Rock Point Virtual Exhibit

At the End of the Road
The Vanished Community of Rock Point, Maryland

Between 1935 and 1943 the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) produced some 270,000 photographic images of rural, urban, and industrial America. The original intent was to document rural poverty and publicize the New Deal programs designed to ease social distress.

The photography was set up under Roy Stryker, formally an economics instructor at Columbia University. He hired a small but talented group of photographers, among whom were Arthur Rothstein and Reginald Hotchkiss. In September 1936, Rothstein visited Rock Point, on the Wicomico River in Charles County, Maryland. The community was revisited by Hotchkiss in April and September 1941.

Rock Point, although hard hit by the Great Depression, was still one of the most important seafood centers on the Potomac River. From here, in the early twentieth century, over 1,000 gallons of shucked oysters were shipped a week during the season of the nearby metropolitan areas.

Why Rock Point was selected as a subject by the FSA photographers is not known. Whatever the reason, the photographs offer a window into a world now vanished. Today, little is left of Rock Point to mark the decline of this little community, once so dependent on the Chesapeake's bounty for its livelihood.
The original photographs now reside at the Library of Congress. The captions have been supplemented, in part, by information obtained in 1989-1991 through the Charles County Community College Oral History Program

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Rock Point, 1999

In the early 1900s Rock Point was a thriving community with a number of stores, an impressive hotel steamboat service to Washington and Baltimore, and an economy based largely on farming and the seafood industry. However, a serious fire at the wharf in the early 1930s, coupled with a general decline in the Potomac River fisheries and a move away by residents to nearby Cobb Island, led to gradual decay. A second fire in 1958, which destroyed the packing house, brought an end to seafood processing at Rock Point. Today, at the end of the concrete road leading to the old wharf, the only remnants are some pilings, several pieces of an iron boiler, and broken cement foundations. The FSA photographs seen here will help ensure that at least some of this maritime heritage will not be forgotten.