A Brief History of Vienna, Maryland
The Early Years
Located on the tidewater shores of the Nanticoke River in Dorchester County, Vienna was formally founded in 1706 as decreed by the Colonial Assembly. Rich in tradition and history, its region was first mentioned by Captain John Smith during his exploration of the Nanticoke River in 1608.
This tract of land was a portion of ten thousand acres along the north shore of the Nanticoke River granted by Charles Calvert to Lord Baltimore. The entire tract was patented in 1664 as Nanticoke Manor.
In 1671, a ferry service for crossing the Nanticoke River was established. That service continued until 1828 when the first bridge was constructed across the river.
The Town prospered through trade and commerce, shipbuilding and nearby tobacco farming. By 1768, it became the Custom's District of the region. Vienna was competing with a new town called Baltimore.
The Revolutionary War
During the Revolutionary War, Vienna was an important source of goods and supplies to the Continental Army. British vessels raided the town at least five times taking ships and provisions.
In the War of 1812, Vienna was again attacked by British forces. It is believed that during this war the Town built a stone wall along its waterfront placing cannons on top. The wall was built from stones used as ballasts from the ships that anchored here. Remains of this wall can be seen southeast of the Customs House located on the corner of Water Street and Church Streets.
Blockade Runners on the Nanticoke
The Governor of the State of Maryland during the
Civil War, Thomas Holiday Hicks, who is credited with keeping the State from
seceding from the Union, was a former resident of the Town.
Baltimore, Atlantic & Chesapeake Railroad
In 1894 the Baltimore and Eastern Shore Railroad became the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad and was formed from parts of many different rail and steamboat companies serving the Delmarva peninsula. The main rail line ran from Claiborne in Talbot County to Ocean City, crossing the Nanticoke River at Vienna.
Electric Power for the Eastern Shore
In 1926 Vienna was chosen by the Eastern Shore Gas and Electric Company for the location of a new $1,500,000.00 coal fired 12,000 Kw electric generating plant. This large generating utility, along with a booming agricultural industry and an important fur and fishing trade on the Nanticoke River provided the town with an economic engine for many decades.
Present day Vienna is no longer the commercially important hub it once was. However, the original town layout is still recognizable and significant examples of past architecture survive. In recent years, a determined effort has been put forth by the town and its citizens to save, restore and enhance this historical, cultural and environmental legacy for future generations.
All Rights Reserved - January 2011