Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage
maryland house and garden pilgimage
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A walking tour through Chestertown


SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2011
10 am to 5 pm

Special Project: Kent has two special projects this year: The Kent Center Garden and the Horsey Road Area Park. These projects address the needed establishment of a garden for the intellectually and physically disabled and the creation of a public park featuring native plantings in an area once used as a truck storage.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~HISTORY~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An idea generally conceived by Governor Charles Calvert under the direction of Lord Baltimore in 1668, this town on the Chester River was intended as a local point of government and taxation for Colonial Maryland and remains the Kent County seat today. The Act for Advancement of trade and for creating Ports and Towns was signed into law in 1706 by the Maryland House of Delegates and Council, thereby creating what is now Chestertown. The original plan of the town was begun in 1707 and finalized in 1730. It covered 100 acres and now sets the boundaries of the official map of Chestertown’s Historic District. All of today’s tour falls within this area. Situated on the Chester River, Chestertown became an important Colonial port providing access to the upper peninsula for trade and the exportation of tobacco and grain. By the 1770s, the town was one of the wealthiest and most prominent in the colony. The early Georgian architecture of the town, with its rigid horizontal and vertical balance, gave way in the 1780s to the Federal style with less focus on absolute symmetry and greater emphasis on the vertical line, best seen in the elongated doors and windows. Examples of both styles are included in the tour. Colonial Chestertown was active in America’s fight for independence during the Revolutionary War era. During the 19th century, steamboats made daily trips to and from Baltimore carrying passengers and cargo. Home to Washington College, established in 1782, Chestertown remains the “Gem City” of the Peninsula.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ DIRECTIONS ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From WILMINGTON AND PHILADELPHIA: I-95 South to Rt. 896, Middletown, DE via Rt. 896/301 to Rt. 291 Chestertown, to left on Rt. 213 South. Turn right at light at Cross Street and follow signs to parking areas. Signs will direct you to Site #1.


From BALTIMORE AND THE WESTERN SHORE VIA THE BAY BRIDGE: Cross the Bay Bridge and stay on Rt. 301 North to Rt. 213 North through Centreville. After crossing the Chester River Bridge, turn left on Cross Street (first traffic light, Rt. 289) to parking on left, next to County Court House, or continue to Cannon Street and follow signs to additional parking.


From EASTON, SALISBURY & NORFOLK: Rt. 50 West to Rt. 213 North through Centreville. Follow directions above.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ LUNCH ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A delicious luncheon buffet will be served between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cross Street, Chestertown. The cost is $10.00 per person. Reservations are requested by May 9 through the church website or by calling the church office during business hours, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at 410-778-3477 .



EMMANUEL CHURCH, Chester Parish, 101 N. Cross St., c. 1767

On November 9, 1780, a convention of clergy and laymen met here at the call of the rector, the Rev. William Smith, D.D., to proclaim the Anglican Church in the Province of Maryland independent of the British Crown. This convention first proposed and adopted the name Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The first church to occupy this site was completed by 1707; the present nave gives an idea of the impressive dimensions of that colonial building. The church was renovated during the 1800s when a gallery was removed, the roof lowered intact, the windows raised in height and apse and narthex added; and again during the 1990s when a Harrison & Harrison tracker pipe organ and matched hardwood floors were installed and the chancel and sanctuary redesigned. Of particular note are the fine memorial tablets in the north wall of the church, which were installed in the church previous to the present one, and the Tiffany window in the south wall.



The Historical Society of Kent
County, 101 Church Alley, c. 1784.

After leaving his home in Princess Anne in 1755, William Geddes came to Chestertown and served as the King’s Custom Collector. He bought lot No. 26, which he later sold and which was eventually purchased by James Piper, the builder of the 1784 part of this brick house. The rear extension was built in 1834 and connected the earliest part to the freestanding 1730 building on the lot. The Federal area of the house has a basement with a colonial kitchen, laundry and keeping room. At the start of eight decades of Westcott ownership, c. 1833, the formal dining room, winder stair and room above were built. After it left their ownership in 1912, the house had various uses, most of which did not work to its best interest. Salvation came in 1958 when savvy Historical Society members purchased it to use as their headquarters. Today two levels of period furnishings are open to visitors, a third level houses a library/research facility and the basement displays early farm tools, kitchen implements and lamps. A lovely patio and herb garden grace the rear of the house. Now the Geddes-Piper House offers an overview of Kent County by time period through its exhibit rooms. It also houses the Historical Society’s genealogy and local history library.


THE HOUSTON HOUSE & GARDEN, N. Queen St., c. 1771

The Houston House, built in Flemish bond for William Houston and his wife Susannah Wickes, is a simple three-bay, double-pile, two-story brick residence. Over the years, the house was heavily modified. More recent owners restored the home to reflect its original design. The dormers are of a later time, however, and the brickwork at the left front predicts an early addition to the structure of this 230-year old home. The boxwood, azaleas and rhododendron flanking the front entrance are intentionally simplistic embellishments to the home’s design. A lovely focal point upon entering the main foyer is the restyled staircase, a featured attraction in the home’s restoration. To the left, the remodeled dining room’s fireplace, paneling, and charming scallop shell cupboards are focal points in the room. To the right, is the front parlor with its simple paneled chimneybreast, showcasing a raised central panel flanked by recessed panels. Next, past the staircase and to the right, the library offers retreat and repose with its corner fireplace. Exiting the home, don’t miss the original brick smokehouse to the left and the lush perennial foliage, flowering bushes and trees framing the garden stroll—a flawless carpet of green.





The Nicholson House, a handsome Federalist design was built for Continental Naval Captain John Nicholson, one of three brothers who were distinguished Naval officers. John Nicholson served on several vessels during the Revolutionary War and was ultimately Commander of the Continental sloop Hornet. James Nicholson commanded the Maryland and Continental Naval forces from October 1776 until 1785. Samuel Nicholson held several commands culminating in the 1790s when he not only commanded the U.S. Navy’s Constitution but also supervised its construction. The first owner’s American commitment included the American or common bond brick work of his home. Notice the elaborate cornice detailing and the molded water table running across the front of the house. A century later, a two-story wing added more spacious living quarters to the sophisticated and elaborate original interior—an escape from simpler design seen in Federal interiors. The present owners acquired the house in 1991 and have upgraded the interior extensively. A carriage house and borders of native shrubs and perennials frame a peaceful outdoor sanctuary.



The Wallis-Wickes House, a substantial, two-and-one-half story house at the foot of High Street was built by Samuel Wallis in 1769. The house, which also may have been a place of commerce, passed from Samuel Wallis to the Chambers and Wickes families. This five-bay, double-pile Georgian structure has a gabled roof with dormer windows and massive chimneys that accommodate flues for 15 fireplaces. Like the Custom House across the street, this house was built partially into a rise of land to allow for a stone basement and a kitchen. The brickwork is laid in Flemish bond with a molded brick water table. An addition to the original structure was added in the early 1900s. A section of the original smokehouse wall can still be seen behind this addition. Upon passing through the garden gate, visitors enter a verdant paradise that was originally cultivated over 250 years ago before the house was built. Recently renovated, the garden’s design was created by landscape architect Charles Owen of Sterling, Virginia. A large deciduous magnolia is the anchor for native plantings, many presenting spring and summer blooms in shades of blue through pink. The areas of grass and multiple pathways play host to children’s games, college functions, and dog parties held by the resident Portuguese Water Dog, Chester.




THE SARVIS HOUSE AND GARDEN, South Water St., c. 1890

Situated in the heart of Chestertown’s Historic District, this home’s location offers sweeping views of the Chester River. This updated, turn of the century Victorian gem features English antiques, classic modern artwork as well as landscapes by contemporary Maryland artists. The capstone of the property is an award-winning garden design by Miles Bernard. What began as a new pool and spa in the backyard with an off-street parking spot in the front, blossomed into a complete transformation from property line to property line. The garden space invites you in and provides charming views and privacy. A sunny spot poolside, a shady parking area, and a combination of both sun and shade enhance the depth of color and texture that make this space comfortable and pleasurable. A water feature, architectural lighting, and a pool house/workout room make this garden fun as well a functional.




The Hynson-Ringgold House was first constructed by surgeon Dr. William Murray in 1743 on property purchased by Nathanial Hynson, an important Kent County landowner. The seminal structure was one room deep with all header Flemish bond brick walls and a hip roof with plaster cover cornice. The paneling in the Washington Room (south parlor) dates from the Murray occupancy. Original hinges and bars remain to this day and many windowpanes are of 18th century hand-blown glass. In 1767, Thomas Ringgold I, a wealthy merchant, bought Hynson-Ringgold House while living in the nearby Custom House. Ringgold remodeled the house over time, extending the main block and installing a beautiful paneled parlor in the front section and an elaborate antler stairway to the rear. The Ringgold Room (north parlor) is attributed to acclaimed Colonial designer and carver William Buckland who had come from Scotland to build Gunston Hall for George Mason. The all-header bond on the garden sidewall of the rear wing dates the entire rear structure to Ringgold’s time. Upon completion of the house, the Ringgold family holdings covered the entire riverfront block of South Water Street from the Custom House to the Hynson-Ringgold House and included stables, smoke houses, counting houses and other outbuildings. Wilbur Ross Hubbard, bequeathed the Custom House to Washington College in 1995, and Hynson-Ringgold House is now home to the president of Washington College, Dr. Mitchell Reiss and his wife Elisabeth.




c. 1857

Dating to 1857, Fort Belvedere is an excellent example of mid-19th century Eastern Shore architecture. It was built by Captain James Frisby Taylor in a very “modern” style (Eastern shore homes from the pre-Civil War period typically were built in styles considered outmoded elsewhere). This large rectangular house combines elements of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. It retains its original features such as entrances, bracketed cornices, tall paneled pilasters at the corners, verandas, and a belvedere or lantern on its low-pitched roof. Inside is the classic foursquare plan with a gracious entry hall and double parlor with a wide archway, plaster cornices and matching marbleized slate mantels. Particularly notable is the staircase’s massive turned walnut newel post and applied millwork from city companies of its era. The delightful garden, designed by landscape architect Marcy Brown, features pierced brick walls, a pond with a fountain, a sunken gravel terrace and cast iron figures representing the four seasons. Among the noteworthy plant specimens are a very old wisteria vine, a hydrangea hedge and examples of topiary.



THE BENNETT GARDEN, Cannon St., c. 2007

This lovely garden reflects both the horticultural expertise and the good humor of its owner. The unifying backdrop of diverse foliage, a melding of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures is an important feature of this garden’s design. In this, a serene simplicity is accentuated with several structural focal points. Entering under an arbor draped with wisteria and a thornless climbing rose, Zephirine douhin, the eye is drawn to the generous terrace alive with potted Japanese maples and Meyer lemons. Steps lead down to a maze of winding paths bordered with Sedum spectabile and Razzle Dazzle, a dwarf crepe myrtle. A natural balance of movement and depth in design is amplified with the waterscape area—a fishpond, the kiwi vine adorned pergola, and a raucous paulownia tree—which is cut down every year to keep it in bounds. Several varieties of Japanese maples and dogwood add contrasting height, texture, and color. The abundance of roses, Knockouts as well as hybrid teas, bring Monet-inspired dabs of color to the garden portrait. Thematically important, assisting with transition throughout the garden, is the whimsy. Watch out for the chickens and the Indians! Is that wooden mask really wearing a beanie copter? What fun!





Baltimore City (Mt. Vernon) | Calvert County | Kent County | Baltimore County (Mantua Mill) | Prince George’s County | Anne Arundel County (South County)

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