Every day we Annapolitans walk, drive by, work and play on hundreds of years of Western history. Our city is an old, old city and one that has played an important role in the life of our nation even before it was conceived. But how many of us know more about our rich heritage other than a few well-worn anecdotes? This Place Through Time is The Sound’s new weekly feature that tells the story of our ancient city through the words and pictures of Annapolis’ own historians, one chapter at a time.
Anyone who is literate can read a book or other printed material. Those with special skills can read music, track a trail along the ground, navigate with the use of a chart, or predict the weather from signs in the sky or on the water. But you can also read clues to the history of a house in its brickwork, chimneys, doors, and other architectural features.
Try this by standing on the corner ofPrince George and Randall Streets facing the building at 140-142 Prince George Street. At first glance it might look like a Georgian house – but not at second glance. At first glance it might look like two Federal-style houses – but not at second glance. How to make sense of this unusual building?
The house is six bays wide (reading left to right: door, two windows, door, two windows) plus a porch. Ignore the porch and then eliminate the leftmost bay with the door to #142. The resulting building conforms to the plan of a Georgian house: five bays with a central door and four windows on the first floor and with the wide end chimneys running perpendicular to the front façade that are a hallmark of Annapolis houses.
In the late 1850s, owner James Iglehart, Jr. added the two-story porch on the right side of the house. Whatever useful purposes his addition served for Iglehart, it also had the effect of destroying the symmetry that is a defining characteristic of Georgian architecture. Three decades later, his daughter, Ann Waddell, made her own addition to the complicated appearance of the present building when she subdivided it into two residences. To the left side of the house she added the one-bay entrance with a stair passage that provided access to the rooms on the left side of the original Georgian house. The original front door now led into a stair passage that opened only to the rooms on the right; entrance doors to the rooms to the left were closed off. A five-bay home thus became the two three-bay dwellings plus porch that you see today.
Worthy of discussion for its unusual architectural history, the house is noteworthy also for the connections of two of its owners to the two most consequential wars to be fought on American soil. To be continued.
[For a more complete description of the alterations made by Iglehart and Waddell, plus a floor plan that explains them visually, see pp. 107-109 in Miller and Ridout, eds., Architecture in Annapolis: A Field Guide.]
About the author:
Jean Russo is a native New Yorker who has lived in Maryland for many years. She has a Ph.D. in colonial history from The Johns Hopkins University, works part time for the Maryland State Archives and Historic Annapolis Foundation, and does volunteer and freelance work for most of the historical entities in town and in the Four Rivers Heritage Area. She is co-editor of Colonial Chesapeake Society and The Diary of William Faris . . . An Annapolis Silversmith. Ms. Russo is a founding member of the Annapolis History Consortium.
The Annapolis History Consortium is an informal organization of professional and amateur historians who meet about ten times a year to discuss issues, places, and events pertaining to area history. The more than one hundred members of the Consortium’s online group discuss issues and answer questions online.