Nestled in Piscataway Park at the end of a beautiful and formidable tree tunnel are the ruins of Marshall Hall mansion, a once-revered home on the shores of the Potomac, looking almost directly across the river to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Built in 1725 by Thomas Marshall, the house was maligned by its creator, who called it “Mistake” after discovering that, due to a surveying error, it had been constructed within the tidewater of the Potomac River. In spite of this, it was the ninth most valuable property in the county, according to a 1758 assessment. (Marshall became wealthy from a tobacco plantation on his property, which he used enslaved laborers to maintain.)
The original appellation grew tiresome for the Marshall family in 1818 as changes in fortune started hitting home. The old moniker was discarded and replaced by one inspired by the feudal romances of Sir Walter Scott: Marshall Hall.
In the 1870s, Levi Lowell Blake and Joseph Chamber McKibbin started the Mount Vernon and Marshall Hall Steamboat Company after gaining rights to transport passengers between the two homes, and used their steamboat investment to secure the purchase of the house and land. They opened a restaurant and brought in all manner of entertainment, managing a very successful partnership until McKibbin died in 1896. Blake could not handle running the enterprise on his own and ended up ceding control to corporations.
The early 20th century saw the development of an amusement park, which was run by Frederick Merten until the 1930s. In 1939, gambling was introduced, and by the 1950s, the first roller coaster appeared in the park. Maryland entrepreneur Joseph Goldstein was the final owner before a windstorm toppled the roller coaster in 1977 and the amusement park closed for good in 1979.
All that remains today are the impressive ruins of Marshall Hall, the home that once stood proudly on this property, and the oddly named “Doctor’s Quarters,” a neighboring outhouse that stands next to the house.