Port Tobacco One-Room School House
Port Tobacco One-Room School House
This small one room school, circa 1876, was built just north of Port Tobacco village on a three-quarter acre parcel where Chapel Point and Causeway roads intersect.
For over 150 years, Port Tobacco was one of the busiest ports on the Eastern Seaboard. Located on the Port Tobacco River, four miles north of its confluence with the Potomac River, the town was a transfer point for goods shipped by land or water. Ships filled with American and European passengers and materials frequented this port.
By the mid-1800s, the port ceased to be usable when the river began silting up due to the agricultural run-off from the surrounding plantations and farms. However, Port Tobacco was Charles County's largest town and the county seat and a large school was required. It is difficult to place an exact date for its construction because of the information in the School Board Minutes of August 1892 which read as follows, "The Port Tobacco Court House was destroyed by fire Wednesday night, August third. The Journal, pay-roll, desk, printed annual reports of the public schools, teacher's reports for the first three terms of the school year and the valuable papers belonging to the Board were wholly destroyed." A Legislative Act in 1869 had created the One-room School System. With legislative action so slow, this school could have been built as early as 1872 or as late as 1876. Windows in the school, when removed for renovation, were marked "shipped to T.R. Farrall," whose mercantile business was established in 1873 after the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad came to La Plata. From the Maryland Independent of October 12, 1876, an article reads, "Our Village School opened with Miss Lizzie Fowler of Prince Georges County as teacher."
The Port Tobacco School was used for seventy-seven years. White students were enrolled from 1876 to 1924, and from 1924 to 1953, the school housed black students. The school usually housed grades one through seven. In 1953, these students moved to a new Port Tobacco Elementary School farther west on Route 6. The building was then used for 4-H Club meetings, and it served as a local library where books were collected and checked out.
The Board of Education sold the building and its land to Frank Button Wade in 1959. In 1989, the Wade family leased the school to the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco for a period of 40 years, with the ability to renew the lease. In association with the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco, the Charles County Retired Teachers Association began efforts to restore the school. The restoration committee, under the leadership of former School Superintendent Jesse L. Starkey, recruited historic architectural expert Richard Rivoire. Rivoire, renowned for his insistence on accuracy in structural restorations, is author of Homeplaces, a study of historic Charles County homes. Also, in 1989, the Town of Port Tobacco was designated as an historic district and was entered in the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. The schoolhouse was named one of the District's 6 historically significant buildings. The school is handicapped-accessible and can accommodate up to 25 persons comfortably.
Day/Hours of Operation: Summer Hours: Saturday: noon - 4 p.m. (through the first Saturday in September)
Cost: Free (donations appreciated)