Some places are sleepy water-front villages and very happy that way. Galesville is one of those. It’s where you go for a meal or drinks overlooking the water. There’s not much else there.
Galesville is at the end of Route 255, which turns into Galesville Road as you go deeper into the small peninsula and, finally, Main Street. Main Street ends at the water and a small community park with a ¼ mile walkway along Riverside Drive on the West River.
There’s no downtown or business district anymore. Main Street is residential with some former shops, now antique stores, as you get closer to the water.
At both ends of Riverside Drive, paralleling the water, are popular restaurants with outside bars.
Pirates Cove Inn (4817 Riverside Dr.) on the north end and Thursday’s Steak and Crab House (4851 Riverside Dr.) on the south end. Both restaurants have large parking lots. Boats pull up to the restaurant piers.
There is a parking lot at the city park for kayakers & people who want to walk around town. The park is a popular launch-point for kayakers and a start-off for walkers and cyclists. There’s also parking along Main Street.
West River Sailing Club is around the bend from Pirates Cove, facing the West River’s entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. A patch of a park is located next to the Club where visitors can watch the sailboats and the sunset over the river.
What to See
About two blocks inland from the waterfront is the Galesville Heritage Museum (988 Main Street). It tells the story of Galesville’s start in 1652 and how it became a community of wealthy Quakers from England. Over the years, Quakers moved on and Galesville became a trade center. That’s what the museum tells best.
The museum in a 1880s grey wood-frame house that looks like many of the old, plain homes throughout Maryland. Walking into the museum is like walking into someone’s home. You might be greeted by docent John Smith, “but everybody calls me Jack.”
Right after a bright hello, he tells visitors to make sure they sign the guestbook, then have a ginger snap cookie from the cup by book. Jack’s daughter, Susie Cosden, offers a cold bottle of water. Then, you’re ready to walk about and examine the exhibits. There is no charge for the museum.
Jack is a spry “nearly” 90 who helped found the Heritage Society. He owned Smith’s Country Store for about five years before turning to the lumberyard trade for 34 years. The country store is now the post office. Though the years he, along with other business owners, saved items from the various stores.
This story takes a break, now, because In walks two women who announce they’re the daughters of Jack Watkins. They came down from Upper Marlboro for a Sunday drive after church.
“Everybody knew Mr. Watkins!“ Jack exclaims. Mr. Watkins’ picture, a dignified African American middle-aged man, is part of a display about Kolb’s (pronounced “cobs” like corn-on-the-cob) store.
“The Wal-Mart of the time,” according to Jack’s daughter, Susie. Mr. Watkins was the Kolb store deliveryman from the 1940s through 1972. His picture is center of the display; the place of honor.
Much of the Galesville museum are displays made of items that Jack and other merchants protected over the years and now tell “The Story of Stores.” They’ve put together walking/driving tour brochure pointing out the former stores circa 1950. The museum is open only on Sundays 1pm-4pm, April through November, or by appointment.
Next to the museum is an old, pretty brick wall constructed in the 1940s with an unusual story. The wall was built to hide three gasoline storage tanks from the 1920s.
But that wall trapped water inside the enclosure and created a small wetlands in a place it shouldn’t be. Rather than dry it out, the community built a short wood walkway through the wetlands with interpretive signs.
The Quakers of the area are memorialized at the Old Quaker Burying Ground at the corner of Muddy Creek Road and Galesville Road just outside of town.
Galesville has the state’s oldest marina, started by the Hartge family. Henry Hartge, a piano maker, came to Maryland from Germany in 1832. His son moved Galesville and turned to boat building, designing the famous Chesapeake 20 sailboat.
Yacht Harbor (4883 Church Lane) started in 1865 and is located at the end of Church Street on the West River. The small, picturesque marina is still very much a working boatyard, but also has a nautical museum showing the family’s 120-year history. It’s open Monday through Friday 8am-4pm, Saturday 8am-12pm and Sunday if you call ahead to arrange a visit.
Galesville is home to a number of small antique shops, starting at the intersection of Routes 468 (Muddy Creek Road) and 255 (Galesville Road) and in town. There is no downtown or city center. Shops are scattered along Main Street to the waterfront.