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Historic house in Hollywood "unique"

part fenwick/glebe

Maryland Historical Trust Historical Archaeologist Heather Barrett, center, speaks with St. Mary's College of Maryland Anthropology Professor Dr. Julia A. King, second from right, about Glebe, a unique 19th century structure in Hollywood April 7.

Hollywood, MD - What started with the simple posting of a picture on Facebook has put a previously obscure early 19th century dwelling in Hollywood on the radar screen of historians.

Bernadette Garner posted the photo after becoming enamored with the house while visiting a friend on Ferguson Road. Dr. Julia A. King, professor of anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is a friend of Garner’s on social media, and when she saw the picture she immediately became excited.

“When I first saw Bernadette’s pictures, I was blown away,” King said. “I knew just looking at it that it was pre-Civil War or possibly earlier. The architectural historian almost choked on her cereal when she saw a picture of it.”

That architectural historian, Heather Barrett of the Maryland Historical Trust, journeyed to St. Mary’s County from Crownsville April 7 along with King and some of her students to look at the property.

Barrett said after further research that the house is important not only due to its unique structure, but for the history associated with it.

part fenwick/glebeThe structure is part of Fenwick’s Manor, a property dating to the 17th century. Known historically as Glebe, Barrett said the house is a significant 1830-1840s braced-frame, one-and-a-half story, side-passage dwelling.

“The house is an excellent example of a vernacular, timber-framed Chesapeake dwelling, believed to date to circa 1840,” Barrett explained. “Although there was no access to the interior on the day of our site visit, the form and plan of the house appear to be fairly intact, and there are no major additions. It’s rare that more changes haven’t occurred over time.”

King said the house reminded her of the predecessor to Susquehanna, a historic early 19th century home that stood on the site of present-day Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Susquehanna was itself a unique structure, featuring a long narrow hallway with rooms on either side, while porches running the length of the building promoted cooling breezes in the hot summer months. The house dated to 1835. Henry Ford had the entire building dismantled and hauled off to Dearborn, Michigan where it is now part of Greenfield Village, a museum town of reconstructed homes from all over the United States.

“The house that stood on that property before Susquehanna was even more unusual,” King said. “That house burned in a fire. This house reminds me of that structure.”

Although the exterior-end chimneys with a central pent and the interior trim were removed in the mid-20th century, the overall form and plan remain intact. The entry in the Maryland Historical Site Survey undertaken in the 1980s distinguished this dwelling as a significant example of a second quarter of the 19th century building type.

The report noted: “While architecturally significant, the dwelling also has noteworthy associations with several locally prominent families and the Parish of St. Andrews. Part of Fenwick's Manor/Glebe was constructed by William Ford soon after he purchased two tracts of land totaling 108 acres in 1841. Ford died, however, soon after. In 1848, the property was sold to the Vestry of St. Andrews by Ford's executors, Henry and Lucretia Ford. The Glebe farm proved unproductive as the St. Andrews Register notes that the land was immediately sold to Colonel Chapman and Lydia C. Billingsley on May 9, 1848 for $1,100. Chapman Billingsley, who served a variety of offices such as Orphan's Court judge and state senator, did not receive a deed for the property until May 18, 1852. The dwelling remained in the Billingsleys' hands until 1877 when it was sold by Lydia C. Billingsley's executor Thomas Barber to Georgeanna Burroughs for $705.”

“The relatively intact form, plan, and timber-frame construction, as well as its association with locally prominent families and St. Andrew’s Church make the house important,” Barrett said.

Barrett added that according to recent figures, there are approximately 7,623 buildings in St. Mary’s County alone that were constructed prior to 1967. Of those buildings, only 1,084 have been documented with a Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties survey form.

part fenwick/glebe“Even though we couldn’t get inside it, the side entrance is unusual for a house that size,” King explained. “It isn’t a huge house, it’s more what a middle class or upper middle class family would have lived in. What is unique about this house is that it is, for the most part, in an untouched state. Most houses have had water and electric installed, and while the house has electricity, this place is very unique in that it hasn’t been what I call modernized.”

Barrett also agreed the side entrance was significant.

“This small house, located in a rural setting, has a side-passage plan with rooms arranged back-to-back, with a passage or hall and stair along the south wall,” she said. “Glebe is an unusual example of this plan due to its location, size, and overall form.”

What will happen to the property is uncertain. The current owner is elderly and experiencing health issues. Many times such structures are razed for new modern homes by those unaware of its history or significance.

“The best way to save and protect historic buildings such as this one is for the community to understand the structure's significance and its history,” Barrett stated. “Identification and documentation is the first step in the preservation planning process. Inclusion in the Maryland Inventory or listing in the National Register, does not automatically place restrictions on private property owners. However, there may be restrictions at the local level. Additionally, if a project involving the house includes state or federal funds or permitting, inclusion in the inventory may trigger a review by our office if the inventory record contains a determination that the property is eligible for listing on the National Register.”

The structure is weatherworn, with sections worn away by time, exposing inside timbers to the weather. To King, however, the house is very important for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact it has survived for well over a century and a half.

“It looked to me like it was just sitting on posts in the ground,” she said. “It’s remarkable that it survived.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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