The Town of Easton was established in 1710 and seen as the epicenter of the Eastern Shore. It was often referred to as the “East Capitol” because of the location of many of the government offices. Easton was originally named Talbot Court House, until it was renamed in 1788 after a town in Somersetshire, England.
Easton is situated in the tidewater region along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay, near the head of the Tred Avon River (inlet). As part of Talbot County, Easton’s past is linked to the water that surrounds it. Its first English settlers, arriving by boat in the 1630s, established tobacco plantations along the shores of the Choptank, Wye, Tred Avon, and St. Michaels (now Miles) rivers on the long stretch of Chesapeake Bay coast known as Bayside and on its countless creeks and coves.
The area is historically rich in traditions and architecture, with many organizations and individuals committed to their preservation. Some of the more famous structures in the area, tell stories of a different time in the nation’s history. Quakers, seeking a haven from persecution settled in the area. Their Third Haven Meeting House, completed in 1684, stands today as the oldest religious building still in use in the United States and the earliest dated building in Maryland.
Talbot County had one of the highest percentages of free blacks in the country. The Hill neighborhood of Easton, currently being studied by Historic Easton, the University of Maryland, and Morgan State University, is likely the earliest settlement of free African-Americans in the United States, dating to 1790. Unionville, a village suburb of Easton, was settled after the Civil War by Union soldiers who were freed slaves from nearby plantations. Frederick Douglass, the noted abolitionist who was born a slave in 1818 at Wye House plantation near Easton, delivered a stirring speech, "Self-Made Men" in the main courtroom of the Talbot County Courthouse in November 1878. The occasion and location are now marked by a statue in his honor, which is on Maryland's Frederick Douglass Driving Tour.
Easton is known for being the home to the Eastern Shore’s first hotel, bank, and newspaper. It is also recognized as an Arts and Cultural Center. The historic 400-seat Avalon Theatre serves as a year-round non-profit performing arts complex with diverse programs, musical concerts, films, seminars, plays, and community events. Built in 1921 as a movie/vaudeville house, the restored art deco theatre was renovated in the late 1980s with state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and comfort.
The Academy Art Museum is housed in a renovated 1820 schoolhouse and exhibits the best of local, regional, and national artists. The Academy's permanent collection includes works by many of art history's most recognized figures of the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum hosts over 200 visual and performing arts programs annually.
The past is also evident in the Colonial, Federal, and Victorian architecture that creates remarkable streetscapes throughout the town. This style of architecture represents a way of life rapidly disappearing in many regions of the United States.
Further exploration of the past can be enjoyed at the Historical Society of Talbot County at their headquarters, housed in a 19th-century building. The museum features a three-gallery exhibit of Talbot County history and conducts various tours, including self-guided walking excursions.
Today, Easton is well-known for its broad appeal to young families, visitors, vacationers, and retirees. Its appeal is included in various “Best of” lists and publications, including Best Foodie Destination (Washingtonian), 6th richest small town (Bloomberg Business), and many other accolades. In 2018, Easton was named one of America's Top 5 Coolest Towns to Buy a Vacation Home by Forbes.
For a historical chronology of Talbot County, click here.