Written by Kim M. on 05 Feb, 2003
St. Michaels dates back to the early days of colonial America when shipbuilding and tobacco farming were all the rage on the Eastern shore. The most famous story about St. Michaels, however, comes from a much later time--the 1800s. In connection with the War of…Read More
St. Michaels dates back to the early days of colonial America when shipbuilding and tobacco farming were all the rage on the Eastern shore. The most famous story about St. Michaels, however, comes from a much later time--the 1800s. In connection with the War of 1812, a group of British ships had planned to bombard St. Michaels with a storm of cannonballs in August of 1813. The town residents somehow found out about this plan and hatched a scheme to save their homes and families. Ever inventive, the townspeople gathered up lanterns and strung them up in high places outside of town, creating the illusion of civilization. When the British finally ceased their volley, they found that only a single house had sustained any damage, and that was only from one cannonball. The residents of St. Michaels had caused the British cannons to overshoot the town, preserving their homes. This is how St. Michaels became known as "The Town that Fooled the British."
Even today, the colonial and maritime charm of St. Michaels lives on. No longer in danger from the British, residents have staved off any threat of encroachment of large-scale tourism and have instead maintained a town full of quiet charm. Devoid of large chain hotels, historic St. Michaels offers accommodation in upscale inns, charming bed and breakfasts, and numerous boat slips. There is even a harbor taxi for those who prefer to occupy moorings for the night. This is definitely a destination for the boating crowd. It is also a destination for the shopping crowd. The charming "downtown" streets are lined with delightful and upscale boutiques, peddling art and antiques, boat gear and boat-a-bilia, jewelry, and sportswear. Rover is welcome to come along too--there are many doggy spots set up outside of the stores with water dishes and a place to tie up. Dining is a real treat in St. Michaels, as this Bay town has been in the seafood business for over a century. You cannot leave without sampling fresh, authentic Maryland crab cakes or dining on a dozen steamed crabs. Oysters here are about as fresh as they come, and there are more than a few places to slurp them.
Of course, after all that dining, a nice long walk is in order. A stroll through the streets of St. Michaels is the perfect way to spend a late summer afternoon or evening. The architecture here has been preserved through the ages so that colonial homes stand side by side with elegant Victorians. The lawns are perfectly manicured and the homes kept in stunning repair. There are also points of interest and historical markers here and there that teach about the town's long and distinguished past. The streets are quiet and enveloped in cool, green shade. I could not help feeling that I had wandered into a storybook when I was there.
Along with its historical character, St. Michaels also has some real "people character" that can make it seem almost quirky at times. I found the locals here to be disconcertingly friendly compared to most other Marylanders. That alone was a shock. It reminds me of the hospitality and manners I was accustomed to in my native state of Georgia. Residents of St. Michaels will not look at you like you have two heads if you nod and say hello to them in the grocery store. They will just smile and say hello right back. There are all sorts of people here, including artists, fishermen, and itinerant boaters who all mesh together in a fascinating human tapestry. It seems that any and all are welcome--and welcomed with great enthusiasm. Little unexpected surprises such as a bar full of beckoning karaoke enthusiasts or a restaurant owner who offers to come pick you up from the marina for dinner can really make your stay memorable.
St. Michaels is not a town that time forgot; it is a town that has aged with grace and beauty, and a place that continues to grow into its future with great wisdom and a respect for its roots.