St. Mary’s City Ordinary

Smith's Ordinary, St Mary's City, Maryland

Smith’s Ordinary, St Mary’s City, Maryland

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St. Mary’s City Ordinary

In 1634, 140 colonists led by Leonard Calvert sailed across the Atlantic on two ships and started a colony on the edge of the New World.  The village they called St. Mary’s City became fourth permanent settlement in British North America and the first capital of Maryland.  Historic St. Mary’s City is a Historic Landmark recognized as one of America’s best-preserved colonial architectural sites. Here, a town that disappeared from maps more than two centuries ago is being recreated and brought to life.

William Smith arrived in the colony early in the 1660’s and went to work as a builder, innkeeper, and a merchant.  In 1666, when development of the capital was underway, he secured a 31 year lease from the colonial government with provisions that he build and operate an ordinary there, plant an orchard, and fence the property.  An ‘ordinary’ is so named because any traveler, with the means to pay, could secure food and lodging there.   Locals frequented ordinaries, as well.  They provided a place to meet and socialize.  Smith didn’t live to see his ordinary populated, though.  He died before construction was complete.

It is likely that Van Sweringen, a dutchman who moved to St. Mary’s City in 1664 after the English forces invaded the Dutch colony of New Amstel (now New Castle, Delaware), initially leased this St. Mary’s City Ordinary from Smith’s widow and her new husband, Daniel Jennifer.  In December of 1672, Van Sweringen purchased the ordinary and began major renovations.   Much of Van Sweringen’s trade came from those traveling to the capital city to do business with the government.  Many of these visits were subsidized by the state.  Evidence of substantial payments to Van Sweringen, in pounds of tobacco, are stored in the Maryland Archives.

Along the road from Smith’s Ordinary lies an of St. Mary’s City Ordinaries, this time a working reconstruction of another 17th Century inn, William Farthing’s Ordinary.  Its architecture copies that of the Third Haven Meeting House, built in 1680 in Easton, a town on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  Farthing was an early-18th Century settler whose name frequently appears in early Maryland legal documents.  Farthing’s Ordinary also contains the museum shop where where a wide selection of souvenirs, reproduction pottery, colonial games and books can be purchased.

Farthing's Ordinary, St Mary's City, Maryland

Farthing’s Ordinary, St Mary’s City, Maryland

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

See more images of historic St. Mary’s County here

Article Name
St. Mary’s City Ordinary
An ‘ordinary’ is so named because any traveler, with the means to pay, could secure food and lodging there
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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  1. Excellent tones in the images Mark. I always learn so much history from your posts.

  2. Really nice B&W images Mark.

  3. Nice mono captures Mark and an interesting post too.

  4. nice BW work Mark, well done!

  5. Lovely B&W conversion Mark. Terrific work.


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