My wife and I recently took up temporary residence for a month in my mother’s house, after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She spent her final weeks at a wonderful Hospice facility nearby. It was a sad and stressful time, but the friendly people and the comfortable livability of Mom’s hometown was a blessing. That town is Easton, Maryland.
Easton has a population of 11,000, and is on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, about 40 miles from Annapolis. Folks here wear their history on their sleeves, and with good reason. Easton boasts a well-preserved downtown, with many lovely colonial buildings surrounding the Talbot County Courthouse.
A modern hospital, an up-to-date library, a fine art gallery, and a history museum are all within a short walking distance of downtown. The restored Art Deco-style Avalon Theater has an impressive schedule of performing arts, from nationally known musical acts to local productions. And there are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy.
Easton is a very walkable community, with a nice bike path and sidewalks nearly everywhere. Tree-lined streets and well-appointed houses with front porches are the norm in the neighborhoods bordering east and south, while modest modern housing developments and smaller homes dot the other areas.
Highway 322, called the Easton Bypass, is a surprising example of how such a roadway can benefit a community if done for the right reasons. Busy US Route 50 runs north/south just east of the town, and is often loaded with traffic, especially on summer weekends when there is a mass exodus from Baltimore and Washington to Ocean City, Maryland. By accessing the bypass, which leaves Rt. 50 just north of town and reconnects to Rt. 50 just south of town, one can take a semi-circular drive around and connect to a multitude of streets, all of which lead downtown.
And nearly all of the north/south downtown streets, as well as the bike path and an exit off the bypass, lead to Idlewild Avenue, where one can find a large assortment of doctors’ offices and medical testing centers housed in attractive neo-Colonial brick buildings. Just off Idlewild are Talbot County Hospice, a nursing home, a drug store, and additional medical services. And just off the bypass near Idlewild are a very popular YMCA, a park, a school, and several churches. Everything is so easily accessible that each errand we had to run took only 10 or 15 minutes.
Easton has recently succumbed to a big box explosion on the east side of Route 50. Wal-Mart and Giant Foods anchor several strip shopping centers, and when Staples moved in, Rowen’s, a landmark stationery store downtown, closed. But the town fathers have now imposed limits on growth, including a ban on retail stores larger than 65,000 square feet.
One of the best things about Easton is the Soda Fountain at Hills, which is downtown on Dover Street. Placed in the back of Hills Drug Store, the small room is decorated with old photos of Easton, and has a lunch counter and a few tables. The atmosphere and the breakfast and lunch selections bring back fond memories of the five and dime lunchrooms I frequented as a youngster. And the food, though simple, is extraordinary. One day I had a luscious bowl of lima bean and noodle dumpling soup with tomatoes and corn. Real comfort food.
I am thankful for the opportunity I had to be with my mother during her illness, and grateful for the kindness of the many townspeople we met. Easton has the genteel charm of a southern town, and I can understand why my mother loved living there.
A version of this article (also by Joe Manning) originally appeared on RoadsideOnline.com. Used by permission.