The Historical Society
Kent County, MD
It is important to note that this region, the first to move from a tobacco based economy to one of grain, played a significant role in the bustling enterprise which ultimately helped motivate the colonies to revolution. England, burdened by the debt of the Seven Years War, began to levy burdensome regulations on the colonies just as they were producing more than could be sold through the mother country. The Tea Act, for example, did not raise the price of tea for the colonial household, but restricted the colonial merchant to trading in tea only through the failing East India Trading Company.
William Geddes, who purchased the lot on which the Geddes Piper House stands, was the Customs Inspector for the region. He also moonlighted as a merchant, and was the possible owner of the brigantine Geddes, known to have docked at Chestertown harbor with tea in its cargo in May of 1774. Little is known of the facts that may have led to the oral tradition of a Chestertown Tea Party; what is known is that during that month, local leaders and merchants began a series of meetings and resolves that placed them on the path to revolution.
That moment was, in a sense, their last hurrah. Following the Revolution the economy of the region declined as the Port of Baltimore rose to preeminence. Merchants such as James Piper, who purchased the lot from Geddes and is the probable builder of the house, followed fortune across the bay. The house changed hands several times, until purchased by George Burgin Westcott who arrived in the region during the 1830's; it was he who added the back portion of the house containing the dining room, and created the arch between the parlors. Although to this day considered by some "newcomers," through marriage the Westcotts became connected to the Wickes and other older families of the area: merchants, planters, shipbuilders (many of the local powerbrokers were all three) and sea captains, who had made this region a center of economic and cultural activity in the colonial world.
The Westcotts lived in the house for almost a century, during which the tradition of rural life that is quintessentially Eastern Shore was developed. The family finally departed the "Old Brick House" in 1910. It was for a time a kindergarten, and later an apartment building. After several decades of neglect, its purchase and subsequent restoration by the newly formed Historical Society not only saved the lovely townhouse which has stood so gracefully through much of our history, but heralded the beginning of the revitalization of historic Chestertown.