The Leonardtown Courthouse
Records indicate that by 1654, county court was conducted at the house of John Hammond in the area known as "Newtown" or "Newtowne Hundred". During the late 17th century, it appears that court was held at various homes throughout Newtown, and that it wasn't until 1708 that an official town with a designated courthouse was established. It was during this same year that Phillip Lynes, then Mayor of St. Mary's City, Maryland's Colonial Capital, designated fifty
land at the head of "Brittons Bay" to be divided into 100 lots.
He further ordered that one lot be set aside for a county courthouse
to be built at an expense not to exceed 12,000 pounds of tobacco.
At this time, Newtown was promptly renamed Seymour Town in honor of
Governor John Seymour. Nearly 20 years later, Seymour Town was
renamed again to Leonard Town in honor of Benedict Leonard Calvert,
who was Maryland's Governor during this period. In the decades
that followed, Leonard Town became the place where local residents
conducted their official business with the colony.
THE 19TH CENTURY
During the War of 1812, the British blockaded the Chesapeake Bay. This crippled the Tidewater economy and subjected areas such as Leonardtown to repeated British plundering and destruction. By 1860, the Town had approximately 35 dwellings within these corporate limits. It was home to the County's newspaper, two hotels and several stores. During the Civil War, a Union Naval contingent occupied Leonardtown, searching all houses for weapons and supplies intended for shipment across the Potomac to Virginia as Southern Maryland and the Town's sympathies lay with the South. Leonardtown served as a busy port and steamboat landing until the passing of the steamboat era in the early 1900's.
THE 20TH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT
Leonardtown remains the only incorporated municipality in St. Mary's County with its own elected Mayor and Town Council. The Town is experiencing a renaissance of its downtown as witnesses by recent openings of several new restaurants and businesses, some of which are located in historic buildings. Plans are underway to revitalize and transform the Leonardtown Wharf at the foot of Washington Street into a public waterfront park along wit a mix of retail shops, office space, and residential units. Facilities for boating, kayaking and canoeing are also planned.