Historic Mount Lubentia c.1792
Considered one of the most important DC area historic landmarks, Mount Lubentia has been beautifully restored and renovated. Featuring an elegant and masterfully designed entry foyer with a curved, open staircase gently rising to a large second floor landing and spacious rooms with ornate woodwork and moldings, this home is steeped in history and includes George & Martha Washington among its distinguished visitors. Mount Lubentia is a masterpiece of architectural design and the attention to detail and craftsmanship is unsurpassed. From its superb crossetted door and window surrounds, to its large 9 over 6 windows with interior shutters, this home breathes colonial affluence. It is exquisitely sited on nearly 5 1/2 acres of mature trees and shrubbery and with just a little imagination, one can be transported down Mount Lubentia’s long driveway, back to the time of our nation’s beginnings. The remains of the circular carriage drive are still seen and a full complement of wildlife entertains in the surrounding woods. Mount Lubentia is a wonderful blend of artful historic restoration and modern amenities, that include central air conditioning, a combination of natural gas radiator heat and heat pump, updated plumbing, 200 amp electric service, and a spacious kitchen with a quartz-topped center island. A wonderful wood batten shop/study structure in the back yard includes lots of light and windows, and is divided into shop/studio and office space – perfect for a home business, craftsman or artist retreat. Among the other outbuildings is the historically significant Graden Dairy House c.1750 and moved to Mount Lubentia in 1971.
This is a historic estate of rare and beautiful distinction, minutes from the hustle of downtown DC, yet a world away.
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.
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 of early alterations surfaced during restoration of 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 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 of long-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.
Graden Dairy House
Trees & Shrubs
Maryland Historical Trust – Mount Lubentia
National Register of Historic Places – Mount Lubentia
Historic Sites – Prince Georges County
Wikipedia – Mount Lubentia
Mount Lubentia History – A Short History of Mount Lubentia by Andy Wallace
Graden Dairy House – The Graden Dairy House at Mount Lubentia (Andy Wallace)
Tree List – Tree List – Mount Lubentia (Andy Wallace)
Easement Program – PG County Easement Program
Tax Credits – PG County Tax Credits
Tax Credits – Maryland Tax Credits
Tax Credits – Federal Tax Credits
Ninian Beall – Brief Bio
Jonathan Boucher – Digital Encyclopedia
Enoch Magruder – Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland
Jackie Custis – Wikipedia
Benedict Calvert – Wikiedia
Robert Eden – Wikipedia
Preservation Handout – Prince Georges County Historic Preservation Handout
Updated on April 1, 2019 at 2:10 am
Historic Mount Lubentia c.1792 - 603 Largo Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Historic Mount Lubentia c.1792 - 603 Largo Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774