By AML Publisher
Photos by Jubilee Photography
Chesapeake City is one of the Main Line’s best kept daycation secrets. Just over an hour from downtown Wayne (with no traffic on 95), this quaint slice of Cecil County, Maryland is a seaside getaway not to miss. My family has dined many a Mother’s Day at the wonderful Bayard House Restaurant—delighting in their award-winning crab soup, tournedos Baltimore and a most delicious Bloody Mary…or two. The Bayard House looks out onto the famous Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal), one of only two vital sea-level canals in the United States. The C&D Canal is an international waterway and the third busiest canal in the world!
Travel & Leisure Magazine named Chesapeake City “A Top 10 crowd-free weekend getaway near America’s largest cities.” The town was formerly known as “The Village of Bohemia,” since Chesapeake City was a dream of Augustine Herman. The First Lord of Bohemia Manor, Herman (1621-1686) was a Czech explorer, merchant, and cartographer who lived in New Amsterdam and Cecil County. In 1764 a canal route was marked and the actual project started in 1824.
But, this terrific city would not have thrived and survived had it not been for the great Allaire du Pont-yes, of those du Ponts. Allaire C. du Pont sparked the revitalization of Chesapeake City and led the efforts to preserve thousands of acres of farmland in southern Cecil County.
Ms. du Pont was an illustrious, grand dame who resided at her nearby Woodstock Farm until her death in January of 2006 at the age of 92. A very successful horse breeder, the farm was home to Ms. duPont’s beloved Kelso-a mud-colored gelding known fondly as “Kelly.” The only five-time “Horse of the Year” (1960-64), Kelso retired to Woodstock Farm in 1966 where duPont often rode him on foxhunts. (You can visit Kelly in a horse cemetery behind the farm office in a shaded area identified by a circle of weathered Greek columns and majestic trees.) A quote at the base of Kelso’s granite marker simply says: “Where he gallops the earth sings.”
Allaire lead a life of Gatsbian-proportions-traveling to exotic locations across the globe. Along with her husband, Richard du Pont, a member of the prominent du Pont family whom she wed in 1934, the dynamic duo flew on the airship Hindenburg, made frequent trips to exotic ports such as Cuba and Venezuela, and reportedly held extravagant ice skating parties on the nearly frozen canal.
Allaire du Pont was an aviation buff, and as a national glider champion set a women’s endurance record in 1935, soaring for five hours and 31 minutes. Legend has it she buzzed the Chesapeake City Bridge as part of her proficient skills and lifelong daredevil mentality. Today, visitors can view Allaire’s needlepoint-which graces the walls of the Bayard House, a hobby she took up to wean herself of a smoking habit. “If it was not for Allaire and her love of Chesapeake City, the town may not have been preserved and restored. Mrs. du Pont took it upon herself to see that the town was renovated and many of the buildings, which were falling apart, were restored. She was quite a woman,” explained Natalie Gentry, the Bayard House Restaurant Manager and town Ombudsman. du Pont’s needlepoint graces the walls of the restaurant.
The town itself is an ideal fall daycation-and a memorable weekend getaway. Downtown boasts charming and unique boutique after another, and distinct historic homes and buildings dating back to the 19th century. For the kid (in all of us) delicious farm fresh Kilby ice cream is a no-brainer at the Canal Creamery. “The town itself lends itself to such a great day trip from the Main Line. We have a wonderful museum, there are boat rides, and you can dine here on the canal on a beautiful day and sit outside. Giant ships pass through the canal and it can be very spectacular,” explained Gentry.
The Bayard House, circa 1835, also serves as a growing popular wedding venue, with accommodations up to 150 from April to October outside on the lawn looking out on the canal. “The cool thing about Chesapeake City for our brides that really draws them in, is that it turns out you have your own little town for your wedding. We’ve had a lot of brides from West Chester, South Jersey and the Main Line. It’s really a different wedding destination but at the same time it’s perfect because it lends itself to great pictures at Pell Gardens and a quaint feel. And, the guests have all the bed and breakfasts here to choose from. It’s a destination wedding that seems like you are so much further away than you really are, but it’s a hop, skip and a jump from the Main Line,” explained Gentry.
If you have not discovered the sleepy northern Maryland town of Chesapeake City, well, you are in for one fantastic treat. Chesapeake City is a romantic weekend away, a convenient fall daycation, or an excuse to explore one gorgeous town with family and friends. I can’t think of a better way to spend a beautiful, brisk October afternoon walking along the town’s quaint streets and soaking in the scenic C&D canal. Once you decide to experience this eastern shore gem, you will fall in love with Chesapeake City just as I have through the years. Safe travels!
DIRECTIONS TO CHESAPEAKE CITY, MARYLAND
From I-95 North:
I-95 South to Exit 896 South (Middletown-last exit before toll). 896 S. to Route 40 W. After crossing into Maryland, make a left turn at the fifth light, Route 213 S. Follow Route 213 S. Cross over Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Bridge. Continue under bridge to stop sign. Take a left on George Street into town.
From 1-95 South:
I-95 North to North East Exit #100. Bear to the right to 272 South. Make a left onto Route 40E. Make a right on Route 213 South. Follow 213 South. Cross over Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Bridge. Exit immediately to the right after crossing over the bridge. Continue back under the bridge to stop sign. Take a left on George Street into town.
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