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Visiting the “Lost” Town of London

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by Greenbelter Lauren R. Silberman, Deputy Director, Historic London Town and Gardens 

I first visited Historic London Town and Gardens in 2006. To be honest, I’d never heard of it before but was intrigued that there was a place nearby that told the story of a “lost” colonial town. Not only that, but London Town also offered several acres of woodland and ornamental gardens, encircled by the South River. How could I not visit?

London Town William Brown House
William Brown House, Photo courtesy of Jeff Jackson Photography


London Town turned out to be an amazing place. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood just outside Annapolis, London Town is truly a hidden gem. I spent the afternoon exploring the William Brown House, c. 1760, a National Historic Landmark. This beautiful Georgian brick building was originally a tavern and boarding house. The reason the House survives is because it became Anne Arundel County’s almshouse for the poor and disabled in the 1820s. The building remained the almshouse until 1965, when the Welfare Act was passed.

London Town William Brown House
View of William Brown House from the Pier on the South River


When I first visited, there was still active archaeology occurring into the “lost” town of London. A port town founded in 1683, London was a center of trade and activity for about a century. However, this bustling area fizzled out for a variety of reasons. The only reason the land was not developed was because of the almshouse. Otherwise the town would have likely disappeared under modern construction.

During that visit, I explored the newly opened Lord Mayor’s Tenement, a reconstruction based on the archaeological footprint of the original 18th century building. The Tenement was a rental building that working-class families likely would have lived in. Today, there are often interpreters cooking colonial recipes over the working hearth of the tenement.

London Town  Cooking in the Tenement
Cooking in the Tenement


Since then, London Town has also reconstructed and opened the Carpenter’s Shop, also on its archaeological footprint. Every month, a carpenter comes out to work in the shop just as people would have during the 1700s.

Seneca Creek Joinery in the Carpenter’s Shop London Town
Seneca Creek Joinery in the Carpenter’s Shop


Additionally, London Town offers a big Visitor Center – reclaimed from an old water treatment system! Inside is the admissions desk and a large exhibit giving an orientation to the site and sharing some of the archaeology discovered.

As I mentioned, London Town also has nearly 10 acres of woodland and ornamental gardens. It’s home to an eclectic collection of species, including most notably the cold-hardy camellias. Come in December and January, and there are still camellias blooming! Other collections include magnolias, azaleas, peonies, and viburnum – to name but a few. The azalea glade leading down to the dell by the river is one of my favorite places, even when the azaleas aren’t in bloom!

Azalea Glade in the spring, London Town Gardens
Azalea Glade in the spring


The Dell in spring, London Town Gardens
Down to the dell


London Town Gardens Peony
Peony, photo courtesy of Bob Peterson


Recently London Town added a Sound and Sensory Garden for children to explore and play. On the third Saturday of the month, there is a Tot Time for families with younger children from 10am – 12pm. It’s included with general admission.

London Town Gardens Sound and Sensory Garden
Sound and Sensory Garden


Speaking of programs, London Town offers many, including living history weekends, a free summer concert series, American Indian Heritage Day, Illuminated London Town, and so much more. Here is a full list of events.

London Town Shore Party
Shore Party


American Indian Heritage Day,, London Town
American Indian Heritage Day, photo courtesy of Bob Peterson


Illuminated London Town,
Illuminated London Town, photo courtesy of Lisa Carr


I fell in love with London Town during my visit and came back regularly over the years. It’s only just over a half hour from Greenbelt, so it’s an easy trip. My love for the site must have been obvious, because I became the Deputy Director in 2015. Today, I’m happy to have a dream job sharing this special place with everyone!

Hours and Admission

Open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 4:30pm from mid-March through November

Check the website for winter hours

Admission is $12/adults, $10/seniors, $7/ages 7 – 17, $3/ages 4 – 6, Free for children 3 and under, and Free for Members

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog weekly at GardenRant.com.

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