Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation
Nottingham School

History

Constructed in 1911, Nottingham Schoolhouse is a distinctive example of vernacular school architecture constructed in the county in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The one-story rectangular building served the community for approximately 50 years. The schoolhouse is built on the site of an earlier schoolhouse, and materials from the previous building were utilized in the construction of the current schoolhouse. After World War II (1941-1945), the consolidation of schools across the country made the one-room schoolhouse obsolete.  The Nottingham Schoolhouse retains a high level of integrity, and is able to convey its significance as an early 20th century educational building.

Located in southeastern Prince George’s County, the community of Nottingham was established when the General Assembly of the Province of Maryland passed the “Act for the Advancement of Trade and Erecting Ports and Towns” in 1706 and 1707 in order to establish commercial centers along the rivers in Maryland. In 1747, Nottingham was designated as an inspection site for tobacco. In order to protect the quality of tobacco being shipped to England, all tobacco grown in Maryland had to pass through inspection sites at Nottingham, Piscataway, Upper Marlboro, or Bladensburg before it was allowed to be publicly sold.  Between 1791 and 1801, Nottingham exported more than 8,340 hogsheads of tobacco.  Small landing communities like Nottingham grew as commercial activity was drawn to tobacco warehouses located on the banks of rivers and creeks. Beginning in the late 18th century, Baltimore began to develop as a large port, with more farmers using Baltimore for the inspection, sale, and shipping of their tobacco. As Baltimore grew, the smaller river communities began to diminish as centers of commercial activity. As the Patuxent River became shallower, the size of ships that could navigate the waters diminished. By the late 19th century, Nottingham began to decline and the population steadily decreased as families relocated to other areas. A devastating fire in 1901 destroyed most of the buildings in the small community, leaving only a few extant structures.

The Nottingham Schoolhouse was constructed in 1911 to replace an existing schoolhouse. The memoir of local resident John Wendell Waters  notes that the new schoolhouse was built by Anthony Wyvill.  Waters explains that while the new schoolhouse was being constructed, the town held classes in his home.  Materials from the torn-down schoolhouse were utilized in the construction of the Nottingham Schoolhouse. In an article on the Town of Nottingham (Prince George’s Journal, October 16, 1986), John Sherwood notes Dent Downing’s memories of the schoolhouse, “I remember a potbellied stove, wooden desks, and no running water.”

It was after World War II (1941-1945) that the building ceased to be used as a schoolhouse. Consolidation in the county made the one-room schoolhouse obsolete.  The one-acre lot was sold by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to Irene Downing, marking the transformation from a public to a private building. Downing turned Nottingham Schoolhouse into a private residence, and her  estate deeded the property to her heirs in 1960. The property transferred again six years later when it was sold to The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission  in 1966.