Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Market Master's House, Bladensburg, Maryland

Market Master's House, Bladensburg, Maryland
Library of Congress

The first known description of the Market Master’s House, in Bladensburg, Maryland, was recorded in the 1798 Federal Direct Tax Assessment. The assessment describes the Market Master’s House, which was then in Benjamin Lowndes’ possession, as a “single story stone dwelling 24 by 20 [feet].” The stone house had five windows. Additionally, the property was improved by a 20 by 16-foot stable. The Federal Direct Tax also reveals that a second portion of Lot 38 was improved with an unoccupied “single story framed dwelling house 27 by 17 [feet]” and an 8-foot-square framed kitchen. The Federal Direct Tax, which noted owners as well as occupants of the properties being assessed, indicated that the Market Master’s House was not occupied by Benjamin Lowndes, or any other member of the Lowndes family. Rather, as stated in the tax assessment, Benjamin Lowndes lived in a three-story brick dwelling on Lot 60 and Henry Jones occupied the Market Master’s House.[1] No Henry Jones was identified in either the 1790 or 1800 Federal Censuses, thus nothing is currently known about this
early occupant of the Market Master’s House.

Although the Federal Direct Tax recorded the Market Master’s House as a dwelling,
other evidence suggests that it may have been used as a store for the Lowndes Company.
In 1800, a notice appeared in the George-Town and Washington Advertiser that “A number
of inhabitants of Prince George’s County intend applying to the next General Assembly
of Maryland, for a law, authorizing the laying out of a road from Bladensburg across
the Eastern Branch opposite Mr. Lowndes’ store [emphasis added] and to run … the
nearest and best way to the City of Washington.”[2] Although the notice does not provide
any more information about the location of the Lowndes store, an 1802 controversy over
Benjamin Lowndes’ dereliction of duty as Postmaster of the Town of Bladensburg suggests
that the store was located in the stone building.

According to a letter published in the Washington Federalist, on two occasions Benjamin
Lowndes left his store, which also served as the Post Office, prior to the arrival of the
mail. The Post Master was required to remain at his station even if the mail arrived late,
as it was on these instances. Lowndes went home, apparently intending to return when
the mail arrived. Even though Lowndes had left the store in the care of an unnamed associate,
he was dismissed for failing to receive and examine the mail in a timely manner. In an open letter to the Postmaster General dated February 25, 1802, Lowndes appealed
to return to his position:

The post-office at Bladensburg is worth no man’s acceptance, but after seventeen years servitude (the attention requisite can be called nothing else) I consider myself as intitled [sic] to it as any person. I have acted, I believe without censure, and I know I have done my duty faithfully.

An editorial in the Washington Federalist defended Lowndes’ actions, noting that his home was close enough to his store:

For the exchange of mails, one quarter of an hour is allowed, but it can be
proved that in the instances alluded to, the mail carriers did not stay five
minutes. It is not true that Mr. Lownde’s [sic] dwelling house, even with
all the meanders is half a mile from his store, the more direct way does
not exceed 630 yards…

The author’s identification of the store as being located between a third and a half of a
mile from Lowndes’ house supports the contention that the store/post office was indeed
the Market Master’s House (Benjamin Lowndes’ house on Lot 60 was located on the parcel
directly to the southeast of Bostwick). After Lowndes was dismissed, the Washington Federalist reported that the Post Office moved into another store somewhere on Market Street.[3]

from:    Maryland State Highway Administration
            Project Planning Division
            Environmental Evaluation Section
            October 2009

[1] 1798 Federal Direct Tax, New Scotland, Oxen & Bladensburg, Maryland State Archives, Archives of
Maryland Online, Volume 729.

[2] “Notice,” The Centinel of Liberty, George-Town and Washington Advertiser, 9 September 1800.
[3] Washington Federalist, 19 April 1802. see also: 1802 Dismissal of Benjamin Lowndes as Postmaster of Bladensburg Maryland http://beyondthebattleofbladensburg.blogspot.com/2013/03/1802-dismissal-of-benjamin-lowndes-as.html

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