your county seat, be it Calvert, Charles, or St. Mary's you can take
care of business from registering your will to recording your land
ownership. We decided to help you get to know more about your county
government in hopes that we can help you get things done!
Calvert County Seat
Story By: Jill Malcolm
The catch phrase 'one-stop shop' has been used to describe a place where
consumers can shop and buy whatever they need. On both the east and west
sides of Route 4 in Prince Frederick, residents can purchase products
and dine to their hearts content at nationally known stores and locally
owned small businesses. But the one stop shopping philosophy applies to
all things governmental as well, as the Calvert County seat of Prince
Frederick provides an all-inclusive location for Calvert constituents to
tend to their legal and community matters.
Prince Frederick's old town center is where the business of the county
gets done. Located just east of the flow of the major traffic artery of
Route 4, the town is the heart of Calvert County. From the courthouse to
the county commissioners, Motor Vehicle Administration to the Maryland
Cooperative Extension, citizens and employees can park once and walk to
every office in the governmental complex.
Long ago, county planners understood the value of keeping the government
business of Calvert County in one central location. In colonial times,
transportation was limited, most being made via the waterways so having
land records, courthouse, and taxation offices all in one place made
sense. Because traveling in colonial times was difficult at best, a trip
into town was not a frequent event so when citizens made the trek they
tended to want to stay a while. The town of Prince Frederick grew up
around the courthouse as lodging, services, and supplies were added for
the convenience of county residents.
Prince Frederick has served as the county seat for nearly 300 years. But
it wasn't the original county seat, Calvert Town or what was sometimes
called Battle Town served as the home of the county courthouse from the
early 1600s. Battle Town was situated at the entrance to Battle Creek on
the Patuxent River. But by the early 1700s the courthouse was in bad
condition and the location proved inconvenient for the growing number of
colonists settling toward the northern borders of Calvert County. A new
location was sought that would be more centrally located. Though
Huntingtown petitioned for the county seat, another site was chosen.
A tract was laid out at Williams Old Fields with the courthouse -which
was not completed until 10 years later, at the town center. The county
seat was named in honor of Prince Frederick, the eldest son of King
George II, as the region was still firmly under British rule. The
Maryland General Assembly approved the new town location and name in
1728 and Prince Frederick, Maryland was officially established.
Over the years, fire destroyed a succession of courthouse buildings.
During the War of 1812, British troops burned the original courthouse on
their march toward Washington, following the battle with Commodore
Joshua Barney and his flotilla at St. Leonard Creek. In 1882, the
courthouse burned during a devastating fire that destroyed all but a few
buildings in the town of Prince Frederick
The current courthouse building was constructed after the great fire in
Prince Frederick and has been renovated and expanded many times over the
last 100 years. Additional buildings were added to make the Prince
Frederick government town center what it is today. Four main buildings
form a hub around the county courthouse on Main Street and include the
County Services Plaza, the Annex, Louis L. Goldstein Building, and the
Maryland State Police Headquarters.
The County Services Plaza has multiple levels and houses both county and
state offices including the Election Board, University of Maryland
Cooperative Extension, Planning and Zoning, Inspection Permit office,
and the Southern Maryland Office of the Red Cross. The Annex, just
across the street from the courthouse, is home to professional offices
and attorneys that work in the county legal system. It is also home to
the Calvert County Economic Development and Tourism offices.
The Louis L Goldstein-Multi-Service Center on Duke Street is the largest
building in the county seat. The building, named for one of Calvert's
most recognized politicians and residents, is the office for the public
defender and state's attorney and where you will find the District
Court. On the lower level are the social services and the Motor Vehicle
Administration offices. But don't come on a Friday to get your driver's
license renewed. The small satellite office is only open on Mondays and
Tuesdays for limited services, so call before you go.
Speeding though the Prince Frederick government complex is generally not
a problem for the Maryland State Police headquarters sits right on Main
Street. Traffic flows easily though the tiny town center on brick-lined
streets. Motorists making their way through town are reminded to stop
for pedestrians at the crosswalks. It's the law!
Today's stately brick courthouse building houses the county courts and
judges offices, the county commissioners hearing room and offices as
well as a number of other county and state service offices. Pay taxes,
get a marriage license, get divorced and register a will all under the
same roof. Now that's a one-stop shop for all the stages of life for a
Calvert County citizen.
Charles County Seat
Story By: Michelle Brosco-Christian
ome things are drastically different in Charles County's town seat of La
Plata from the days when Frances Winkler walked from her parent's home
past the bustling train station in the heart of town. But other things,
such as the town's steady growth, remain the same.
The town seat is still a bustling municipality; automobiles buzzing
through town have replaced its daily freight delivery train. "It was a
busy place," said Winkler, now in her mid-80s, of the La Plata Train
Station in the 1930s. "You might see crates of baby chicks there or a
rug that someone had ordered."
La Plata's development from a whistle stop to the present-day town was
slow but steady and today there are approximately 7,000 residents. Visit
the downtown area and you can still find the quaint train station and a
large red brick courthouse surrounded by a unique serpentine wall.
It's unlikely that today's residents visit La Plata to pick up a crate
of baby chicks at the train station; more likely, it's official business
that draws people to downtown. Building permits, marriage licenses, jury
duty and payment of water and sewer bills are all possible reasons for a
visit to the county courthouse or government complex on Charles Street,
which runs through the center of town.
Since the 2002 tornado damaged much of the downtown area, town officials
began working harder to incorporate elements of their comprehensive plan
to create a pedestrian-friendly town center. The town hall's official
place of business is currently in transition from Charles Street to La
Grange Avenue. This change is due to the proposed expansion of the
county's hospital (Civista Medical Center). Construction is literally
around nearly every corner in the county seat, with major buildings
going up on Charles Street/US 301 and on Centennial Street, where the
Charles County Chamber of Commerce will soon be located.
Obviously, official county and town business has been a mainstay in the
county seat, but other businesses and services have sprung up around the
area offering residents everything from a cozy coffee shop, bakery, and
high-end restaurant, to many office buildings housing doctors, lawyers,
engineers and architects.
Another of La Plata's main attractions includes a branch of the public
library and the Port Tobacco Players Theatre, which is currently
undergoing a major renovation of its own. Farther out from the center of
town are the county's central offices for the Board of Education and
several schools are located within town limits.
Originally, the county seat was located on the busy Port Tobacco River,
but a series of events, which included a suspicious fire at the Port
Tobacco Courthouse, lead voters to rebuild the courthouse in La Plata
near the train station and thus the county seat moved from river side to
rail side in 1895.
Freight delivery was once frequent and critical to the small town,
recalled Winkler, because "not many people had cars and so they had to
order things they needed, or go to Washington, DC." The whistles of
today's trains are well known to La Plata residents as well, but these
trains are full of coal, not baby chicks and rugs.
St. Mary's County Seat
Story By: Christine Basham
For nearly three centuries, Leonardtown has been the center of St.
Mary's County life. It's a bustling town of restaurants, unique shops,
and old-fashioned charm. Though Leonardtown has plenty of opportunities
for relaxation and fun, it is most importantly the county seat of St.
Mary's. Many governmental, non-profit, and service organizations can be
found between "the Square," surrounding Washington and Fenwick Streets,
and Governmental Center, just a short distance away across Route 5.
The five-member board of County Commissioners, with offices in the
Governmental Center in Leonardtown, recommends new laws to the Maryland
The Department of Social Services is a clearinghouse for information and
assistance regarding childcare, foster care, child support enforcement,
emergency food providers and emergency and transient shelter.
The Health Department provides birth and death certificates, permit
information, and can answer other general health questions. The
department also runs a hot line for information about bioterrorism,
emergency planning, and the West Nile virus.
The St. Mary's County Department of Recreation and Parks organizes
personal enrichment and exercise classes, sports teams, before-and-after
school care for students and summer camps for children and the disabled.
They also sponsor Family Skate Nights, at the Leonard Hall Drill Hall.
This school year, they will also sponsor daytime skating sessions during
selected school holidays.
St. Mary's County boasts the first sheriff's office in Maryland,
providing law enforcement, court security, process services, and
corrections. Leonardtown is also headquarters for a full-service
Maryland State Police Barracks.
Administrative Judge Honorable Marvin S. Kaminetz, and Judges Honorable
C. Clarke Raley, and Honorable Karen Abrams preside over the Circuit
Court for St. Mary's County in downtown Leonardtown. The courthouse also
houses the clerk's office, the office of the State's Attorney and office
of the Public Defender.
St. Mary's County has the resources to help you live well and feel your
best. Get the care and support you need from people you can trust, right
here in the county. St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown is a
full-service hospital accredited by the Joint Commission for the
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) including a new
Women's Health Center.
Health Connections Center, adjacent to the main hospital, offers health
and wellness classes, programs and screenings and an outreach program.
Hospice of St. Mary's, at the corner of Washington and Fenwick Streets,
offers pain and symptom management, physical, emotional, and spiritual
support for terminally ill patients and their families.
St. Mary's Hospital Laboratory Center at the Belmont Building provides
laboratory services right in St Mary's.
People with disabilities can get the support they need without having to
trek to the city. The following organizations offer information,
support, training and other assistance to people with a wide range of
disabilities, and for their families, teachers, and employers. All have
offices in and around Leonardtown.
The ARC of Southern Maryland at St. Mary's provides support for
individuals with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities
and their families.
Maryland State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation
Services Coach Me Now! Program (Coordinated Approach to Comprehensive
Help to achieve Meaningful Employment, Now!) is a return-to-work program
for people with disabilities on public assistance.
The retirement years don't require a move to Florida anymore. More and
more elderly people are deciding to stay near family and friends here in
St Mary's. Leonardtown's small-town atmosphere makes things easy for
residents of all ages. Facilities like the 212-bed St Mary's Nursing
Center and Cedar Lane Apartments give mature adults a place to stay
without all the hassles of a lawn, and with assistance and medical care
St. Mary's County Public Schools main offices in Leonardtown direct
parents to information needed to establish children in a local public
school. It's also a great place to praise a teacher or administrator who
helps your child learn and grow.
On the other hand, you can contact Kay Wach to request the county's
homeschool registration packet through the Department of Pupil Services.
College of Southern Maryland (CSM) has campuses across Southern
Maryland. The Leonardtown campus has quickly become a lively landmark.
Interested in St Mary's County history? Take a tour of the Old Jail
Museum, just outside the county courthouse. Tudor Hall, a Georgian
mansion on nearby Tudor Place, houses a research center, library, and
book store for history buffs, and lovely composed gardens.
Leonardtown's small town structure makes it possible to reach all the
important offices, and get your business done, while enjoying a stroll,
catching up on Southern Maryland history, and stopping for a quick meal
or a little retail therapy along the way. It's a vibrant, charming, and
growing county seat.
- Southern Maryland Government Guide