Snow Hill might be a small town, but there’s plenty to do in this community on the south banks of the Pocomoke River. Snow Hill is a dream day-tripping destination for anyone interested in history, nature and learning something new–plus, it’s only a 30 minute drive from Ocean City (and just 15 minutes from Berlin). They call it “the treasure of Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” and for good reason. Snow Hill might just be one of the most charming places on Delmarva.
A little history
Snow Hill was founded by English settlers in 1686, and most likely named after a neighborhood in London called Snow Hill. It didn’t take long for the region to become well-known for its agriculture, thanks to a temperate climate and viable farmland, and in 1694, William and Mary of England designated the town as a royal port.
Snow Hill thrived as a port town well into the 19th century, and its economy relied on trade, resulting in an environment where liveries, coopers, smiths and wagon makers flourished. Merchants, bankers, farmers and sea captains also found local success and built beautiful homes in town.
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Like Salisbury, the town suffered from two major fires during the 19th century–one in 1844 and the other in 1893–that destroyed the city’s center, including two successive courthouses. Some 19th century structures survived, but most buildings in Snow Hill today have 19th and 20th century origins, following the rebuilding of the town. In 2002, the Snow Hill Historic District, which includes about 80% of the town, was founded.
Despite the fires that raged in the 1800s, a number of churches, homes and historical sites in Snow Hill are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
All Hallows Episcopal Church: Built in 1756 (having received funding from the Maryland Colonial Assembly eight years prior), the All Hallows Episcopal Church is one of 30 original Anglican parishes in Maryland.
Chanceford: The building, which currently operates as a bed and breakfast, is a stuccoed brick house built in 1793. Much of the original interior woodwork remains inside the home.
Old Friendship United Methodist Church: The historic Methodist church is a one-story, gable-front building erected in 1866, with 1920s renovations that reflect Italianate and Greek Revival architectural styles. A cemetery surrounding the church is home to hundreds of 19th and 20th century grave markers.
Samuel Gunn House: The Samuel Gunn House, constructed in the 1780s, is known for being one of the oldest and best-preserved 18th century Georgian town dwellings in Worcester County.
Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church: Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is named after Rev. Francis Makemie, and is thought to be the first church in America to issue a call to a pastor (although this historical factoid is somewhat disputed). The current Makemie church building was constructed in 1888 by architect Isaac Pursell in a Gothic Revival architectural style with red brick, red sandstone trim and hand-hewn, exposed wooden arches.
James Martin House: This house, built in a similar style to Salisbury’s historic Pemberton Hall, is the only remaining authentic gambrel-roof timber frame dwelling on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Nun’s Green: Nun’s Green is a small, 18th century plantation house and is one of 14 remaining structures of its kind in Worcester County.
George Washington Purnell House: This home was built around 1860 in the Gothic Revival style and features its original decorative millwork inside and out.
Gov. John Walter Smith House: The historic home was named after its owner, John Walter Smith, who served as a U.S. Representative, Senator and Governor of Maryland. The house was built in 1891 and is an unusually large and intricate example of Queen Anne styled architecture.
Things to do
Though the town of Snow Hill is tiny, there’s still a number of things to do to keep any day-tripper occupied–not all of them involve history, of course, but there’s still one registered Historic Place that hasn’t yet been mentioned…
Visit the historic Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum
You might have thought we accidentally left this one out of our list of historic places, but Furnace Town is such a unique and interesting destination that it needs a mention as a “thing to do.” Furnace Town is its own little village, a step back into 19th century life complete with a blacksmith shop, print shop, woodworking shop, broom house, weave house, schoolhouse, church and, of course, the Nassawango Iron Furnace. The town itself, built by the Maryland Iron Company in the 1820s, was home to about 300 residents, and when you visit Furnace Town, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported through a time machine and are one of those residents yourself.
Explore a museum
In case you haven’t got your fill of local history yet, the Julia A. Purnell Museum offers exhibits about various aspects of Worcester County History. There’s an informational exhibit about Native Americans who once called the region home, a general store exhibit, a look back in time at the Victorian Era and more in the 1891-built St. Agnes Catholic Church-turned-museum.
Go out on a canoe
There’s acres of outdoors to explore in Snow Hill, and much of that can be done in the water. Rent a kayak from the Pocomoke River Canoe Company and paddle out on the river while taking in all of the untouched natural beauty that surrounds you. If the water’s not your thing, embark on a Historic Walking Tour and learn all about the architecture behind the local homes and churches.
Read, research or bask in silence
The Worcester County Library is located in Snow Hill, where locals can research their genealogy in the Worcester Room and anyone can come take part in a library-hosted event.
- As of the 2010 census, Snow Hill’s population was 2,103.
- A few persons of note with roots in Snow Hill include actor Arch Johnson, Baseball Hall of Famer Judy Johnson and the University of Maryland’s first-ever lacrosse coach R.V. Truitt.
- The town was involved in the Revolutionary War and provided aid to colonists in Massachusetts.
- Several scenes from the 1999 movie Runaway Bride (which was mostly shot in Berlin, MD) were shot at Snow Hill High School.