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William Brown House: Through the Years

In celebration of Historic London Town and Gardens’ 50th anniversary, we wanted to share a look back over how our most historic building, the c.1760 William Brown House, has changed over the years.

As you may know, the William Brown House was constructed around 1760. It originally served as a tavern, where travelers and locals could eat, drink, and share news. Travelers could stay in the building. You can learn more about who and how the building was used in our free virtual tour at

However, as the 18th century ended, London Town became more rural and less of a destination. An upscale tavern was no longer needed. Brown lost the building in bankruptcy.

In the 1820s, the House was converted into Anne Arundel County’s almshouse, a place for people who had nowhere else to go.

The first known image of the William Brown House appears in an oil painting of the ferry landing at London Town. The painting was originally created in 1840 by Mary Duval. Unfortunately, we don’t have the original, but this is from an 1887 copy by Mamie Steuart. We’re looking at the Brown House (far right) from across the South River. It is painted white at this time.

The next known photo is this one from the early 20th century, when it continued operating as the almshouse. As in the painting, the building is still whitewashed.

In later almshouse images from the 1930s and 40s, the whitewash has faded considerably. You’ll also notice a screened in porch. Now we also have photos of the interior, including the kitchen. Most importantly, we also have photos of some of the residents of the almshouse.