For over 100 years the building which occupies the corner of Main and Sharp Streets, in Rock Hall, Maryland, has served as a cornerstone to the waterman’s town. It is a fortunate town that has preserved the monuments to its earlier beginnings – landmarks which have endured the tests of change and the ravages of time. Rock hall is indeed fortunate, often relishing the wisdom, “The more we change, the more we stay the same.”
Our chronicle begins sometime in the 1860’s just after the Civil War when businessman and entrepreneur, Alpheus Phineas Sharp, retired from the pharmaceutical industry – a growing field he had commanded through Sharp and Dohme (later Merck, Sharp and Dohme), the company which he had founded.
Although a Baltimore native, Mr. Sharp preferred the congenial lifestyle of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the hustle of the city. With his wife Anna, he chose to settle in Rock Hall where he built a stately home on Rock Hall Road, now Sharp Street.
Mr. Sharp acquired and sold several properties in the Rock Hall are in those years, and in his retirement became quite a figure in the small town. True to his professional calling, he built one last drug store which bore his name.
For its location he selected the well-traveled intersection of Rock Hall Road and Swan Creek Road, now Sharp and Main Streets. In earlier times, many illustrious figures, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, passed by this corner regularly on their journeys between Annapolis and Philadelphia.
The little store thrived and, as little stores were prone to do, it became a popular fixture in the community. On the 17th of January, 1870, as recorded in the Kent County Courthouse in Chestertown, Maryland, Mr. A. P. Sharp and his wife, Anna, transferred the deed to this property to young Mr. Benjamin R. Durding and his wife, Henrietta. Thus began a family tradition which, three generations later, still maintained a community presence.
Durding’s store underwent one major refurbishment in 1935, and what you see today is the creation of A. P. Sharp and Benjamin Durding. The handsome marble and stainless soda fountain is the original.