Historic St Mary’s City - History and Facts | History Hit

Historic St Mary’s City

West Saint Marys, Maryland, United States

The historic St Mary's City in Maryland was once a thriving colonial capital before religious dissention saw it slowly decline. Today, a living history recreation and museum tell the story of these early settlers.

Peta Stamper

20 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Historic St Mary’s City

The Historic St Mary’s City in Maryland is the site of the fourth oldest permanent British settlement in Colonial North America and birthplace of religious tolerance in the United States. An idyllic, waterfront hamlet, Historic St Mary’s City has been a National Historic Landmark since 1969 and is a leading tourist attraction in the state.

Historic St Mary’s City history

Founded in 1634 by Leonard Calvert, St. Mary’s City quickly became a prosperous tobacco colony and capital of Maryland. It was here in 1649 that the historic Maryland Toleration Act was passed, designed to ensure religious freedom and equality between Trinitarian Christians.

The city remained an important social, economic and political hub until 1689, when it was itself torn apart by sectarian tensions. After the British government stepped in, the capital of Maryland was moved to Annapolis and St Mary’s City quickly declined and was all but abandoned.

However, the unique story of this early colonial city has left it with a fascinating legacy. Whereas most early settlements of this size continued to grow, St Mary’s City was largely lost in its original form, leaving an archaeological legacy which has since been discovered and preserved.

Historic St Mary’s City today

Today, St Mary’s City is a National Historic Landmark formed of living history recreations of 17th century life as well as a fascinating museum documenting the history and archaeological finds of the area.

The site features reconstructed colonial buildings as well as a working 17th century tobacco plantation. These hands-on recreations are designed to give a real understanding of what life would have been like for these early pioneers.

Getting to Historic St Mary’s City

Historic St. Mary’s City is located off Route 5 in Southern Maryland. Travel time is less than 2 hours from Washington, D.C. and Annapolis and less than 3 hours from Richmond and Baltimore.