Just at the NW end of the St. Michaels National Historic District, the Parsonage Inn provides a striking example of the late Victorian era with its unique brick inlays and center tower with steeple.
The building dates back to the Gilded Age of 1883 when Dr. Henry Clay Dodson created this masterpiece to show what could be built with brick. He had started the St. Michaels Brick Company back in 1877 after two major fires had destroyed large sections of the town in August of 1870 and again in August of 1872. The leading townspeople including Henry Clay Dodson were active in trying to move away from wood roof shingles and wood structures what allowed the fires to spread quickly. This block on North Talbot is the only section of town with brick buildings. From the intricate brick inlays and chimneys, we surmise the building was a "showplace" for his brick yard several blocks away on North Street.
The two story brick building was built as a "T" with two double bay sections joined by a central tower with steeple that contains the foyer and stairwell leading up to the second floor. The porches on the front and the side of the building have interesting "Eastlake" style trim and brackets setting this building off from most of those in the town. The photo shows the Seth children on the front porch around 1910.
Henry Clay Dodson along with his wife and daughter Hannah occupied this home in the late 19th century until his daughter married Dr. Joseph Seth in 1902. His daughter and Dr. Seth took up residence and later sold this building to the Union United Methodist Church in 1924 for a very fair price of $2,400! It served as the parsonage to the "black" Methodist Church in town until it was purchased by Willard F. Workman of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and his son in 1985. The Workman's restored the building in 1985, added the rear three room addition and converted it to a Bed and Breakfast Inn.
Henry Clay Dodson was appointed postmaster to the town in 1861 by President Lincoln and later started the first newspaper in town ("St. Michaels Comet"), opened a bank, established ferry service to Baltimore with his brother Richard (look for the model of the steamship "S.S. Olive" at the maritime museum) and ran a pharmacy with soda fountain (reportedly in the building now known as "Carpenter Street Saloon" in the center of town). The "Snuggery" on Cherry Street is the oldest building in town dating from the 1660's and is the ancestral home of the Dodson clan. Henry Clay moved this building in 1873 to make room for the manor house he built next to the foot bridge. In 1906. Henry Clay restored the "Snuggery" and may have spent his later years here while he served in the Maryland General Assembly until he died in 1914.
Dr. Joseph Seth was a prominent doctor in this area who was known as someone who would provide medical care to the under-served negro families of the "Bay Hundred area" which includes St. Michaels. The Dodson and Seth families were two of the oldest and most prominent families in this area during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
It should be noted that Henry Clay Dodson lived at both the "Snuggery" and the larger manor house on Cherry Street next to the foot bridge before he built this brick Victorian. The larger manor house with mansard roof is now the "Victoriana Inn" and across the street is the "Dr. Dodson House", also a B&B! Look for the three historic buildings behind the Crab Claw that provide offices for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum staff . . . the red brick building in the middle once served as a hotel for the Dodson's. Henry Clay designed the white "Higgins" house and the "Eagle House" which his older brother Richard built. His uncle Edward who was the captain of the SS Olive removed the eagle from atop the pilot house on the SS Olive when he retired in the late 1880's and placed it at the peak of the house . . . hence it became known as the Eagle house! All of "Navy Point" which includes these buildings, the Crab Claw and the maritime museum was owned by the Dodson's in the 2nd half of the 19th century and early 20th century.