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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Brookeville Maryland Historic District

The historical development of Montgomery County followed the pattern of other central Maryland counties. Unlike those of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland, the agricultural communities here consisted of farms rather than large plantations. These farms were not as self-sufficient and, in response to their needs, many small towns sprang up. By 1879, there were nineteen villages and towns in the County; Brookeville was one of these.
The census of 1880 shows that Brookeville had the third largest population: 206 people, after Rockville's 688 and Poolesville's 287. By 1978, with all the suburban development spreading out from Washington, Brookeville retains its early flavor with many 19th and some 18th and 20th century buildings and large trees enveloping the town like a canopy.
The town of Brookeville is laid out on part of a tract called Addition to Brooke Grove, one of the many parcels acquired by James Brooke the Elder, a Quaker, in April 1745. Tradition has set the founding of Brookeville in 1794 when there were a few houses, notably the Madison House, the Blue House, and the Valley House. It consisted of fifty-six lots, most of them of one-quarter acre each, ranged along two principal streets, Market and High Streets and four side streets North, South, Spring and Race Streets. The town grew and prospered as the nation grew, with demand from Europe for agricultural exports and other raw materials.
Brookeville is situated in the most fertile land in Maryland with many farms and plantations
There were blacksmiths who made agricultural implements, seed stores, carriage builder and wagon builders, a saddler and harness-maker, two doctors, a tailor, dressmakers, shoemakers, several stores, an undertaker, and a post office. Also, two excellent private boarding schools, the Brookeville Academy for boys and Mrs. Porter's cottage school for the Education of Young Ladies. A private circulating library and a debating society provided a bit of intellectual stimulus.
A Quaker village, the town was touched by war, when on the night of August 26, 1814, President Madison sought shelter for the night at the home of Caleb Bentley. Brookeville was full of refugees from the burning of Washington by the British.
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In the 20th century, individual artisans working in small shops gave way to large factories and well-developed transportation. Brookeville became a residential community. Even though the shops and grist mills are gone and some of the very old houses have disappeared, the town lives on with a population mixture of young and old, a viable community conscious of its heritage and anxious to preserve it.
There are currently forty-five buildings in Brookeville, thirty- three of which are over fifty years old.
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