around the monument featuring native Maryland flora.