This Maryland Historic Register Property is a 380 acre, eight parcel farm, nestled among old-growth trees along the Choptank River with broad southerly views. The farm is part of a 1659 land grant from Lord Baltimore and its rural and agricultural heritage including farm fields, tidal wetlands and woodland that combine to provide habitat for waterfowl and wildlife, has been maintained for generations.
The smaller wing of the house’s two brick wings was the first to be built between 1780-90 and the larger wing was built around 1815. Both wings were constructed of Flemish bond and the door and window openings in the larger 1815 wing have jack arches of stone to support the brick wall above. The large 6/6 windows have wood louvered shutters and the dentil molding under the eaves of the 1815 wing is also original. The 1780-90 wing had chimneys at each end and the 1815 wing has a double chimney at the side gable wall that serves two back to back rooms. Each wing has two single dormer windows at the attic level. The last addition was a one-story porch and kitchen built in the early 20th century. At that time, the front wall of the porch was demolished and moved forward to create more interior space. The exterior walls of the entire house were then painted white.
The property has great historical significance, not only for its architecture but also for the original owner of the property and his family’s military service to the nation.
Later owners were careful stewards of this remarkable property and maintained both the buildings and landscape. The distinctive barn, numerous outbuildings and two cottages were built, the former for guests and the latter for the caretaker of the property. Near the house, a brick arched opening marks the entrance to the pool area, bordered on one side by a pergola with a crown of vines for respite from the sun.
The mature trees and landscaping maintenance includes 200 linear feet of bulkheading for shoreline stabilization, reforestation, and creation of a wildlife preserve. I was speechless when I saw a majestic sycamore tree that is one of the largest trees in Maryland.
The current owners, who purchased the property in 1979, are restoration veterans and their previous project was a Colonial style house in Rhode Island; a fitting endeavor due to the wife’s thesis on Colonial architecture at Harvard. The owners had a dual mission of restoration balanced with their contemporary tastes and the creation of a family home with three active children.
Part of the waterside porch that spanned the full length of both wings of the house was enclosed, leaving the 1815 terrace intact.
After walking the site to immerse myself in the history of this unique place, I drove along a white gravel drive below an allee of trees of several species to begin my tour of the house. After I parked my car, I admired the simple and elegant exterior color palette of the creamy white brick and historic light olive trim that stood out against the majestic specimen trees around the property. Brick steps led to the front porch with its substantial columns supporting a low hipped roof.
I opened the wide front door of the three-bay 19th century addition into the foyer that spans the full depth of the house and is detailed with an elegant elliptical arch resting on paneled pilasters that defines the space between public and private spaces. The staircase begins past a small alcove with a powder room tucked discreetly underneath with the run facing the front of the house. I especially admired the wave-like design of the stair tread ends, the turned newels and rectangular balusters. Directly opposite the front door is the door at the rear wall leading to the wrap-around terrace with views to the Choptank River and the pool area.
The Owners modified the Period interior trim to reflect their goal of simplicity and one of the owners, who is an artist, selected a color palette of salmon, stone blue and tan. Removal of the carpeting revealed the beautiful original pine flooring and wallpaper was removed to reveal a blank canvas for the artist Owner to enhance with her own colorful work.
Doors from the foyer lead to two parlors identical in size that have two windows on both exterior walls to maximize views and daylight. The deep masonry walls create sills for display or a spot for the family pet. The identical size rooms provide flexibility in use with the rear corner room furnished as a music room and the front corner room furnished as a parlor. The current Owners installed hand carved mantels in each parlor. One mantel dates from 1740 and is the work of Grinnling Gibbons, the English artisan and woodcarver. The other mantel is the work of Robert Adam, the English artisan and architect.
Passing through the foyer to the living room, I walked down a few steps and changed centuries from the 19th century foyer to the 18th century in what is now the living room. This spacious room extends from the front to rear walls with two single windows on the front wall opposite two single windows at the rear wall on either side of a French door to the sunroom. The fireplace is located at one interior wall that was the original side wall of this wing. On the opposite side of the room, another set of stairs lead to the second floor.
Next to the living room is a large dining room with the other fireplace. Behind the dining room are a small kitchen and large pantry, created by the final addition that moved the original front wall forward.
The large “U” shaped kitchen has water views and the white cabinets and countertops reflect the sunlight. Opposite the kitchen is a charming banquette for breakfast, informal meals, homework, etc. and a second powder room.
An exterior door leads to several original outbuildings including a smokehouse and dairy.
Both the two outdoor rooms of the sunroom and partially roofed brick terrace are connected to the foyer, living room, and dining room and offer both sitting and dining areas to enjoy the landscape and the Choptank River beyond.
The 19th century addition contains two bedrooms, located over the piano parlor and the front parlor separated by deep closets in each bedroom. Two baths off the stair hall serve both bedrooms.
Steps lead down from the stair hall to a studio space created from the demolition of two bedrooms and contains a sink with cabinets for artist or clean-up from crafts. The solar orientation of the art studio brings sunlight throughout the day and offers myriad uses for new owners-a TV room, craft room for children of all ages, etc., with cabinetry that could become a mini-kitchen for popcorn and other snacks.
Next to the art studio/family room and the secondary stairs is the primary suite with the bedroom located at the rear corner for maximum views of the landscape to the Choptank River. At the front of the suite are two baths, one with direct access to the primary bedroom and the other bath is accessed from a short hall
The upper run of the “U” shaped secondary stair between the primary bedroom and the art studio leads to two other bedrooms on the third floor. Both bedrooms have charming interior architecture from the sloped ceilings that follow the underside of the attic roof rafters and single window dormers opposite each other on the front and rear walls for bird’s eye views of the landscape and the Choptank River. I especially liked the “porthole” windows in this bedroom.
The main stairs in the 1815 addition lead to a recreation room over the two parlors below. This is a sports haven for rainy day entertainment for children of all ages, surrounded by stained beadboard knee walls and ceiling. As an architect, I was drawn to the two chimneys from the parlor below and how their angled corbel shape creates wall space between them for a round window just below the ridge line of the roof. Alas, my knees were not able to climb the steep ladder/stair for what must be a killer view from that height above the treetops.
It is always a special pleasure to feature a house and property that is part of our treasured architectural past. My compliments to the Owners for respectfully renovating “The Wilderness” for their family home without compromising its original details. What a unique opportunity for a buyer to become the next steward for this remarkable property and to continue its being preserved for the next generation to admire!
For information about this property contact Coard Benson with Benson & Mangold Real Estate at 410-770-9255 (o), 410-310-4909 (c) or [email protected]. For more pictures and pricing, visit www.coardbenson.com/thewilderness , “Equal Housing Opportunity.” Or contact Schuyler Benson, Benson & Mangold Real Estate 410-822-1415 (o), 410-310-3251 (c) or [email protected].
Photography by Jim McKee, BroadView Interactive, www.broad-view.net
Historic Photograph courtesy of “Where Land and Water Intertwine”, An Architectural History of Talbot County, Maryland, by Christopher Weeks, with contributions by Michael O. Bourne, John Frazier, Jr., Marsha Fritz, and Geoffrey Henry.
Jennifer Martella is an architect with Bohl Architects’ Annapolis office and a referral agent for Meredith Fine Properties. Jennifer is an integral part of Bohl Architects’ design team for projects she brings to the firm. She is also the writer of Bohl’s website’s bi-monthly blog “Tango Funhouse” where she highlights the firm’s vision and other fun aspects of life by design. Her Italian heritage led her to Piazza Italian Market, where she hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday.