History of the Stamp Store and Post Office Site

 

Statement of Significance

Stamp’s Store and Post Office Site is the location of a general store that operated in the first half of the twentieth century under the ownership of the Goldstein and Downing families. It is believed to have been the last store to operate in the historic community of Nottingham, which had been home to several commercial and industrial facilities when it served as a trading hub during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The site has been erroneously associated with the Stamp family, which operated a store and post office in the latter half of the nineteenth century at a location approximately 150 feet to the north.

Historic Context

Stamp’s Store and Post Office Site is located in what was the commercial core of the town of Nottingham, which was established by an act of the Maryland legislature in 1706 and grew to become a thriving trading port by the time of the American Revolution. The London-based tobacco export firm Perkins, Buchanan, and Brown opened a store in the town in 1774 on property that fronted on both Union Street (now Nottingham Road) and North Street.[1] Local merchant Edward Griffin purchased the southern portion of this property in 1831, adding to land he already owned just to the east.[2] The store and post office was located on this property, which remained in the Griffin family until it was sold to Robert and Cora McKee in 1904.[3]

The Stamp Period: 1854-1904

The store and post office operated by the Stamp family, meanwhile, was located at the corner of Union Street and North Street on land that John T. Stamp (1802–ca. 1864) purchased in June 1854 from William H. Turton, Jr. and his wife, Rachael.[4] That lot was part of what had once been the northern portion of the Perkins, Buchanan, and Brown property. Stamp’s name appears in census records in the Nottingham District as early as 1840, when his occupation was listed as “manufacture and trades.” The 1850 census records Stamp’s occupation as merchant, while an 1849 newspaper item notes that he had been appointed customs surveyor for the port of Nottingham.[5] He is listed as postmaster for the Nottingham Post Office in an 1855 directory of post offices in the United States.[6] A building marked “Store & PO” appears on the 1861 Martenet Map at the corner of North and Union Streets, approximately 150 feet north of where Stamp’s business was erroneously thought to have been located when it was documented in the 1970s.

At the death of John T. Stamp circa 1864, the property and store/post office was inherited by his son, Mordecai Richard Stamp. The April 28, 1864 edition of the Washington Evening Star notes that Mordecai Stamp had been appointed postmaster in place of his father.[7] The 1878 Hopkins Atlas shows structures marked “Store & P.O.” and “M. Stamp” slightly south of the intersection but still north of the site documented in the 1970s. In 1899 the Stamp property was conveyed to Cora V. McKee, whose husband (and Stamp’s brother-in-law), Robert, had been appointed postmaster of Nottingham in 1886.[8] The property is described in the deed as being at the corner of North and Union Streets, “improved by a dwelling and store [and] having a front on Union Street of one hundred feet.”[9]

The Goldstein Period: 1904-1913

Michael Goldstein and his wife, Rebecca, purchased both the Griffin property and the Stamp property from Robert and Cora McKee in separate transactions around the turn of the twentieth century.[10] The Baltimore Sun reported in 1904 that Goldstein, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, took over the position of postmaster at Nottingham from McKee.[11] The building appears as a store and post office owned by Goldstein on a sketch made in 1975 from Nottingham residents’ recollections of the town’s layout circa 1905–1910.[12] A barber shop is shown attached to the store, likely occupying the one-story south wing. It is not known when the structure was built, although its absence from the 1878 Hopkins Atlas suggests a late-nineteenth century construction date. The sketch shows a blacksmith shop at the corner of North and Union Streets where Stamp’s Store and Post Office was located, but it is unclear whether it was the same structure.

Goldstein operated the store and post office until declaring bankruptcy in 1913, at which point a public sale was held in Baltimore to liquidate his inventory of “Dry Goods, Notions, Clothing, Hosiery, Ladies’ and Gents’ Furnishings, Hats and Caps, Boots, Shoes and Rubbers, Groceries, Drugs, Hardware, China, Glass, Tinware, Showcases, Fixtures, Harness, Agricultural Implements, Shells and Cartridges, etc., etc.”[13] Several months before the sale, perhaps in a bid to stave off bankruptcy, Goldstein and his wife had sold their Nottingham property to James P. and Samuel G. Ryon. The transaction included a parcel that comprised the Stamp Lot, the Methodist Church Lot, and the Huntt Lot, all along the south side of North (or Norvel) Street, the former Griffin property to the immediate south, which contained the existing store and post office, as well as several acres in the northwest part of the village.[14] It is not known whether or for what purpose the store building was used during the Ryon period of ownership.

The Downing Period: 1914-2002

The property changed hands again in 1914, when James P., Samuel G. and Agnes G. Ryon sold the property to Bernard and Irene Downing of Aquasco.[15] The 1920 census lists Bernard Downing living in Nottingham with his wife and seven children and working as a farmer and merchant with his own general store. In 1930 Downing’s occupation is listed as farmer. Irene Downing inherited her husband’s entire estate at his death in 1931, at which time the couple’s only son, Robert Downing, Sr., took over operation of the store. The 1940 census lists his occupation as farmer and tobacco dealer. In a 1986 article in the Prince George’s Journal, two of Robert’s sisters, Anona Downing Duvall and Margaret Downing Duvall, recalled seeing “the old men…gather around the old stove every evening and talk about fishing and farming.” According to the article, both sisters felt that “something went out of the old community spirit of Nottingham” when the store closed in the early 1940s.[16] The store’s closure was emblematic of the long course of the village’s decline since its heyday as a trading hub. The community, which in 1871 boasted seven general stores, several warehouses and a tavern, had already seen a dramatic decline in population when a devastating fire in 1901 destroyed many of its buildings.[17] After the Great Depression brought an end to steamboat service in the 1930s, Nottingham was left as a small residential enclave unable to support commerce of any type. No other commercial buildings on Union Street appear in 1938 aerial photography.

After the closure of the store, the Downing family used the building to store farm equipment and fertilizer.[18] Upon the death of Irene Downing in 1960, the property passed to her seven children. In 1962, the six daughters conveyed their interests to their brother, Robert R. Downing, Sr., who owned the land until his death in 1973.[19] It was inherited by his son, Bernard Dent Downing, Sr., who owned the land at the time the building was destroyed by fire in 1985. The 1.6-acre property containing the sites of both the Stamp Store and the Goldstein-Downing Store was part of a 50-acre conveyance from Downing and his wife, Evelyn, to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 2002.[20] The Commission purchased the property with funding from the State of Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program and maintains it in agricultural use.

Current Condition

The store building that was extant when the property was initially documented by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1974 was destroyed by fire in 1985. Remnants of the brick foundation were visible during an onsite survey in March 2015 but could not be located during the most recent survey in September 2017. The building site is currently covered with thick brush and small trees that set it apart from the cleared agricultural land that surrounds it.

[1] Michael T. Lucas and Emily L. Swain, “A Deserted Garrison Village: Nottingham, Maryland, and the War of 1812,” in Michael T. Lucas and Julie M. Schablitsky, eds., Archaeology of the War of 1812, Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2016, 100-101.

[2] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber AB7:156.

[3] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber JB5:586.

[4] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber ON2:33.

[5] “Appointments by the President,” The (New Orleans) Daily Picayune, May 21, 1849.

[6] D.D.T. Leech, comp., List of Post Offices in the United States with the Names of Postmasters on the 1st of July, 1855, Washington: George S. Gideon for the U.S. Post Office Department, 1855, 94.

[7] “Affairs in Prince George’s,” Washington Evening Star, April 28, 1864.

[8] “Maryland and Virginia Postmasters,” Washington Evening Star, March 17, 1886.

[9] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber JB4:713.

[10] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber JB4:582 and Liber 19:141.

[11] “Notes of the Postal Service,” Baltimore Sun, July 3, 1904.

[12] Susan G. Pearl, “Stamp-Downing Store,” Maryland Historical Trust State Historic Sites Inventory Form, Upper Marlboro, Md.: Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission, 1985.

[13] “Auction Sales,” Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1913.

[14] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber 87:326.

[15] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber 99:441

[16] John Sherwood, “…on the banks of the Patuxent,” Prince George’s Journal, October 16, 1986.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Interview with Nottingham resident, September 1, 2017.

[19] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber 2662:344.

[20] Prince George’s County Land Records, Liber 15927:432.