No one in recent memory has called Easton “sleepy,” a common description of small rural towns like ours and one that might have applied to the Talbot County seat as lately as 50 years ago!
Easton’s population is just under 15,000, it certainly is not the quiet Eastern Shore village it was a century ago, or even in 1952, when the first bridge linked both sides of the Chesapeake Bay and launched an influx of new visitors, residents, and businesses never before experienced on the Delmarva Peninsula. Yet Easton proudly clings to its small-town identity. And rightfully so.
Before it was a town, Easton was an idea set down on paper and decreed in 1710 by the Assembly of the Province of Maryland as the site for a new court house to serve the pre-Revolution population of sea merchants and farmers. In that sense, Easton was an early example of a planned community. It was intended to be a destination. And 300 years later, it is more so than ever.
People come to Easton to visit or to live for many reasons. But part of the town’s enduring appeal is its ability to retain a small-town ambiance while, at the same time, offering as much or more to do than communities many times its size. This special combination of services and amenities, as well as its rich history and physical attractiveness, explains why Easton has been singled out as one of the best small towns in America and as one of the best small towns in America for the arts.
Need proof? Take a quarter-hour stroll through the center of Easton. Start anywhere downtown, at the statue of the Civil War soldier on the court house green on Washington Street or at the county tourism welcome center, once home to Easton’s fire company, on Harrison Street.
Depending, of course, on the time of day and the direction you take, here’s what you’re likely to come upon: a pharmacy with an old-fashioned soda fountain set in the back; the post office; the Tidewater Inn, downtown’s red brick anchor since 1948; several bed-and-breakfasts; antique stores; beauty salons; law offices; art and history museums; real estate offices; three jewelers; two coffee houses; a candy shop; the town office; county offices; circuit and district courts; churches; one of two synagogues on the Eastern Shore; a flower shop; clothing stores for men and women; a toy store; two book stores; furniture stores; offices for accountants and brokers; banks; a dry cleaners; two gas stations; a graphic designer; a shop for outdoor clothing, water fowling gear, and hunting licenses; a yacht club; an ice cream shop; the county’s central library; town and county law enforcement centers; art galleries; the Historic Avalon Theater; one of the most modern hospitals on the Shore; two night clubs; and places to eat-more than a dozen downtown bars and restaurants where you can find dishes ranging from the traditional Eastern Shore crab cake to steaks, Italian fare, pizza, New American cuisine, Mexican traditional, barbecue, soup, sandwiches, fresh-baked bread and pastries, and beverages of all kinds. It is said that Easton has more 4-5 star restaurants than any other small town in the country. Check out these establishments in our business directory!
The downtown stroll is filled with opportunity and reward. But the truth is that Easton, because it is a small town, actually discourages anyone from hurrying. That 15 minutes could easily double or triple. How so? There’s plenty of cause to pause. For much of the year, there’s an eye-catching art show of original work by local painters hanging from the street lamps. Shaded benches on the court house green and in Thompson Park entice you to tarry. The window washer’s dog appreciates a friendly pat. As if on cue, a chevron of Canada geese sweeps overhead. And stopping for an impromptu sidewalk chat, the quintessential small-town pastime, is always a likelihood.
Traveling beyond the town center by car, bicycle, or scooter reveals more proof of Easton’s vibrancy, even in the face of the country’s worst economic downturn in decades. Bucking the national trend, new restaurants opened doors during the last year and others are scheduled to begin serving soon.
Parks are more popular than ever, with soccer, lacrosse, and baseball the seasonal favorites. At Idlewild Park in the southern end of town, parents bring their children to a new and innovative playground that was built through community donations and an extraordinary outpouring of volunteer labor. And in an exemplary model of how town officials and developers can work together for a better Easton, a waterfront park on the banks of the Tred Avon River was set aside for public use.
New construction along Idlewild Avenue and Dutchman’s Lane underscores Easton’s role as the Eastern Shore’s center for advanced health care. The facilities complement nearby Memorial Hospital at Easton, the 140-bed successor to the original Easton Emergency Hospital, opened in 1907 in a former Washington Street hotel.
At the other end of town, emphasis is on providing jobs and services through light industry. The closing of the Black and Decker assembly plant, at one time one of the county’s largest employers, a few years ago was painful. But new companies have moved into the area to provide exciting prospects for the job picture. Two companies, Global Strategies Group and BAI Aerosystems, a division of L3 Communications Corp., are examples of how modern-day needs for high technology products can be accommodated within Easton’s rural yet sophisticated environment.
PARKING IN DOWNTOWN: there are 9 lots that are located in Downtown Easton. Look for the free parking lots which include Brewers Lane (Harrison Street), (behind) the Bartlett Pear Inn, (beside) the Easton Police Department. The following is a map of the lots and their parking availability.