Until Church Street opened, South Jefferson Street was the main thoroughfare south towards the town of Trap (now Jefferson). During its heyday, Jefferson Street was composed of five smaller neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive cultural and historical heritage.
The intersection of West Main and Jefferson streets, the historic “Square Corner,” had important buildings on each side. Hotel Maryland stood on the northwest corner which is now the lot by Zion Lutheran; Granger’s Insurance stood on the northeast corner, which has been remodeled into half of the current Municipal building; the Derr House stood on the southeast corner which is now a lot being converted to public park space; and the Shafer building on southwest corner (still extant) housed a succession of commercial establishments. When Church Street was constructed, it replaced Jefferson Street as the main north-south road and the “Square Corner” reemerged at this intersection.
Keller’s Town is one of the first additions to the original plat of Middletown in 1834. Keller’s town is named for several men of the Keller family, all named Harry and all living on Jefferson Street at one time or another. It consisted of 14 lots beginning with 14 Washington Street and headed south on Jefferson Street to 115 Jefferson Street.
This is the red brick house that Harry Keller built on an empty lot where the Lutheran’s Lecture Room stood until around 1840. The lot was purchased by the Board of Education in the 1890s but never used until the late 1940s when Harry C. and Carrie Keller bought it.
Theses addresses are known as Bussard Row. Charlotte Bussard Bowers, former Jefferson Street resident, who died in 2002 at age 100, used to quote her grandfather by saying, “now boys, you can take one stick and break it, two sticks and bend them, but put three or four together and you can’t do much to hurt them. If you stick together, you can amount to something.”
Two houses have stood on this lot. The first was built by
Allen Sparrow, who bought butter from valley farmers to
resell in Georgetown; the second was built by Foster
Routzahn, who tore down the original to build a grand
house for his fiancee, Estie. The house was later owned by
Harry Eugene Keller Sr., former caretaker of Memorial Hall.
Charles F. Main once lived here, and his slaughterhouse was located on this lot. Older residents recall how every Tuesday blood ran down the alley and then on down Jefferson.
Boileau and Jefferson streets once formed a commercial corner with a meat market and farm at 115 Jefferson; an iron shop at 201 Jefferson; and a marble yard at 200 and 202 Jefferson. The rest of the neighborhood, 200–219 Jefferson Street have been residences.
At No. 200, Charles Heagy operated his marble shop until his death in the 1870s. His apprentice Will G. Boileau took over, continuing to produce monuments and headstones that dot Middletown’s cemeteries. The front section of 202, Boileau’s home, was built from logs in the 1830s. Boileau was twice elected Burgess of Middletown and helped organize Middletown Fire Company in 1894, serving as its first chief.
This “double house” was home to Peter W. Shafer, teacher, tax collector, and ten times Burgess of Middletown. His daughter Eva Shafer Bansen, an artist, had paintings in Washington, DC galleries including the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art. Another daughter, Mary Shafer Jones Downing, was married to Dr. Eli Jones who ran a private school for cancer treatment on Main Street until his death in 1931. Her second husband, Robert Downing, was “a retired Shakespearean actor and evangelist, once known as ‘American’s tragedian’.” He performed Gems from Shakespeare at Middletown’s Opera House in 1912.
A portion of the southern end of Jefferson Street, was home to a thriving African American community before the Civil War. Of the 304 African Americans listed on the 1850 census of the Middletown Election District nearly half were free adults, with some 76 residing on the ends of Jefferson and Walnut streets.
Zachariah Johnson purchased this house from the Remsburg family in 1832. Audrey Cox, a Jefferson Street resident who lived most of her 99 years in this house, occupied the oldest part of the house at its rear (probably a log structure) while the present front of the house was under construction.
The Asbury A.M.E Church (c. 1850; demolished c. 1959) served Middletown’s African American community for over 130 years. It was the spiritual home to both free and enslaved people, serving as the cultural hub of the southern Jefferson Street community. When the Methodist circuit rider was absent, the ministers of other congregations in town would perform weddings and funerals. Only the Asbury A.M.E. Church foundation and cemetery remain.
In the days when Jefferson Street was the major road south, there was another, less-traveled southbound road. Traces of the old Petersville Road influenced the shape of the lots in The Hollow and the roadbed is still visible in the bank of the front yard of at 325 Jefferson.
Samuel H. Toyer (‘Sam Toy”), the last former slave residing in Middletown, died in this house (331 Jefferson Street) in 1936 at age 84. Born into slavery near Petersville, MD, Sam was a well-known citizen in his time, frequently telling of his experiences as a youth. The late Audrey Cox of 340 Jefferson Street recalls 25 to 30 students, first through seventh grade, taught all in one room at the Middletown Colored School. “That little room was full,” she recalled. Until Frederick County Schools integrated in 1957, African-American high school students had to travel by trolley to Frederick each day.
Holiday Hill was built as a summer home by Charles H. Walther, a Baltimore artist and professor at the Maryland Institute of Art who brought his students to Middletown in the summers to paint outdoors. Walther courted controversy among Baltimore’s conservative establishment with his use of Modernism, Cubism, Fauvism, and Futurism, which cost him his teaching position in 1929. He continued to teach until his death in 1938. Coined much later, this enterprise and Walther’s students became known as The Snallygaster School. The property went to his son, Dr. Carl Walther and his wife, Emile, who hung a sign from spring to fall reading “Holiday Hill, C.H. Walther.”