Historic Frederick and Frances Watkins House, 1961
Built in 1961 and considered an important Prince Georges County historic landmark, the Frederick and Frances Watkins House retains a high level of integrity of location, workmanship, and feeling. This 4 bedroom, 3 full bathrooms, 2 powder room, elegant estate was designed & built with no expense spared. Fine wood detailing inspired by extraordinary regional historic estates, gorgeous wood floors, a gourmet kitchen with Wolf gas stove, beautiful cherry wood paneled den, a family room with 9′ built-in wet bar, wood dance floor, a 15 seat film projection theater, exercise room, in-law suite and more. A private, elevated 3.72 acre setting, with mature trees, gardens and professional landscaping, this is a unique buying opportunity minutes from shopping, schools and entertainment.
This is an estate of rare and beautiful distinction, minutes from downtown DC, yet a world away.
Center Hall 28′ x 10′ – Wood floor, hanging lamp, crown molding, grand staircase, elegant woodwork, closet.
*The house features a center-hall plan with identical door, fanlight and sidelight ensembles in the north and south elevations. The dogleg open-string stair on the west wall is articulated with a varnished handrail supported on white painted turned balusters with square bases (three per tread) ending in a left-hand volute supported on a half-circle end tread with a center varnished newel. An ogee white-painted chair rail rises with the balustrade against the west wall.
Living Room 28′ x 14′ – Wood floor, fireplace with wood mantel, crown molding, built-in bookcase, hanging lamp with medallion, 4 windows.
*The Living Room to the right of the entry spans the width of the house. Directly facing the entrance is a segmental arched and fluted pilaster opening fitted as a bookcase. The chimney breast in the center of the east wall is articulated with a white-painted wood mantel of Colonial Revival design. The mantle has fluted wood pilasters and the header is enhanced with a four-part carved festoon. The surround is faced with Ocean Green marble, book matched on the legs.
Study 20′ x 15′ – Wood floor, fireplace, hanging lamp, vaulted exposed beam ceiling, wall of windows, additional 2 windows.
*The east wing consists of a Study, Bar, Lavatory #2 and a hallway. The main volume of the east wing is unusual in that it is articulated in the Modern mode that was gaining popularity in the period, yet it was built as part of the overall Colonial Revival aesthetic of the house. While the Modern character is most pronounced on the interior treatment, it is expressed on the exterior in the large multi-light east window that reaches to the gable.
*Wet Bar 9′ x 5′ – Ceramic tile floor, built-in shelves.
*Powder Room 9′ x 5′ – Ceramic tile floor, ceramic tile half-wall, 1 window.
Dining Room 19′ x 16′ – Wood floor, hanging lamp with medallion, chair rail, crown molding, 2 elegant wood corner cabinets, 2 windows.
*The Dining Room is found to the left upon entry. Twin shell-back (the shells are plaster) cabinets are located in the southwest and northwest corners. The cabinets have fluted pilasters and fluted keystones and appear to date from earlier in the twentieth century. They may have served as inspiration for the trim work in the living room and hall.
Kitchen 16′ x 11′ – Vinyl floor, double sink, Wolf gas stove, stainless steel appliances, window seats, 2 windows.
*The kitchen retains the original cabinets. The range was originally located to the left of the door to the Hall. The room was originally painted pink and the cabinet knobs had a raised floral design. The cabinet hardware, steel-edged Formica countertop, ceiling fixture and vinyl floor tile were added by the current owners. The center of the kitchen has traditionally functioned as an eating area with a table and chairs. A single-leaf door on the east wall of the kitchen leads to the Rear Hall.
Den 15′ x 15′ – Wood floor, cherry wood paneling, fireplace with wood mantel, hanging lamp, built-in bookcases, 5 windows.
*A single-leaf door in the west wall of the Kitchen gives on the service Hall which runs north to the garage and south to the Den. Located off the Hall are a Laundry and Lavatory #1. Lavatory #1 has light-yellow wall tile, pink hexagonal floor tile and a Sherle Wagner pink and white marble console sink. The sink is fitted with Wagner’s “Empire Counter Legs” in gold plate featuring caryatids and an acanthus pattern widespread basin set with rosette handles, also in gold plate.
Powder Room 9′ x 6′ – Ceramic tile floor, marble sink, hanging lamp, 1 window.
Pantry 7′ x 6′ – Vinyl floor, shelves, 1 window.
Attached Garage #1 22′ x 11′ – Vinyl floor, 2 doors to yard, 1 window.
Attached Garage #2 22′ x 12′ – Vinyl floor.
Landing 22′ x 10′ – Wood floor, closet, door to porch, door to attic stairs, 3 windows.
Master Bedroom Suite 23′ x 15′ – Wood floor, fireplace with marble front & wood mantel, hanging lamp, large walk-in closet, 4 windows.
*Bathroom 6′ x 5′ – Ceramic tile, ceramic tile half-wall, shower, 1 window.
*The second-floor Stair Hall’s balustrade curves to meet the enclosed attic stair. The Stair Hall runs from the north door giving on to the Porch to the south and Bath #2 at the front of the house. Two original bag chandeliers fitted with glass drops light the Stair Hall. Bath #2 features its original tile and full-length mirror encased in molding on the back of the door.
Bedroom 2 16′ x 13′ – Wood floor, closet, 3 windows.
Bedroom 3 15′ x 13′ – Carpet, closet, 3 windows.
Hall Bathroom 8′ x 5′ – Ceramic tile, bathtub, 1 window.
Recreation Room 26′ x 26′ – Painted concrete floor, wood dance floor, 9′ wet bar & shelves, 2 closets.
Film Projection Theater 14′ x 12′ – Painted concrete floor, 15 theater seats & screen.
Exercise Room 18′ x 14′ – Painted concrete floor.
Sitting Room 13′ x 11′ – Painted concrete floor, door to the back yard.
Bedroom 4 15′ x 13′ – Carpet, 2 windows.
Closet 6′ x 5′ – Walk-in.
Bathroom 9′ x 6′ – Painted concrete floor, shower.
Utility Room 20′ x 12′ – Painted concrete floor.
Laundry Room 10′ x 8′ – Painted concrete floor.
Full Attic– Fixed stairs, wood floor, suitable for storage or finishing.
*A two-story single-bay garage is located southeast of the original garage. Constructed in 1985 and incorporating
salvaged building elements, the garage does not contribute to the historic significance of the property.
Lawn Mower Shed
*A one-story clapboard shed is located at the north end of the circular driveway. Originally containing a pair of doors at the right and used for lawn mower storage, the gabled south elevation was reconfigured by the current owners to contain two six-over-six wood sash windows with louvered shutters. A porch with a shed roof runs along the east elevation. A screened porch is located in the north elevation where the grade drops precipitously. At the west is an L-shaped in-ground whirlpool spa installed by the current owners. In its altered form the building serves as a cabana.
The Frederick and Frances Watkins House is significant as a late example of a time-honored building type in Prince
George’s County, viz., a large estate-like dwelling on an expansive, and in this case elevated and commanding, site.
At 4,700 square feet, dwellings comparable to the Watkins House in design and execution can be found in exclusive
subdivisions nationwide. However, the Watkins House historic setting fixes it as a descendant of the plantation
houses of the eighteenth and early-nineteenth century such as Montpelier (PG:62-6), Riversdale (PG:68-5) and
others. After pausing for a Victorian interlude, the large, isolated classical house type was revived in Prince
George’s County in the early twentieth-century and took the form of architect-designed estates and large dwellings.
Examples include Belle Chance, (1912; PG:77-14), Beechwood (1913; PG:79-60), Boxlee (1923; PG:70-39),
Langley Park (1924; PG:65-7), Gregor Hall (1926; PG:79-12), Oxon Hill (1929, PG:80-1), Marché House (1932;
PG:68-62), the Newton White Mansion (1939; PG:73-6), Perrywood—an 1840s house which was remodeled into a
five-part mansion in 1942—(PG:79-58) and Drumsheugh (1950; PG:79-34), the design of which also involved John
M. Walton, Sr. The persistence of the type across three centuries is significant, as is the Watkins House’s unusual
integrity of workmanship, feeling and association, excellent state of repair and customized features that reflect the
Watkins’ style of living. Further, the Watkins’ and Walton’s enthusiasm for the architectural traditions of the county
and Maryland, and the Watkins’ choice of commercial architects Walton and Madden is indicative of the owners’
wish for robust construction and timelessness. Finally, the seamless integration of the Study’s wholly Modern
design within the otherwise traditionally styled dwelling distinguish the house as a unique example of its type, and
reflects both the period of significance and the eclectic, sophisticated taste of both the owners and their architects.
THE MAIN HOUSE
Constructed in 1961, the Frederick and Frances Watkins House is a two-story, five-bay Colonial Revival single family dwelling constructed on a knoll. The house is composed of a two-story main block with an attic and flanking one-story L-shaped wings that extend toward the rear. The brick dwelling is set on a concrete block foundation. A side-gabled roof of Vermont Purple slate caps the main block and the wings, which terminate at the rear with hipped roofs rather than gables. All roof slopes are 12/7. The cornices are not returned but have a decorative end board detail. The “K”-type gutters and downspouts are painted aluminum. The main block features a one-story Portico spanning three bays and is supported by four Tuscan columns and two Tuscan engaged columns. The cornice is dentiled and the roof is capped with a wood balustrade consisting of four short square paneled columns linked by a railing of turned wood balusters. The porch is raised on a base of full-color, natural-cleft square and rectangular flagstones laid in a random pattern and set behind a Portico-wide semi-elliptical step. A flagstone walk leads to the driveway. A six-inch high curved slate stoop rises to meet the front door. The roof of the porch is soldered tin which was later covered by a bitumen coating. Corbeled brick chimneys flank the main block; the west chimney, which is set approximately one foot further north than the east, has a central stamped-concrete element two bricks in height located beneath the corbel and bears the legend “1961.”
The land on which the Frederick and Frances Watkins House stands was originally part of a tract called Partnership that was patented in 1680 to Nicholas Sewall and John Darnell. Early in the eighteenth century, more than 1,000 acres of Partnership were sold to Benjamin Hall of Charles County. Benjamin Hall’s will of 1720 devised his plantation equally to his wife Mary and his son Francis. Francis Hall inherited the property in 1721 and died in 1785. His will devised his land to his two sons, Benjamin II and Richard Bennett Hall. Richard Bennett Hall’s will of 1802 devised his property to his son Francis Magruder Hall, who devised the property to his son Francis Hall, who devised it to his son Col. Francis Magruder Hall (b. 1829), who devised it to his son Julian Steuart Hall in his will dated March 15, 1905.18 The ruins of the house called Partnership (PG: 74A-15) begun by Benjamin Hall II in the 1780’s still stand west of Church Road, and the Hall Family Cemetery (PG: 71B-12) is located to the south of the subject property below Central Avenue (MD 214) and slightly to the east.
FREDERICK & FRANCES WATKINS
Frederick Lewis Watkins, Jr. (1905-1998) known as “Fred” was born in Washington, D.C. He worked in and later ran his family’s lumber and hardware business, the F. L. Watkins Company in Seat Pleasant, Maryland. F. L. Watkins began as grocery store in 1917. In the early days, Watkins operated more as a general store, selling a range of items from chicken feed to English broadcloth shirts. The store stayed open late in the evening to serve ham sandwiches for railroad passengers on their way from Washington, D.C. to the Chesapeake Bay shore. The town post office was in the basement. Later the store diversified into a hardware, coal and lumber supplier. After his father Frederick Lewis Watkins, Sr. (1875-1941) died, Frederick Jr. inherited the family business and an it for 50 years. The store operated until the late 1990s.
WALTON AND MADDEN ARCHITECTS (1953-1969)
The Watkins’ commissioned the Mount Rainier firm of Walton and Madden Architects to design their new house. Largely a designer of institutional buildings, Walton and Madden evolved from the firm Kea, Ross and Walton, which was changed to Ross and Walton when Paul Kea left the partnership in 1941. The firm became Ross, Walton and Madden in 195032 with the addition of partner Dennis William Madden, AIA (1921-2013) who had joined the firm in 1946. It became Walton and Madden in 1953 with the retirement from the partnership of R. Webster Ross.
Maryland Historical Trust – Frederick & Frances Waltkins House
Historic Sites – Prince Georges County
Easement Program – PG County Easement Program
Tax Credits – PG County Tax Credits
Tax Credits – Maryland Tax Credits
Tax Credits – Federal Tax Credits
Certified Historic Properties Specialist
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
189 Kentlands Blvd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
301-975-9500 ext.4604 Office