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The Eastern Shore Conservation Center

By Bill Thompson

Editor’s note: The building known as Brick Row neighbors the former McCord building in Easton. Fire damaged Brick Row in 2012, and former owner Helaine White donated the building to Eastern Shore Land Conservancy late that year.

The handsome yet unimposing brick structure at 130 South Washington Street in Easton, next door to the McCord building, has been known by several informal names. Lately, it is referred to as the “White Building” in honor of Helaine L. White, a longtime Talbot County Realtor who transferred the property to the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in a deed dated December 28, 2012.

For brief periods it was called “Lawyers Row” and, in the late 1800s, “Barrow’s Row” after the maiden name of Mary A. Hughes, who owned the building with husband William H. Hughes.

But for most of its early life—it was erected in 1850 and possibly earlier—”Brick Row” was how local residents knew it and listed it in land records. The word “row” is significant in that what clearly today is a single two-story, multiple-unit structure with a shared façade may have been originally four separate buildings. In fact, a 1904 deed recording the sale of the property describes the premises as “four two story brick dwellings,” not one brick structure with four units.

Whether the original Brick Row was one or multiple buildings, it is believed that it may have been designed as low-cost “factory dwellings,” according to a 1967 Maryland Historical Trust historic site report.

That same report describes the building architecture as “a late Federal design” with “a gently pitched A-roof.”

The report continues: “There are 4 entryways and each house is 3 bays wide. In the center of the row is an areaway with a rounded brick arch. This areaway permits access to the rear of the property. The windows are all 4/4 Victorian sashes. All the windows have flat white wooden lintels and sills. The four doors have rounded brick arches and are framed by simple pilasters. The four dwellings share two common chimneys.”

Helaine White purchased the property in 1974 from Frederick B. and Betty Fox and had the residential units converted to offices, including one reserved for her real estate business. She remembers that the Fox family owned Brick Row for a number of years and had intentionally kept the rent low to accommodate lower-income residents. A photograph taken probably in the 1960s shows neatly trimmed boxwoods at the front of the building and TV antennas on the roof.

Near the end of the first quarter of the last century, local businessman Arthur F. Grace purchased Brick Row from William F. Leonard, who in 1904 bought the property from William H. and wife Mary A. Hughes. Before the Hughes couple jointly owned the property, Mary A. Barrow—later William’s wife, who also was known as Sadie—was the sole owner, according to land records filed in the Talbot County Courthouse in 1899. Miss Barrow acquired the property in 1872 from Thomas H. and Sarah E. Kemp. Before selling to the Kemps, Henry Corkran (or Cockran) owned Brick Row, having acquired it from H.H. Goldsborough.

In the fall of 2012, a late night fire broke out in the upper story of Brick Row. Volunteer firefighters from Easton and four other departments responded and, after fighting the blaze for an hour, were able to save most of the structure.

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