Month: April 2018
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
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 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 1780s 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.
Julian Steuart Hall (1868-1960) used his land north of Central Avenue (MD 214) for tobacco cultivation. In July 1960 Hall conveyed a 50-acre tract to Frederick and Frances Watkins. The land was improved with a two-story tenant house located approximately at 1122 Delcastle Court, accessed from Central Avenue by a 500-foot long drive. A tobacco barn straddled today’s Danbury Drive at the locations of numbers 1004, 1008 and 1007. Julian Hall died just five months after selling his property to Mr. and Mrs. Watkins. The 1960 deed specifies that “all crops raised on said property during the year 1960 shall be the property of the said Julian S. Hall, owner.”19 (After 1961, the Watkins’ leased a large portion of the acreage to a tenant farmer who continued to cultivate it for tobacco.20) Hall is buried in the Hall Family Cemetery (PG: 71B-12). His occupation was listed as “farmer” in the 1920 census, when he was then 50 years old; his wife Estelle (Berry) Hall was then 45. Estelle died in 1952 and is buried in Saint Barnabas Church Cemetery (PG: 79-59).
FREDERICK AND 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. Watkins also served on the board of the Seat Pleasant Bank. Watkins married Frances Elizabeth Penkert (1908-1997) in 1926. Mrs. Watkins was also a Washington, D.C. native. Both were longtime parishioners of St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Seat Pleasant.24 With his mother, Helena Watkins, Fred Watkins also owned several parcels in the Oakmont subdivision in Seat Pleasant, which the family sold over time. Watkins’ father, Frederick L. Watkins, Sr. was much admired for building housing for low-income black families starting in 1938 in the Jefferson Heights neighborhood on the northern border of Seat Pleasant. Frederick Watkins Jr. finished the project after his father’s death. In 1978 the Watkins’ were honored at a Jefferson Heights fortieth anniversary reunion. Fred Watkins was a successful businessman and the Watkins’ were fashionably dressed party-goers and party-givers; period photos clearly show them enjoying their life and their house.
In 1939, Fred and Frances Watkins purchased 20 acres known as “Largo” south of Central Avenue and built a house for their family sometime shortly after that. In 1945 Fred and his mother purchased an additional 15 acres to the east. The property today has no address, but the area comprises the loop of the MD 214 off-ramp to Truman Drive and the Arbor West condominiums. The house was a side-gabled frame dwelling with a gabled wing and two-story porch and was approached by a 750-foot-long driveway from Central Avenue. Three barns and a frame cottage, some of which may have dated from before the construction of the house, were located to the south.30 The house, with its Colonial Revival form, dignified approach, and relative seclusion, possibly served as a model for their future house on Church Road. It was occupied by the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce until it was demolished circa 1995.
Sited near the new I-495 interchange, the Largo property soon became desirable as a location for dense development. According to John Petro, in 1960 developer Robert Warren Ammann structured a deal whereby Julian Hall would sell 50 acres of his land to the Watkins’ and they could build a new house, and Ammann would purchase Largo and allow the Watkins’ to live there for one year while the new house was being built. Doing business as Lord Fairfax, Ltd., a Maryland corporation, Ammann and his partners Sherman H. Hollingsworth and Nathan M. Lubar purchased both Largo parcels from the Watkins’ on September 9, 1960, with the deed specifying the Watkins’ were to retain possession of the dwelling house and yard for a period of one year.
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.
In addition to the Watkins House, the firm’s known work in the county includes an addition to the County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro (1955, Colonial Revival); the Citizen’s Bank of Maryland in College Park/Hyattsville (PG: 68-26; 1956, International Style); the Hyattsville Fire Station (1958, Colonial Revival); Cumberland Hall at the University of Maryland (1962, Colonial Revival); WSSC Headquarters’ Addition (PG: 68- 82; 1963, International Style); the Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Hyattsville, (PG: 69-065; Prairie School/Modern); the Hyattsville Branch Library, (PG: 68-112; International Style); and the Red Cross Building in Hyattsville (1966, Colonial Revival). In 1969 Walton and Madden Architects, Cooper and Auerbach Architects and John M. Walton and Associates joined their firms and became Walton, Madden, Cooper and Auerbach, AIA.
JOHN MACARDELL WALTON, SR.
Born in Hyattsville, senior partner John Macardell Walton, Sr. AIA (1912-2000) was also the senior partner of John M. Walton and Associates. (John M. Walton and Associates was located in Arlington, VA, and the firm’s work was restricted almost entirely to Virginia, especially Northern Virginia.35) Walton designed many buildings during his career, both commercial (shopping centers, malls, motels, and office buildings) and institutional (churches, schools, hospitals, courthouses) but also many private houses. In Prince George’s County, it is known that he designed a 1939 Colonial Revival residence for the Yates P. Boswells at 400 Jackson Avenue (now 6500 40th Avenue in University Park). Although much smaller, the house shares some features with the subject property, including the corbelled chimney and portico balustrade. He also designed a number of houses in the National Register District of College Heights Estates (PG: 66-30) including 3917 Calverton Drive for the Arthur Seidenspinners.
From 1955 until 1990, Mr. Walton owned and lived at the National Historic Landmark Poplar Hill on His Lordship’s Kindness (PG: 81A-1) a 1784 five-part Georgian house in Clinton. The property is now owned by a foundation established by the Waltons. Walton’s son John M. Walton, Jr. relates that, overwhelmingly, his father’s favorite style of architecture was Georgian Revival or early American revival. Together, he and his wife Sara “shared and enjoyed a mutual love of early American history, architecture, antiques and historic preservation.” Walton designed the 1950 Georgian Revival house Drumsheugh (PG: 73-34) for the late Judge Ralph Powers. Drumsheugh, located off Largo Road and now part of a subdivision of the same name, is more traditionally interpreted but very similar in overall character and setting to the Watkins House. Although other examples are unknown at this time, Walton appears to have been the architect of choice in the county for those who shared his appreciation for Georgian and Colonial Revival styles and could afford to build expansively.
The Frederick and Frances Watkins House is a two-story, five-bay Colonial Revival single-family dwelling constructed on a knoll at the northeast corner of Church Road and Central Avenue (MD 214) in Prince George’s County. Designed in 1961 for Mr. and Mrs. Watkins by the Mount Rainier architectural firm of Walton and Madden, the house is constructed of white-painted brick and features flanking one-story wings, a slate roof, and front and rear three-bay porticos. Originally sited on fifty acres, some of which were wooded and some of which were used for the tobacco cultivation, the house is now surrounded by a 1990s subdivision of 74 single-family houses known as Grovehurst, but is buffered from this later construction by mature trees and plantings. The house is reached by a winding, heavily wooded road from Delcastle Drive.
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 endboard 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.” Two four-over-four wood sash windows flank the chimneys at the attic level. The chimneys extend four feet above the apex of the roof. The eight-panel single-leaf front door with a double lock rail is flanked by leaded-glass sidelights over panels. The Colonial Revival pattern of the translucent, rippled-glass lights is a central diamond divided into four diamonds by interlocking parabolas. The door and sidelights are topped by a leaded-glass fanlight in a spider’s web pattern. A central masonry keystone supported by voussoirs and imposts is located above the fanlight. The front door ensemble is flanked under the porch by nine-over-six wood sash windows with hinged louvered shutters secured with lag-mounted “S”-shaped shutter tie-backs. Identical windows are located to the left and right of the porch. On the second floor, five six-over-six wood sash windows with shutters are arrayed equidistantly at five-foot intervals across the façade. The sash windows feature concealed steel lintels and brick rowlock sills.
The west wing is recessed seven feet from the front (south) façade. On the south façade of the west wing are two six-over-six windows with shutters. In the (west) gable end is a picture-window sized opening comprising a central six-over-six window flanked by two four-over-four sash windows and shutters. To the north of that is a six-over-six sash window also with shutters. The windows are located off-center to the north in the elevation. Recessed from the gable is a connector element with a single six-over-six sash window with shutters. The garage wing further north at the west elevation is a two-bay hipped roof pavilion. Each garage bay contains Raynor Manufacturing Company’s vintage “Manor” garage door: a single sectional door consisting of a large nine-light window over a wood panel. Louvered shutters sawn to fold in sections flank the lights, making the garage doors appear to be large shuttered windows. A nine-light over two-panel wood door in the south elevation of the garage was installed by the current owners and replaced an original window, allowing pedestrian access to the garage. As with the garage doors, the door is styled as a window with louvered shutters.
The east wing is recessed nine feet from the main block. The two six-over-six sash windows on the south façade are missing their original shutters. The east façade features a Modern window wall in the center consisting of a 30-light, 14-foot, 2-inch tall wood window extending from the apex of the roof within the gable to a height of one foot above grade, including its wood panel base. The window is centered in the façade and is an original element. (The Midcentury Modern treatment of this wing is continued on the interior of the east wing, which although labeled as “Study” functions more as a family room/den.) A hipped-roof ell extends north off the volume of the east wing and is traditionally articulated with a centered, six-over-six sash window with louvered shutters. Access to the basement is provided by a concrete stair and areaway in the east elevation of the hipped-roof volume. A nine-light over two panel door in the west elevation provides access to the east wing. The door is articulated with louvered shutters.
The rear (north) façade features a two-story square-columned Portico with proportions similar to that of the front Portico. The Porch features a wrought-iron Regency Revival-style railing in the same design as the front and rear doors’ sidelights, rotated horizontally. The railing was added by the current owners and replaced the original ornamental railing of wrought iron perhaps manufactured by the “Logan Company.” The fenestration of the rear elevation is identical to that of the front except for the central window, which on the rear is a 12-light wood door with a screen door which leads to the second-floor Stair Hall. A later circular stainless steel range hood exhaust is located between the westernmost square pilaster and first-floor window. A Chinese railing balustrade (wood bars forming a geometric pattern within a rectangular frame) detailed on the original blueprints was never realized. The flagstone terrace replaced the original terrace of rustic flagstones laid in an irregular pattern, which deteriorated over time.
The east façade of the garage/service wing has a nine-light-over two-panel wood door and six-over-six window, both articulated with louvered shutters. The north façade of the garage contains another six-over-six window with shutters. Electric and telecommunications service enter at this location and a corral of HVAC condensers is enclosed by a low wood trellis fence.
The walls, trim, gutters, windows and doors are painted white. The louvered shutters are painted dark green. The house is surrounded by carefully tended mature deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, lawns and ground covers. The house is reached from Delcastle Drive by a winding, wooded road that is otherwise unmarked. Originally, the driveway continued to Church Road and was flanked by white-painted brick and wrought-iron entrance features, similar in design to the second-floor porch railing, both since removed.
The Frederick and Frances Watkins House retains a high level of integrity of location, workmanship, and feeling. Exterior alterations by the current owners, such as the Porch railing and the pedestrian garage door are compatible with and sympathetic to the original style of the dwelling. The house is no longer in the possession of the Watkins family, but it remains in use as a single-family dwelling and the interior is virtually unaltered. Because the original 50-acre tract has been reduced to 3.71 acres, the house is now surrounded by other houses and the original approach from Church Road no longer exists. Therefore, the setting retains only a moderate level of integrity. However, because of the contours of the land and the trees that surround the house, the new construction is not visible from the house or its landscaped setting. Overall, the Frederick and Frances Watkins House retains a high level of integrity.
Frederick & Fances Watkins House Significant Interior Details
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. The stair is visually separated from the Entry Hall by a double arch on paneled pilasters without a center supporting post in the manner of Tulip Hill (AA: 138); however, the arches are segmental rather than circular as they are at Tulip Hill. A small chandelier with faceted glass drops is installed where the arches meet. The front and rear door ensembles are bracketed by slim fluted pilasters as are the flanking openings to the east and west giving access the Living and Dining rooms, respectively. The segmental arches of the room entrances feature a fluted wood keystone. The downstairs formal rooms in the main block have plaster cavetto crown moldings finished with a single wall bead and double ceiling bead. The eight-inch high mop boards in these rooms have varnished quarter-round shoe moldings and a cavetto top trim piece. The floors are two-and-one-quarter-inch oak with the original beech-colored stain. The peach-colored damask wallpaper in the Entry Hall and Stair Hall features a baroque garland-and-leaf design.
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, bookmatched on the legs. The cast-iron fireback portrays an image of Zeus. Pairs of nine-over-six sash windows are located in the north and south elevations. The room was originally painted medium pink to which the current owners have added a wide, darker pink stripe. The Lavar Kerman Persian carpet by Karastan, woven in celadon, pinks and cream with a central medallion, was chosen for this room by the Watkins’. The 1910 Steinway studio grand piano is also original to the room. An ormolu six-arm chandelier with faceted glass drops is hung from the plaster ceiling medallion, which has an acanthus leaf design. To the left of the chimney breast is a single-leafed door opening onto the Study. On the opposite wall an opening gives on the Rear Hall. The door surrounds throughout the house have molded (cyma reversa) backband trim with an interior bead. The ceilings on the first floor in the main block are ten feet, two inches high.
Study (East Wing)
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. The green leather-buttoned cushion on the window seat is original. In the family room, the painted brick chimney is located off-center on the west wall and is fully expressed to the height of the gable where it meets the false beamed ceiling. The firebox is unadorned and opens onto a raised hearth (the flagstones were added by the current owners). The cast-iron fireback portrays an image of Macbeth’s witches. The woodwork throughout the room is varnished with a medium-brown stain. A wet bar in the north wall is concealed behind a pair of bi-fold louvered doors. The counter is of Rojo Coralito marble. A short hallway provides access to the Bar and Lavatory #2. Lavatory #2 features a wall-length pink tiled varnished-wood console with cupboards and drawers, a pink oval drop-in basin with centerset brass faucet, a pink water closet, pink wall tile and a green and pink floor tile. A Regency Revival-style cream painted tole lantern with scrolls, leaves and tasseled drop hangs from the ceiling. The hallway terminates in a closet; to the west a door provides access to the rear terrace.
Dining Room and Kitchen
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. The room features a chair rail. A single-leaf door to the Den is located at right center in the west wall and there are two windows in the south wall. A two-tier, ten-arm crystal chandelier with glass drops and bobèches hangs from the acanthus-leaf plaster ceiling medallion, identical to that of the living room. A single leaf door located off-center in the north wall leads to the Kitchen. (The interior doors are all three-quarter-inch solid wood composed of six panels.)
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 (West Wing) and Garage
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. Wagner’s “Louis XVI Towel Bar” in gold plate is installed to the right of the sink. The stair to the basement is located in the south wall of the Garage. The bays of the Garage are separated by a gypsum wallboard partition. The Den is paneled from floor to ceiling in cherry-stained wood with applied rectangular moldings. The paneling is finished with a chair rail at the height of the windows and a cyma recta crown molding. A fireplace with molded wood surround, brick facing and quarry-tile hearth is located in the center of the east wall. A molded wood keystone supports a wood mantle. A bookcase is located to the left and a door to the dining room to the right. The Den ceiling is eight feet high.
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. Two bedrooms are located over the living room; the master bedroom (Bed Room #1 on the plans) is located over the dining room and kitchen. The en-suite Bath #1 retains its original tile, sink and water closet and both a stall shower and bathtub. The master bedroom features a Georgian-style wood fireplace mantel with molded jambs, barrel frieze and dentiled cornice. Although the proportions are different, in composition it is identical to the dining room mantle at Tulip Hill (AA:138). The Watkins House fireplace features a paneled over mantle. The surround is faced with the same pink and white marble used in Lavatory #1’s console sink. The cast iron fire back portrays an image of Medusa. A polychrome five-arm tole chandelier of entwined flowers sprouting from a basket is hung from the circular Adam-style ceiling medallion. The curtains in the master bedroom are the original pink damask selected by the Watkins’ for the living room.
The attic is accessed by a full-sized stair but is unfinished except for a cedar closet. The basement is unfinished and contains a mechanical room and a large rumpus room.
Mount Lubentia – A Short History by Andy Wallace
Mount Lubentia, erstwhile “Castle Magruder”, is one of the grand old houses of Prince Georges County. Sitting on a terraced hill above the old road from Upper Marlboro to Bladensburg , this ancestral home of the Magruder, Beall and Bowie families has been a landmark for well over two hundred years.
Ninian Beall, one of colonial Maryland’s more remarkable immigrants, obtained the original patent on the property, 1031 acres, called Largo, in 1686. In 1717 Enoch Coombs bought a part of this parcel. His daughter, Barbara, married James Magruder, and they had a son, Enoch, born in 1723. By 1739, Enoch was listed in the rent rolls as holding 125 acres of a piece called Norway, a part of Largo, and seems to have steadily acquired more land in the immediate area, as well as Harmony Hall and W antwater at Broad Creek on the Potomac, and additional land in Ann Arundel County. In short, he was a prosperous merchant and landowner, with extensive holdings.
Enoch was a member of the vestry of St. Barnabas (Brick) church in nearby Collington during the 1750s, and took out a mortgage on a “new dwelling in the Collington Hundred” in 1761 which, by family tradition, referred to Mount Lubentia. In 1765 Enoch was deeded the property by his parents. In 1771, Enoch, who must have been living elsewhere, probably at Harmony Hall, rented the property to the Reverend Jonathan Boucher, newly installed rector at St. Anne’s, by appointment of the royal Governor Eden. This probably came about through the offices of Thomas Addison of Oxon Hill, Magruder’s close neighbor, whose daughter, Eleanor, Boucher was courting at the time.
Boucher moved in, along with his pupils Jackie Custis of Mount Vernon, Charles Calvert of Mount Airy and Overton Carr of Caroline County, Virginia in December of 1771. They were immediately snowed in with a tremendous blizzard, and could not get off the property for three weeks. It was Boucher’s students who dubbed the dwelling “Castle Magruder,” described by Boucher only as a “very tolerable house.” In June Jonathan married Eleanor Addison and brought her to Castle Magruder. At this time Boucher was one of the foremost spokesmen for the Loyalist faction in America. In September of 1772 George Washington and his wife Martha came to visit her son, Jackie, and sat down to dinner with Boucher, Governor Eden and Benedict Calvert, son of Lord Baltimore. Given most of the company’s Royal connections, it must have been a lively discussion. Boucher left the property in 1774, after his life was threatened by the Patriot faction, and moved over to the Broad Creek area, where the political climate was evidently more comfortable for him. As the political climate worsened Boucher decided to return to his native land and departed, for good, to England in 1775, though he maintained a correspondence with Washington for another two decades.
In 1779, Enoch Magruder, and his wife, Meek, deeded the property to their eldest son, Dennis (born 1759) along with 929 acres, part of Norway, upon his marriage to Anne Contee. For the next half-century, Dennis Magruder lived, for the most part, at Mount Lubentia, making substantial improvements and alterations to the property, marrying three more wives ( Eliza Gossaway, 1805), Frances Fitzgerald, (1817) and Mary Ann Beard (1820) and siring 24 children. When war with Britain broke out in 1812, state records were moved from Annapolis to Upper Marlboro for safekeeping. A couple of years later, in June of 1814, these papers, as well as the county records, were moved to Mount Lubentia when the British threatened Upper Marlboro on their way to Washington, via Bladensburg. While repairing a second floor ceiling, fragments of what well may have been these papers were found to have fallen through the cracks in the attic floor!
Dennis Magruder married his last wife, Mary Ann Beard at the age of 65, and three years later they had a daughter, also named Mary Ann. A decade later, Dennis left the property to his son, Dennis, Jr., while investing his wife and daughter with life tenancy. Dennis Jr. married and moved to Missouri in 1834 , and in 1836, upon Dennis Sr.’s demise, the elder Mary Ann sold her life’s interest in Mount Lubentia to Otho Berry Beall and moved to First Street in Coxe’s Row in Georgetown, D.C. to give her only child “the advantages of the Female Institution of Mrs. Lydia C. English.” Three years later, in 1840, Mary Ann, then 17, married Otho Beall’s son, Washington J. Beall, with grand nuptials lasting a week. These festivities were recounted in a written account by Mary Ann’s daughter, Rosalie Bowie, in the early 20th century, based on her parents’ recollections. Thus the property remained in the family.
The newly wed couple settled into Woodlawn, an adjacent plantation given them by Otho Beall, and in 185 3, commenced building a new house there, in the Greek revival style. This house is now the rectory for the Riverdale Baptist Church, located on Route 202 about two miles from Mount Lubentia. Otho Beall left Mount Lubentia to his son Washington who, in 1883, sold the property to William J. Bowie, who had married his daughter Rosalie. William died shortly thereafter, in 1888, and his widow remained at the farm, which passed on her death in 1921 to her son, Washington Beall Bowie, who had married Frances Dodge, from a prominent Georgetown family. The W.B. Bowie family lived at Mount Lubentia for 55 years, raising five children in the house. Washington Bowie, who died in 1960, left the house to his wife and son, Forrest, an architect, who took a great interest in the family and architectural history of Mount Lubentia, and hoped to eventually restore the house to it’s 18th century form. Frances Dodge Bowie lived until 1975, and four years later, with the house vacant since his mother’s death, Forrest passed away., leaving the property to his widow Frances Stevenson Bowie. Mrs. Bowie carefully maintained the property until 1997, when she sold the house and 5.5 acres to Andy and Sondra Wallace who are currently restoring the house and grounds.
The earliest reference to the present house is contained in the 1798 Tax assessment. It describes a two story brick dwelling, 48′ x 37′, with a brick passage and 32′ square kitchen adjoining the house, along with numerous brick and frame outbuildings. The assessment notes that the house was being worked on inside. The valuation was $1500, one of only four houses in the Collington and Western Hundreds valued at over $1000.
Was this the house that Enoch Magruder built ca. 1761, undergoing alterations by his son Dennis, or a later structure that Dennis built? As with most early dwellings, absent a written record, the answer is uncertain. The brick structure, laid in Flemish bond, with rubbed brick jack arches over all the windows, and a high molded water table, could have been built anytime during the second half of the 18th century. Original grade appears to have been about 8-9 inches lower than present and the basement windows were three brick courses larger with vertical wooden bars, shown in the earliest photos. There are shadow lines on either side of the entryway indicating that there were, at one time columns applied to the brick, possibly part of a portico of some type. The windows are 6 over 9 double hung sash on the first floor and 6 over 6 on the second floor, which would indicate a late 18th or early 19th century date for the sash. Some of the original glass is intact. The floor plan is classic Georgian, with a center hall, flanked by rooms on either side, with the unusual feature of a curved staircase, occupying the entire right side of the entranceway, where a small room would ordinarily be located. This staircase is light and graceful and has federal features which would date it to the 1 790s. There is an archway separating the front hall from the rear. Front and back doors are aligned, but off center in the hall. The left edges of the trim are clipped at the capitals. All of the first floor rooms have wainscoting and federal style mantles, with no two rooms detailed the same. There is however a definite hierarchy of these public spaces with the two rear rooms, apparently a drawing room with glass doored cabinets flanking the fireplace to the left and the dining room containing the largest and most elaborate mantle, on the right. The dining room is serviced by a back hall, located under the stair landing, with doors leading to the front hall, the basement (where a winter kitchen was located), and to the porch in front of the kitchen passage. This passage was clearly intended for servants= use, rather than the public. It is much more simply trimmed. All downstairs walls are plastered above the chair rails and there is no evidence of cornice moldings. Taken as a whole, the house appears to be Federal in style, with some trim elements possibly dating to an earlier period.
The kitchen described disappeared during the 19th century, and the passage seems to have been expanded into a more formal room early in the 19th century, possibly the plantation office. This became evident during restoration when the remains of the old passage wall were found under the floor. It also became evident that the common wall between the main house and the passage was originally an exterior wall with Flemish bond and finely tooled joints, and that the passage was added to join the kitchen to the main house, after the two buildings had stood separately. This is also evidenced by the fact that the bricks do not line up in the rear (west). This would seem to indicate, as was often the case, that the house developed in stages, over time, rather than being built as a unit. Further evidence surfaced of early alterations when I was restoring the dining room, located off the right rear of the stair hall, leading to the passage. This room underwent a major rebuilding in the late 18th or early 19th century, when there was a major structural failure of the brickwork over one of the windows. In fact, it is likely that all of the first floor rooms were finished, or remodeled at different times in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The second story contains three bedrooms, all with federal mantles, chair rails and simple trim. The large hall space continues the hierarchy of the downstairs hall. The door casings are stepped, but contain two different architraves for the front and back doors. There is a small room at the back of the hall, which may have been added early on. This was converted to a bathroom in the 20th century. A door in the right rear bedroom leads to the back service stairs, descending to the old passage. It is likely that this door was added when the roof to the addition was raised early in the 20th century. This bedroom, like the dining room below it, has the west (window) wall firred out and lathed with split lath and forged nails. It also had interior shutters, the only room on the second floor with this feature, although all of the first floor rooms have shutters. The mantle in this room is also elaborate and very similar stylistically to the one in the room below it. These two mantles are quite different than the others, obviously done by a different hand and, presumably, at a different time. The third floor was converted to living space in the 1920s, and a decade earlier, the passage addition was raised to a full two stories from its earlier loft configuration.
Mount Lubentia retains a remarkable amount of its 18th century materials and detailing. It has, of course, undergone many changes over two centuries of day-to-day living. Besides early alterations, the house underwent at least two major periods of work. When the Bowies reoccupied the property, after a shadowy period of almost 50 years, from 1840 to 1883, the house was reputedly in ruinous condition. The earliest photos of the place show that the entire northeast comer had collapsed and been rebuilt. Large Victorian style porches were added to the front and back at this time, and new floors were laid in large parts of the house. As mentioned, major work was also done in the teens and twenties of the 20th century. With all of this work, however, great respect was shown for the original building, and it remains an extraordinary example of a Georgian-Federal plantation house.
The Grounds and Outbuildings
While little remains of the 18th century landscaping at Mount Lubentia, the grounds contain a wonderful variety of old plantings, some dating back over 100 years. Foundations oflong vanished outbuildings are scattered throughout the property, and an early 19th century com dryer survives, which has been converted into an office/shop. In 1971, Forrest Bowie moved a unique 18th century octagonal dairy house from Graden, a Berry family plantation demolished when USAir Arena was built, and it remains on the grounds, and is now undergoing restoration. In 1931, Forrest Bowie, then 16, executed a detailed drawing of the grounds of Mount Lubentia, noting all of the plantings in what was then a showcase Colonial Revival garden. The original is in the archives of the Prince George’s County Historical Society. The plan has proved invaluable in restoring elements of the garden.
Mount Lubentia – Tree List
Nellie Stevens holly
English plane tree
Rose of Sharon Iolanthus
Barberry ( several kinds) Mock orange
Bridle wreath spirea Spirea
The Graden Dairy House at Mount Lubentia
Among the significant outbuildings still standing on the grounds of Mount Lubentia is an octagonal eighteenth century dairy house, now sitting about 50 yards north of the house and in ruinous condition. The dairy house was originally located at Graden, a Berry family plantation several miles north of Mount Lubentia; it is listed there in the 1798 Federal Tax Assessment for Prince George’s (P.G.) County1 In the 1970s Forrest Bowie, then owner of Mount Lubentia, moved the dairy house from Graden at the time when the US Air Arena was being built on the Graden site. (The Arena has now been replaced by the Boulevard at Cap Center shopping mall.)
The dairy house move was executed in two stages five years apart. The wooden structure itself was moved in November 1970. For unknown reasons, it was not until 1975 that the brick foundation and floor of the structure were taken apart and moved to Mount Lubentia, where the bricks have been stored ever since. Both the 1970 move and the 1975 removal of the brick foundation were documented with photographs by Forrest Bowie; copies of the photos are appended to this report. Also appended are Forrest Bowie’s drawings of the drain system in the floor of the structure, and papers related to the transfer of the building to Mount Lubentia.
The National Register of Historic Places listing for Mount Lubentia, in its description of the property (by P .G. County historian Susan Pearl) notes, “Also on the property and of significance in and of itself is the octagonal frame dairy which was moved onto the property in the 1970s. The dairy is the best surviving example of an architecturally conscious domestic outbuilding of the 18th century in the county, and possibly in the state.”2 A recent article in Colonial Williamsburg magazine, discussing dairy and milk houses in the Tidewater region, features the Graden dairy as an outstanding example of its kind. 3 John Michael Vlach states in Back of the Big House, ” … dairy buildings were exceptional elements in the built landscape. A dairy was thus an architectural emblem signaling the wealth of the planter class.”4 The Graden dairy fits this description and is unusual in several respects – in its shape, in its degree of finish, and notably in its asymmetrical, shuttered and latticed window openings.
It is this last feature of the Graden dairy that most puzzles me. Why , in a building with a high degree of sophistication, built during a period when exterior symmetry was so important, are the window openings sandwiched into the corners of the sides, with one opening missing altogether? Why for that matter are there windows, instead of the usual long horizontal openings with slats or latticework? The window placement is dictated by the way in which the frame was built. The fact that the principal vertical supports, or posts, were located in the middle of each side, rather than at the corners, dictated that the window openings would have to be offset, rather than centered on the sides. But why was this post placement chosen? This is not typical practice in post and beam construction. Normally the posts would be located in the corners of the octagon, particularly since the main cross beams rest on the plates at the corners, not at the midpoint of the sides. I have never encountered a structure framed in the manner. Is it a result of local building practice, a technique that originated in a particular area of England where the joiner or his ancestors came from, or is it simply the whim of a particular builder? As to windows rather than high horizontal openings, there are a few precedents for this. Olmert in his article gives a couple of examples and Vlach a sites a notable dairy with windows at Folly Plantation, Augusta County, Virginia. Closer to home, Orlando Ridout of the Maryland Historical Trust sent me a photo several years ago of a small outbuilding, similar to the Graden dairy, in Sandy Springs, Montgomery County, Maryland. But the windows in these buildings are all symmetrical.
The Graden dairy house is a frame structure, octagonal in shape, twelve feet across with an eave overhang of one foot, for an outside diameter of fourteen feet. It is sheathed with wide southern pine boards, beaded and lapped, which range from ten to fifteen inches in width. Each side is five feet long and eight feet from eave to foundation. The dairy has latticed windows with exterior board and batten shutters on six sides (Photos DH 7, 13, 22) and one completely sheathed side, with a door, opening inward, centered in the remaining side. The windows are offset rather than being centered on the sides to accommodate the principal posts, which are at the midpoint of each side (DH 37), providing principal support for the top plates. Posts are joined to sills and plates with mortise and tenon joints. Studs are tenoned into the top plates and nailed to the sills. Sills are also joined with pegged mortise and tenons.
The building was originally nogged with brick and plastered inside.
The ceiling structure is quite elaborate, with two heavy cross beams or girts, which are lapped at the center and joined (m &t) with four horizontal struts about 16″ out from the center. Twelve ceiling joists extend from these struts to the ends of the eaves (DH 24, 27). Girts and joists lapped onto the plates, but not fastened with pegs or nails (DH 19), and support the roof.
where water was carried in from a nearby well and poured into a trough containing crocks of milk that ran around the perimeter of the dairy floor. This would seem to describe the construction of the Graden dairy floor.
The ceiling was lathed and plastered inside the quadrants of the principal beams, leaving about two inches of the cross beams exposed. These exposed surfaces were beaded on the comers
The roof rafters extend from the top of a central post, which is mortised into the cross beams and secured with a wrought iron strap wrapped around the beams. (DH 26) The roof rafters are nailed to the central post at the top (DH 28) and extend to the ends of the ceiling rafters where they are nailed to false plates which sit on the ends of the joists and beams. (DH 17, 23,
25).There are rafters at each comer and in the middle of each section for a total of sixteen rafters. The roof was sheathed with riven oak boards, overlapped at the comers and spaced for wood shakes. (DH 23, 28). The original roof had been replaced at least two times, as there were both wrought and cut nails remaining in the sheathing boards. An asphalt shingle roof was in place when the building was moved in 1970.
The structure originally sat about a foot and a half above grade over a brick pit with drain which was 38 inches below the sills (DH 8, 9, 10). A wide, lapped shelf of pine boards, now mostly rotted, sat on top of the sills around seven sides of the building (DH 14, 15), and a shelf, hanging down about 30 inches, was suspended from the principal cross beams DH 36, 37, 38). Almost all of the structural elements of the dairy house are original (see appendix B), including framing, siding, roof sheathing, hardware and nails, but significant sections are rotted or missing.
The Graden dairy is currently (January 2006) in the process of stabilization and restoration. New sills of pressure-treated yellow pine have been installed, and missing or damaged framing elements are being duplicated or repaired. These include two of the posts and one of the plates, as well as sections of several ceiling joists. In each case wood of the same species as the original has been used . (See Appendix B) Structural epoxy has also been used to repair sections of beams, plates, joists, studs and posts. Windows with their lattice and shutters and the door have been removed and stored until they are restored and reinstalled. The roof rafters and post have also been removed and stored. Several of the rafters need to be repaired or replaced, but the post and strap securing it are in good shape and will be reinstalled. (See photos DH40-67)
The building now sits on concrete piers, awaiting relocation this spring to a different site on the property a few yards north and west of its current location. This will place the dairy at the end of an allee of American boxwoods on an axis with the rear porch.
The complete restoration of the Graden dairy is a long range project. Elements of the restoration, i.e. rebuilding of the foundation and brick floor with drains, and the replastering of the interior, will be dependent on obtaining grants to accomplish the work. The short range goal is stabilization, and restoring the exterior of the frame structure to its original appearance. The following tasks will be undertaken in the next year or so:
1. Moving the structure to a site north and west of its current placement and placing it on concrete piers for further work.
2. Rebuilding of the roof structure using existing parts and replacements of like material.
3. Installation of a wood shingle roof by a roofing contractor specializing in historic structures. Bids are being obtained.
4. Repair and reinstallation of the window frames and shutters, including reproduction of missing or damaged HL hinges.
5. Replacement of siding, eaves and soffits with new material of the same form and dimensions. Poplar boards are currently being air dried for this purpose by the owner, and will be lapped and beaded as the originals. Original wrought nails, salvaged from the building, will be used to attach this material whenever possible.
6. Painting the structure with white paint to duplicate appearance in 1970, when it was moved to Mount Lubentia.