Natalie W. Shivers
Finney Houses Historic District
Glenville Road, Churchville, Harford County
The Finney Houses Historic District stretches along both sides of Glenville Road just north of the unincorporated village of Churchville in central Harford County, Maryland. The district takes in four houses and their outbuildings erected by members of the locally important Finney family between 1821 and 1906. To include all the widely-spaced buildings, the district perforce comprises roughly 200 acres. The land is flat and open, given to fields and pasture, with sweeping vistas available from each of the four houses to the road. The four main structures represent a small history of Harford County architecture and reflect the evolution of taste over three generations of a prosperous, educated, professional family. The earliest house is the elegant Federal stone Oak Farm (1821), then followed Greenwood (1841) and the Finney-Marks House (1865), both rather simple frame cross-gable houses, and finally the frame Little Greenwood (1906), designed by the prestigious Baltimore architectural firm of Parker and Thomas and probably Harford County's best example of what has come to be called "the comfortable house." Each of the houses, moreover, is set off by attractive landscaping, generally original in the case of Little Greenwood, and is accompanied by one or more domestic outbuildings, all of which combine to give a cogent sense of place and time and family.
The four houses that comprise the Finney Houses Historic District derive their significance from their architectural character. The houses, which date from 1821 to 1906, are of note for their own excellence of design and craftsmanship: for example Oak Farm (1821) clearly stands as one of Harford County's best Federal era structures, with perhaps its only equal being its near twin in time and form, Woodside (1823), just as Little Greenwood (1906) is a worthy example of the work of the prominent Baltimore architectural firm of Parker and Thomas. As a group the houses offer a course in the county's architectural history and evolution of taste from the Federal Oak Farm to the "country vernacular" Greenwood (1841) and the Finney-Marks House (1868) to the sought-for sophistication of Little Greenwood. This sequence parallels the history of building throughout the county. Up until the late 19th century, Harford Countians, basically a rural, self-contained people, relied on local artisans--carpenters, masons, and so on--and very occasionally a gentleman-amateur with a patternbook to design their buildings. Only towards the end of the century did countians begin to employ trained architects, beginning with a local man, George Archer, and eventually looking beyond the county to Baltimore, where William Finney found Parker and Thomas in an obviously deliberate move towards architectural fashionability.