Chesapeake Bay is dotted with a number of islands, but none larger than Kent Island, located near the middle of the bay across from Annapolis, Maryland. The island is connected to the mainland at its narrowest separation of four miles, on the north end, by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Completed in 1952, the bridge connects Maryland’s urban western shore with its more rural eastern shore and to northern Delaware. At the time it was built, the bridge was the longest structure built over water, at 4.3 miles. Since then, dozens of much longer bridges have been constructed, including another Chesapeake Bay Bridge and a tunnel at the southern end connecting Virginia to its eastern shore and southern Delaware. The island has two concentrations of population at Stevensville and at Chester. However, Stevensville is the larger and more historically significant of the two and Stevensville, MD, homes are far more plentiful.
Kent Island is not only a rural, natural respite from the commotion of the surrounding urban landscape, but is also a cornucopia of historical sites as well. Most people have heard of Jamestown and Plymouth, but after those two settlements, Kent Island was the oldest permanent English settlement in the United States. Founded in 1631, settlers built Kent Fort at the southern-most tip of the island, but unfortunately, the land on which it was built has eroded over the years and disappeared into the Chesapeake Bay. However, there are over a hundred historical sites in the census-designated area of Stevensville, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For thousands of years, the island was inhabited by Native Americans who were members of the tribes of the Algonquian Nation, and it wasn’t until the sixteenth century and into the seventeenth century that European settlers set foot on the island. The most notable of these settlers were the English explorer John Smith and later the English pioneer William Claiborne, who founded Kent Fort. Since Claiborne was serving in the government of the Virginia colony, the island was initially claimed for the colony of Virginia. That would be disputed in a series of naval battles over the next 20 years between the forces of Lord Baltimore of Maryland and Claiborne’s forces. In 1658, a treaty was eventually signed in England and the island ceded to Maryland.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the island was primarily farmed for corn and tobacco crops. The weather, hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter, accommodated this. Eventually, the land would be depleted of its nutrients due to the lack of crop rotation. By the nineteenth century, steamboat travel and a budding tourist industry developed along with a fishing industry built around the catching of oysters and blue crab. Both of these industries are still active today. By 1850, the town of Stevensville was founded as a ferry hub for steamboat travel across the bay to the western shore of Maryland. Today, Stevensville is the island’s most populous area with nearly 7,000 people as of the 2010 U.S. Census. It also happens to be the point at which the Chesapeake Bay Bridge connects to the island.
It was the completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952 that would permanently connect Kent Island and the towns of Stevensville and Chester directly to the cities of Baltimore and Washington, DC. Over time, the island has become a bedroom community to the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and a suburb of Annapolis, Maryland. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of activities on the island. Many of the island’s buildings, most of which are in Stevensville, have been restored to their centuries-old charm and worth visiting. In addition, there’s Queen Anne’s County Heritage Day and Kent Island Day, both of which commemorate the island’s rich history. There is also a handful of art galleries on the island and, of course, there’s no shortage of great little places to eat and drink in the towns along the shores. Being an island in the Chesapeake, there’s also great fishing and plenty of boat charters. When it comes to finding some great residences, however, there’s no better place to look on the island than Stevensville, MD homes. So come visit, enjoy the history, crabs and oysters, and great fishing. Then come settle down on this charming and diminutive island paradise.
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