Characteristics and History
The area that is now Claiborne was planned as “Bay City” in 1886 by members of the Tunis, Seth, Lowe and Cockey families. Ferry service between Bay Ridge on the Western shore and Claiborne would bring vacationers to a resort community and railroad service would enable some of them to continue on to ocean communities and resorts. More importantly it would send Eastern Shore grain, lumber, seafood and produce to city markets on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay and return with mail and other commodities.
A land patent issued in 1652 for Rich Neck Manor was the first development in the area. Around 1867 a town, now known as “Old Claiborne”, was laid out at the head of Tilghman Creek to support the Tunis lumber business which had mills at Easton Point, Navy Point in St. Michaels, Tunis Mills and Kent Island. Later an oyster company, a boatyard, and two steamboat wharves were created. By 1893 plans for developing that village ceased.
Claiborne, as Bay City became known, developed to support ferry and railroad activities and the travelers that used them. Car ferry service gradually edged out passenger service and in 1928 the rail spur from McDaniel into Claiborne was discontinued. Ferry service was discontinued after the Bay Bridge was opened in 1952. Although business activity eventually ceased, Claiborne’s location on the water and proximity to St Michaels contributed to its continued vitality. Because of its location on Eastern Bay at the end of a single road Claiborne has developed into an unusually cohesive community of long time residents, retirees and newcomers who love the isolation and beauty of the area.
Location and Activity
Claiborne is located in the portion of Talbot County known as “Bay Hundred” on a point that juts into Eastern Bay at the base of the peninsula dividing Eastern Bay from the Miles River. It is bordered on the north and east by farmland that lies between Eastern Bay and Tilghman Creek and on the west and south by Eastern Bay.
The primary physical features include the harbor, boat ramp, jetty, old ferry wharf, a saltmarsh wetland and a broad shallow cove that attracts waterfowl, parasailors, iceboaters and fans of spectacular sunsets. The built features are the late 19th and early 20th century streetscape, the Miracle House property, the former church (now the Village Hall), the building that housed the Claiborne Supply Company and several single-family houses that were once stores or bakeries.
Claiborne Is Very Small
Claiborne Road and Claiborne Landing Road form the primary street running through the village and ending at the county wharf. Cedar Street and Maple Hall Road are perpendicular and Bayview Drive is parallel to the main street. Rich Neck Road and Miracle House Circle are the other streets.
There are 63 homes in the village. Outside the area designated as the Village Center there are 40 or so rural homes, largely within the Critical Area, and within postal code 21624. About two-thirds of the homes are occupied full time.
Land Use and Facilities
The area designated as the Village Center is about 90% developed. The bulk of the farmland bordering the village is protected from development activity by a private conservation easement created by the late Ella Burling, the previous owner of Rich Neck Manor.
More than 781 acres of land are now protected. Other landowners have also taken steps to prevent future development of their land. Altogether, more than 68% of the open land in the 21624 zip code is under ownership that precludes future development.
Talbot County now owns the old ferry wharf in the Village Center, where it maintains a boat launch facility, and an adjacent 8.5 acre saltmarsh wetland. The county also leases from the US Army Corps of Engineers the jetty that was built for the passenger ferry and railroad terminus. A public picnic area and small beach adjoin the jetty. In addition, the county owns a wharf on Tilghman Creek.
The community is an active, close-knit place. Community events include an annual picnic and a Fourth of July parade. A village newsletter, now 12 years old, and a Website keep residents informed. In 2010 residents of Claiborne formed a non-profit corporation and purchased the former United Methodist Church property. The old church is now the center of village activities and contains the village postal station. The Association coordinates social activities and philanthropic endeavors, and aspires to conduct outreach to avoid social isolation of rural residents and support for the sick and home bound.
Association meetings, potluck dinners, weekly movie nights in Winter, events for children, music programs in partnership with Carpe Diem Arts on-the-shore and other events are held at the Village Hall.
We recognize that we live in a community that is vulnerable to storm and flood risk. The village is working with Talbot County and the State of Maryland to create a Village Resilience Center at the Village Hall that will increase residents’ ability to recover from potential wind and flood damage and extended loss of power caused by a major coastal storm or hurricane.
Vision for the Future
The residents of Claiborne consider this village to be a unique place. We greatly value the tranquility of Claiborne and its connections to the past. We have identified the elements of a vision for the future and actions we believe can be taken by the Claiborne community and Talbot County to protect and preserve our community.
Our highest priority is protecting the health and safety of community residents. Our second priority is maintaining the visual character of the main street as an example of late 19th and early 20th century residential construction, with the massing, setbacks, designs and appearance of that era. Another element of our vision is maintaining the accessibility and quality of Claiborne’s harbor for watermen and recreation. Maintaining the character of the village while improving our infrastructure, septic treatment, and water quality of nearby waters is part of our vision. We also envision increasing our community activities in support of residents and improving our sustainability in cases of disaster.