Linda Duyer History: Main Street by another name

1877 Atlas showing the bridge crossings of Main, Division and Camden Streets

Main Street, the road generally described as Salisbury’s first, was known by different names.

Before Salisbury materialized in 1732, roads in the area were virtually non-existent, bypassing the area altogether.

In fact, the interior lands of the Delmarva Peninsula were among the last patented as land closest to the bigger bodies of water were taken first. Only after the early speculators built dams in order to control the headwaters of the Wicomico River did they focus more on road names and their improvements.

The early roads through the area were not names but rather destinations or descriptions with a purpose. You took “the road to Spring Hill” if you wanted to go to toward Hebron. You took “the road to Snow Hill” by traveling south along Dividing Street and turning left onto what is now Lincoln Avenue heading southeast.

Delaware Avenue, named much later, was so named because, well, it led to that state. Even High Street was descriptive, as it led to the distinctively higher area of Lemmon Hill.

Bridge Street now known as Main Street, was the established path that serviced the town’s access to work along the river and its north branch.

Back Street (now Camden Street) was a service road providing rear access to properties on the south side of Bridge Street as a location to park horses and carriages in private and public liveries. Church Street (which always kept that name) likely was so named for St. Peters Episcopal Church.

Dividing Street (now Division Street), which early on marked the eastern edge of town, served as the boundary between Somerset and Worcester Counties and became a primary north-south route. Until 1909, the road and dam impounded Humphreys Lake. The 1817 Survey Plat shows the early bridge crossings of Bridge and Dividing Streets.

Dock Street (now Market Street) serviced a few properties along the river but was not constructed until 1847.

Roughly a hundred years after the town’s beginnings, another bridge posed a problem.  In 1837 the town commissioned a new bridge to span the east branch of the river facilitating the expansion into the area now known as Camden.

This Camden Street Bridge should not be confused with the current Mill Street and Circle Street bridges which today link to Carroll Street and other parts of town.

If you stand next to the Market Street Book Store building, you are standing near the foot of the former Camden Street Bridge at a spot once known as Walnut Landing.

Early development of the Camden area is attributed in part to Sally Hooper, second wife of Capt. Thomas Hooper. She bought the estate of her father Samuel Williams who owned property on the south side of the east branch. She had platted two streets, Chestnut (now Camden Avenue) and Spruce Street (now Newton Street).

So which bridge road was which?

Bridge Street needed a new name. According to lawyer-historian John E. Jacob Jr., the name Front Street was used for a time but its use did not stick. Main Street gradually was adopted because of the prominence of the downtown street.

Confusing the issue of roads, there is a First and Second Street in Salisbury. There was even a Third Street until it was renamed as an extension of Delaware Avenue, in the area known as California.

But all of this is a story for another time.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is in the process of writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at

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