Door To Door: Brunswick, Maryland, and Waterford, Virginia | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Door To Door: Brunswick, Maryland, and Waterford, Virginia

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Brunswick, Maryland, is often described as an old-fashioned railroad town.
Stephen Little: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_little/8375380382/
Brunswick, Maryland, is often described as an old-fashioned railroad town.

Brunswick, Maryland

Kathy Heinsohn, 50, moved to Brunswick, Md. seven years ago when she was looking to buy a home. She settled on an old Victorian house with a large backyard where she could garden and keep her bees, of which she has roughly 30,000.

"My favorite thing about living in Brunswick is, where I live there are no HOAs, so you don't have to paint your house a certain color or your mailbox doesn't have to be a certain style," she says. There is a code enforcer, but Heinsohn says that is mainly for extreme cases. "I love the fact that no one is dictating to me what I have to do with my house or yard."

Heinsohn said she likes the small town atmosphere in Brunswick, an old railroad and canal town that is located where the Potomac River meets the state lines of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The B&O Railroad and C&O Canal both played major roles in Brunswick's development.

An Indian trader named Abraham Pennington founded the town in 1720, but it wasn't called "Brunswick" back then. At first, the city was called "Coxman's Rest."

"It went through several names, and finally it ended up with the name 'Berlin' prior to the late 1800s because there were a lot of German immigrants coming on the C&O Canal and on the train working out this way," Heinsohn says. "But there was already another Berlin on the Eastern shore of Maryland, and this caused quite a bit of confusion for the Post Office, so when the B&O Railroad came in in the 1890s, one of the officials suggested a fancier name and came up with the name 'Brunswick.'"

The railroad brought more than a new name to Brunswick. It also ushered in a time of prosperity. Heinsohn said that Brunswick was once referred to as "the Paris on the Potomac."

"The railroad was so active and everything thriving at that time that you got big band acts coming through here, and then you had lots of merchandise coming from New York, " Heinsohn says. Unfortunately, that success did not last. "It hit a bit of a decline in the 1950s and '60s when the B&O Railroad started to pull out, and since that time Brunswick hasn't had quite that level of activity."

The town faced further economic problems during the recent recession, when Heinsohn said she saw a lot of foreclosures and bankruptcies.

"We've seen a lot more individuals showing up at the food bank regularly," he says. There's not much that separates us anymore. I mean, most of these people were hard working folks who were a paycheck away from this happening, and so you tend to see your neighbors, and it's very heart-rending."

Heinsohn says that Brunswick is full of surprises in terms of demographics. "It's sort of a bimodal distribution," she says. "You've got your folks who have grown up with the railroad and have worked on the railroad all their lives — very hard workers — and then a lot of railroad widows. But then you've got a lot of highly-educated sorts who commute in every day using the Brunswick Line."

Brunswick has about 5,500 residents, who can enjoy a number of events and activities in the small town. Heinsohn says there are many regular events in town, such as the Victorian Christmas Festival and Brunswick Railroad Days, an annual festival that celebrates the town's history. "Another big event that's coming up the first Sunday in November, Nov. 4, is one of the very few remaining Veterans Day parades."

Residents and visitors can also take advantage of the many outdoor activities that Brunswick has to offer, such as walking on the C&O towpath, canoeing, tubing and camping. "We're only five miles from the Appalachian Trail, so if you like to hike that's a great thing to do too," Heinsohn says, "and we're only about six miles from Harper's Ferry, so there's a nice National Park that you can hike to as well."

Heinsohn says that someone who's never been to Brunswick should picture going back in time. Most of the houses in downtown Brunswick are late 19th and early 20th-century Victorian-style homes that were built for railroad officials and their workers.

The downtown area features galleries, antique shops and small-town cafes. Heinsohn says her favorite is Beans in the Belfry, an old reformed church that has been turned into an eatery that serves up coffee, beer, food and culture. The owners bring in a variety of bands to play at the reused space, and he says the acts range from bluegrass to Celtic music to Native American flutists.

Heinsohn says she loves the community aspect of Brunswick, and enjoys seeing residents rally behind the Brunswick Railroaders Little League Baseball team during the summertime.

"I've never seen a town so passionate about little league, and every year they go to the regional championships," Heinsohn says. "Back in 1986 they were one of eight teams that went to the World Series."

Residents don't just enjoy sitting in the bleachers, they also convene on their front stoops.

"The fine art of porch sitting has been developed, so people sit out on their porches in the evening in good weather and you get to know everyone who's walking by or driving or riding by on their bikes and walking their dogs," she says. "It's really nice to be able to stop and chat with your neighbors."

Waterford, Virginia

Waterford, Va. was founded in 1733 by Quakers who came to the area from Pennsylvania. The town was declared a national historic landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in the 1970s — one of the few communities in America in which the entire town sits within a national historic landmark.

Ed Good has lived in Waterford since 1993, and says the town now consists of about 100 households.

During the Civil War, Waterford voted not to secede from the Union, a decision, Good says, "was difficult because they were and are in the state of Virginia."

Good says living in this historic community is like being transported back to a very different era.

"My favorite part about living in Waterford is that when we go home in the evening... it really is like driving backward in time," he says. "Waterford is a unique place, it has a unique atmosphere, it has wonderful people living there."

Music: "No, Girl" by Title Tracks from It Was Easy

Explore previously featured neighborhoods on our Door to Door map:

This map shows previous Door to Door segments, and includes links to photos and show audio. The yellow marker represents neighborhoods featured in Washington, D.C., the blue represents neighborhoods in Maryland, and the red represents neighborhoods in Virginia.

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