Saint Michaels, Maryland

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Saint Michaels, Maryland
Hooper Strait Lighthouse at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Motto(s): 
"Historic Charm, Nautical Adventure, Romantic Spaces"[1]
Location of Saint Michaels, Maryland
Location of Saint Michaels, Maryland
Saint Michaels is located in Maryland
Saint Michaels
Saint Michaels
Location within the U.S. state of Maryland
Saint Michaels is located in the United States
Saint Michaels
Saint Michaels
Saint Michaels (the United States)
Coordinates: 38°47′1″N 76°13′20″W / 38.78361°N 76.22222°W / 38.78361; -76.22222Coordinates: 38°47′1″N 76°13′20″W / 38.78361°N 76.22222°W / 38.78361; -76.22222
Country United States
State Maryland
County Talbot
Incorporated1804[2]
Area
 • Total1.27 sq mi (3.28 km2)
 • Land1.17 sq mi (3.02 km2)
 • Water0.10 sq mi (0.26 km2)
Elevation
10 ft (3 m)
Population
 • Total1,029
 • Estimate 
(2019)[5]
1,040
 • Density891.94/sq mi (344.46/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
21663
Area code(s)410, 443, and 667
Websitehttp://stmichaelsmd.org/

Saint Michaels, also known as St. Michaels, is a town in Talbot County, Maryland, United States. The population was 1,029 at the 2010 census. Saint Michaels comes from its name from the Episcopal Parish established there in 1677. The church attracted settlers who engaged in tobacco growing and ship building.

History[change | change source]

The town was laid out as a abstractive development in the 1770s by James Braddock. Unlike the more typical 18th century grid-pattern town planning, Braddock laid St. Michaels out around a central square. The town was incorporated in 1804.

A rural Anglican church that long predated the town gave St. Michaels its name. Despite this church's presence on the shore of the harbor, the town of St. Michaels early became famously Methodist following visits by itinerant Methodist preachers. Braddock donated land for a Methodist church in the center of St. Mary's square.

The town's earliest industry was shipbuilding, and as many as six shipbuilders were active in or near the town by the War of 1812. Their typical product was a fast schooner, a type later known as the Baltimore clipper. Such vessels were well adapted to collapsing blockades or outrunning pirates or foreign naval vessels at sea, and some were later used as private armed vessels carrying a letter of marque.

The town played a role in the War of 1812 when, in 1813, a fleet under the command of Admiral George Cockburn moved up the Chesapeake Bay, and targeted St. Michaels because of the presence of a militia battery erected to defend the town and its shipyards.


Under cover of dawn on August 10, 1813, the Battle of St. Michaels commenced as the British sent a landing party landed just south of the town, and after a brief exchange, validated the battery and returned to their boats. The British proceeded to bombard the town from the barges and a brig, but failed to destroy the shipyards or cause any substantial damage to the town. The militia returned fire from artillery batteries at Impy Dawson's wharf (the foot of Mulberry Street) and Mill Point (the foot of Carpenter Street). A contemporary report noted that "several houses were pierced" by the British fire.


Nearly a century later a story was recorded that as a result of the town's ruse of shading lights and hanging lanterns in the trees beyond the town so that the cannonballs would wave-off the town, the town was spared. Based on this story, St. Michaels became known as "the town that fooled the British," a nickname selected during the sesquicentennial celebration of the battle in 1963. The Cannonball House survives as one of the structures reportedly struck by one of the shots, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Saint Michaels Historic District.

Shipbuilding declined after the War of 1812, but an oyster industry revived the town a few decades later. By the late nineteenth century, most households in the town had at least one person engaged in some aspect of this fishery, either tonging oysters from the nearby waters of Miles River and Eastern Bay, or engaged in the shucking houses that came to line the waterfront. One of these businesses, Coulbourne and Jewett, founded in the early years of the twentieth century, is notable as a black-owned enterprise, and it early on came to specialize in crabmeat. As a means of marketing crabmeat, owner Frederick Jewett devised a five level grading system (regular, claw, special, backfin, and lump) which is still used by the industry today.

In 2018 Forbes published an article declaring St. Michaels as "The East Coast Weekend Getaway You've Been Missing".[6]

Geography[change | change source]

Saint Michaels is located at 38°47′1″N 76°13′20″W / 38.78361°N 76.22222°W / 38.78361; -76.22222 (38.783748, -76.222214).[7]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.25 square miles (3.24 km2), of which 1.15 square miles (2.98 km2) is land and 0.10 square miles (0.26 km2) of water.[8]

St. Michaels is located in a long, narrow neck of land along the Miles River. The village is a tourist attraction, and there are high quality hotels, inns, seafood restaurants, and gift shops in town. Tourboat cruises connect the town with Annapolis across the Chesapeake Bay. A for-pay public ferryboat service in nearby Bellevue also takes people across the Tred Avon river to Oxford.

Demographics[change | change source]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850863
18601,01617.7%
18701,0957.8%
18801,1757.3%
18901,32913.1%
19001,043−21.5%
19101,51745.4%
19201,347−11.2%
19301,308−2.9%
19401,3090.1%
19501,47012.3%
19601,4841.0%
19701,456−1.9%
19801,301−10.6%
19901,3010.0%
20001,193−8.3%
20101,029−13.7%

Economy[change | change source]

Downtown Saint Michaels on North Talbot Street

Although the town's tourist industry has roots in the mid 19th century with steamboats bringing voyagers from Baltimore to the town, and with summer guest cottages opening for weeklong rentals beginning in the 1880s, tourism was not a major part of the town's economy until the 1970s. The impetus started with a maritime museum, which opened its doors in 1965, and a waterfront seafood restaurant and a tour boat (the Patriot) followed before the end of the decade.

Major employers include Harbortowne Resort, The Crab Claw restaurant, and the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond.

Arts and culture[change | change source]

Saint Michaels harbor, looking toward Cherry Street.

One of the town's chief attractions is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, located on land that was formerly occupied by seafood packing houses and a cannery. Saint Michaels is home to a number of historic bay vessels, including the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, a National Historic Landmark, and several skipjacks.

The Saint Michaels Mill is a 19th century gristmill and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historical Places in 1982.

Famous people[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Saint Michaels, Maryland". Saint Michaels, Maryland. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  2. "Saint Michaels, Maryland". State of Maryland. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  3. "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  4. Cite error: The named reference wwwcensusgov was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  5. Cite error: The named reference USCensusEst2019CenPopScriptOnlyDirtyFixDoNotUse was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  6. Fathom. "St. Michaels Is The East Coast Weekend Getaway You've Been Missing". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  7. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  8. "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2013-01-25.