Spookiest Spots Around DC: Tome School

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Original Director’s residence of the Jacob Tome Institute.

I normally do a lot of research before going to any abandoned places. I like to have a clear idea of location, an obsessive Google Maps look around of the area, several accounts from anyone who’s traveled there recently, and looksee of photo opps.

But I stumbled upon a blog about the Tome School recently and got a little over excited. The Tome School for Boys can be found up the main from Main Street in Port Deposit, Maryland, overlooking the Susquehanna River. In 1900 it was founded by Jacob Tome as a college prep school for boys. Architects Boring & Tilton (known for designing the U.S. immigration station at Ellis Island in New York harbor) designed the Colonial Revival-styled campus and famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted planned the grounds.

During the Great Depression the school fell into financial trouble and eventually closed in 1941. The following year the United States government bought the property for the Navy, developing it as a U.S. Naval Training Center and expanded the grounds to 1,132 acres and over 500 new buildings. In the 1980s Congress specified that before the land could be sold back to the State of Maryland. Buildings that could not be used would be demolished. Of the 500 buildings that were created, less than 50 remain today. It wasn’t until 2000 that the State of Maryland regained ownership of the campus. Still, it’s been left empty and abandoned until present day.

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Main campus. Visited December 2018.

There’s some beautiful photos of the original grounds. Love at first sight for me?

A day after hearing about it I went driving to get groceries, and while listening to a books on tape I found myself hopping onto the highway and plugging in an address from my rough estimation of where the school was. Port Deposit is about 3 hours north of DC, just north of Baltimore. If I’d done better research (or any research) I’d have see that the school moved to a new location in 1971, 15 minutes away from the original campus in the woods.

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Side building, closest to the Susquehanna River.

I awkwardly drove around an un-abandoned children’s school for 20 minutes before figuring out I was in the wrong place. 4 blogs later I had coordinates plugged into the map.

Driving down the steep hill into Port Deposit I passed the locked gates to the campus. When I say locked I mean almost ludicrously locked – chains, concrete, a towering fence, and bars cross cross over the mouth of the entrance. Alongside a stream trees curled around a tall chain link fence running around the perimeter. I parked in the sweet looking town near the river and walked back up the hill to find any breaks in the fence.

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If I’d planned my day better, or at all, I would have worn the right clothes for muddy fields. I also would have packed an extra battery pack and probably brought a group with me. My normal rule of not stepping into a place where I can’t see the exit is tricky when you first have to climb through the woods before even getting to the campus.

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Moving to the second floor of the main building. 

But with the unplanned way the day went, I did get to see the buildings under sunset’s glow. Four buildings, including the main hall, sit spread apart across the center of the campus. I stepped into one of the smaller buildings that’s covered in graffiti and year’s of dirt and decay.

My heart pounded loudly as I worked my way to the main building. I don’t mind going into places by myself but the quietness of the grounds is eerie.

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Front entrance of Memorial Hall (stark difference after the fire).

Still, all trepidation melted away as soon as I stepped into the main building. It was destroyed by a fire in 2014, though still felt sound to walk through (I didn’t go far into the building to actually test this). The main entrance is still stunning.

I only walked around the campus for a quick hour before worrying about losing sunlight and cell phone battery. The next time I go I plan to look for the school’s theater and gym, something that’s been mentioned by a few other urbex blogs.

I feel content for the time being with what I saw at the Tome School.

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