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New Windsor History

A Brief History of New Windsor

Isaac Atlee, who hailed from Lancaster, Pa., laid out a town plan for New Windsor in 1797.  He hoped to capitalize on traffic rumbling along the Shawan-Monocacy Road that originated in Baltimore and eventually linked with the Old Monocacy Road to Frederick, situated some miles northwest of town. The area also enjoyed traffic on the Buffalo Road, named after a buffalo trail that predated the arrival of settlers.  The Buffalo Road connected Annapolis to parts north.   Atlee saw this crossroads, now Main and High Streets, as a natural location for a commercial center to support the wagon traffic and the needs of recently arrived settlers.

His design consisted of 28 lots along Main Street, named Bath Street on the original plat.  That’s because there was a bath house and sulphur springs at the foot of the hill.  The waters were thought to have medicinal benefits and helped to draw guests to the town.  For a time the town even enjoyed the nickname, "Sulphur Springs."

Emanuel Brower purchased one of the first lots and opened an inn and tavern where the lower portion of the Dielman Inn now stands.  The town of New Windsor grew slowly with original lots being leased through 1812.  The town thrived during the 1820s and 30s as a tourist destination and a center for business, and additional hotels and inns were established.

The railroad arrived in 1862, and New Windsor really began to prosper with a variety of new businesses sprouting up, including a foundry, a cannery, and an ice cream factory.  Farmers and merchants could move their products faster and to markets farther away, and shop keepers could receive merchandise more quickly from the big cities.  Greater numbers of tourists arrived by rail to escape the summer heat and soak up some of the health-giving waters at the spring. 
However, this easy accessibility also brought armies of the North and South to the town during the Civil War. In the summer of 1863, five thousand Union cavalry rode through the streets on their way to bolster the Northern forces at Gettysburg. Two of their dead were buried in the Presbyterian Church cemetery. The next summer, 500 Confederate cavalry swooped into the village and looted the stores of food and clothing and stole horses. 
The social hubs of the town were its churches, fraternal organizations and hotels.  Central to this was the Dielman Inn. The 10,000 square foot, 42 room inn at High and Main Streets was a popular gathering place for vacationers from the 1870s through its closing in 1927.  The proprietor was Louis William Dielman, a former professor of music at Calvert College in town. He delighted in sponsoring after-dinner concerts, musicales, lectures, skits and tableaux featuring guests who hailed from as far away as New York.   For years, a regular visitor was retired Brigadier General Marion P. Maus, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who was credited with the capture of Geronimo in 1886. 

Another center of activity was the college on the hill overlooking the town. Through its history, the school operated as Calvert College, New Windsor College, and Blue Ridge College respectively as its church affiliations changed. The Church of the Brethren bought the campus in 1944 and operated several programs over it's 70+ years in town, including, Brethren Disaster Ministries, refugee resettlement, the SERRV international gift shop,  and On Earth Peace. The Center was also once the home of the renowned Heifer International Project that provided livestock to countries ravaged by World War II.  In 2001, President George W. Bush visited the Center to pay homage to its charitable contributions over the years and around the world.  In August of 2017, the Illinois-based church sold the campus to Springdale Preparatory School, a private boarding school.

One of the charms of New Windsor is its collection of vernacular architecture dating from the early 1800s and reaching its pinnacle during the Victorian Age.  The town’s historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.  The fine homes on upper Church Street, once called Quality Hill, were built by wealthy, retired farmers and businessmen at the turn of the 20th century.  Most houses were designed in the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Classical Revival styles. 

Two notable American artists once called New Windsor home.  Frederick Dielman (1847- 1935) was President of the National Academy of Design and created many illustrations, including those for editions of poetry by Longfellow and Hawthorne.  He also produced designs for two mosaic panels in the Library of Congress.  Clyfford Still (1904-1980) was an internationally known abstract expressionist painter. The U.S. Post Office issued a stamp in his honor in 2010, and Denver, Co. has a museum dedicated to his works.  In 2016, one of Still’s canvases sold at auction for $28.1 million.

By the early 20th century, modern transportation and technological advances began to significantly change the make-up of small towns. Today New Windsor meets its challenges with all the charm and friendliness of yesteryear, proud of its reputation as the “Small Town with a Big History.” 
By Frank Batavick