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Havre De Grace and Vicinity

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Located at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and its confluence with the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace was an important port town dating to 1695. It was then that the Maryland General Assembly granted permission to establish a ferry here at what was known as Susquehanna Lower Ferry. The ferry offered the most direct route between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and inns were established on either side of the river. The town was incorporated in 1785, portioned into lots, and renamed Havre de Grace by the Marquis de Lafayette, who likened it to the French harbor town of Le Havre. The town’s French connection stems from the Revolutionary War era when generals Washington and Lafayette and others of the French army visited. In fact, the region was mapped and the city redesigned in 1799 by French engineer C. P. Hauducoeur, naming streets for American and French patriots Washington, Adams, Lafayette, Girard, and Bourbon, along with Revolution, Union, and Congress. His ambitious town plan, modeled after Philadelphia, optimistically set aside lots for such civic amenities as public squares, a college, hospital, almshouse, market house, and courthouse. Havre de Grace prospered from the shipping trade and, by the 1830s, from trade along the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal and the railroad, and later from canning and fish processing. Most of the early buildings were destroyed by fires in 1775 and during the War of 1812; thus much of today’s historic cityscape dates from the 1830s through 1880s. The commercial center lies near the waterfront, where industry has given way to luxury town houses, condominiums, and pleasure-boat marinas.

Writing Credits

Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie

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