By Megan Willis
Elm Staff Writer
Although Chestertown may not come across as a particularly exciting town at first glance, many students do not appreciate its vibrant history.
“Two-hundred years ago, Chestertown was a prominent city,” Professor Robert Lynch said. “It was up there with New York, Chicago, and Baltimore as a major port city and economic center.”
While Chestertown has not changed much in the centuries since its creation, the way students perceive it certainly has.
Junior Doug Carter worked at the local coffee shop, “Play it Again Sam,” for two years and became immersed in the town.
“I meet 50 or 60-year-old alumni who graduated from the college and fell in love with the town so much they moved back,” Carter said. “Working at Sam’s made me really appreciate living in Chestertown.”
Alumni are not the only people who visit Sam’s.
“We would get anywhere from 20 to 50 students a day at Sam’s,” Carter said. “It’s a hotspot for people to meet.”
Tom Martin’s store, the Book Plate, is one of the more popular in-town business among Washington College students.
“Chestertown has everything you might need. There’s a coffee shop, book store, and novelty shop,” Martin said. “We have events, like the Book Festival, and different artist come and visit…It’s a place to come for a nice time, even if you don’t buy anything.”
However, despite Martin’s commendation of Chestertown, there is an alarming number of students who do not partake in the local scene.
“There is this divide between the college and the town,” Carter comments. “It’s like two different worlds despite being five minutes apart.”
Many shops, Martin said, have shortened their hours of operation due to a decrease in business, particularly among students. So why don’t more students take advantage of the local flavor? “It’s a problem on both sides.
I know a lot of students have misconceptions about ‘townies.’” Carter said. “They think Chestertown is full of elderly people.”
On the other hand, he recalls the local reservations about students. “One time Brian Palmer and I were on a photo shoot…we pulled on the side of the road to take some shots of this farm…when the owner found out we were students, he immediately told us to leave or he would call the police.”
Martin offers an additional theory as to why students are becoming an increasing rarity in town. “The campus is being overtaken by corporations.” Martin said. “There’s a Barnes and Noble, a coffee shop, and a gift shop right on campus…So why would students want to walk into town when it’s right there? It’s becoming a corporate bubble.”
However, by staying within their ‘corporate bubble,’ students miss out on a big part of the college experience.
Appreciating living here, supporting the local business, and understanding the local politics” Carter said, “are all parts of what has made my college experience great. You have to assimilate into the town.”
Assimilation of students into town life could lead to greater business and allow stores to return to the longer business hours they held before. It could also add another dimension into the college experience.
“Come downtown and have a good time,” Martin said. “Go back and tell your friends to come again.”