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Rumsey Island - Joppa, Maryland

Rumsey Island is located in beautiful Joppatowne, Maryland. It is a family community with beautiful waterfront views and family friendly neighbors!

The original Joppa was a major seaport and commercial hub in the 18th century. The town proper was located on what is now called Rumsey Island, where the Big Gunpowder Falls and Little Gunpowder Falls meet to form the Gunpowder River. The only original building remaining is the Rumsey Mansion, once home of colonial patriot Benjamin Rumsey. Building foundations and gravesites are visible on the adjacent Church of the Resurrection property. Ruins of the original wharf and docks, as well as the town jail, were still visible until Hurricane Agnes swept through in 1972. The Old Joppa Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places as an archeological site in 1979.
Benjamin Rumsey (1734–1808), the namesake of Rumsey Island and the Rumsey Mansion (the only colonial building that survived the decline of Joppa), was a delegate for Maryland to the Second Continental Congress, and the first Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, serving for more than 25 years (1778–1806). In 1768 Rumsey married the widow of Colonel James Maxwell. He had been the primary planter and landowner in Joppa, and commissioned the “Rumsey Mansion” to be built between 1720 and 1724. Rumsey relocated from Cecil County to Joppa sometime around 1771, after having the Rumsey Mansion substantially renovated. Rumsey eventually acquired all the land where Joppa once stood, and all of the surrounding areas. This large estate came to be known as “Joppa Farm”, a slave plantation. Upon Rumsey’s death in 1808, Joppa Farm passed to his son John Beal Rumsey and/or his grandson Charles Henry Rumsey. Upon C.H. Rumsey’s death, his children sold Joppa Farm to the Murray family. James Murray was the owner of Joppa Farm until it was purchased by Beulah Hare Chell in 1936. In 1961 the Panitz Brothers Company acquired the land from Beulah Hare Chell to develop a planned community Joppatowne.
Rumsey House map
Benjamin Rumsey House Location Map; click to view larger image

The area where the town at Joppa formerly stood was used as farmland (mostly string beans) until 1961. It was acquired by the Panitz Company (Panitz Bros. & Co.), which began development of the surrounding planned community of “Joppatowne”. The original townsite at Joppa, including the Rumsey Mansion, was slated to be developed as Joppatowne’s “swim and tennis club”. People interested in historical preservation opposed this plan, but were nearly ignored until the matter reached the attention of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy convinced the developers to relocate the swim club, and to cede the land where Joppa’s Anglican church stood to the Episcopal Church. The latter became independent after the Revolution but is arguably descended from the Church of England. The Panitz Company sold and donated additional adjacent lots to the Episcopal Church, effectively preserving about 50% of the land where the town at Joppa[9] had stood (the northern half of the site had already been considerably developed).

In 1970 the Episcopal Church subsequently re-consecrated the grounds and built the aptly named Church of the Resurrection adjacent to the foundation of the original “St. John’s Parish” at Joppa. The Church of the Resurrection has preserved the archaeological ruins and served as a repository for documents, research, and artifacts related to the colonial town at Joppa.


Before Joppatowne became known for its comfortable homes, convenience to Interstate 95 and popular waterfront park, it served as a major shipping port during the first half of the 18th century. Originally known as Gunpowder Town and later as Joppa, the area also operated as the Baltimore County seat from 1712 to 1768, later becoming part of Harford County. In the early 1960s, the plan for Joppatowne, laid out by developer Leon Panitz as one of the country’s first planned communities, combined everything residents would need such as retail, open space, recreation, schools and a mix of housing, according to the Harford County Community Plan for the area.

Today, Joppatowne offers a mix of friendly neighbors, tree-lined streets and waterfront appeal. Rumsey Island, a manmade peninsula, offers large waterfront homes as well as smaller single-family houses and townhouses, many sitting on canals with piers and concrete bulkheads. Summer weekends are a lively mix of cookouts, boating and hanging out with neighbors.