Market Master's House
4006, 48th Street, Bladensburg, Prince Georges County
The Market Master's House is an 18th century vernacular stone dwelling with 20th century additions, set at the rear of a long, narrow lot. It was constructed in the Village of Bladensburg c. 1765, when the village was an active tobacco shipping port. The original block is a two-by-one bay, gable-roofed, 25 x 20 foot structure, 1 1/2 stories in height, of randomly laid roughly shaped stone. It contains one room on the first story, a corner stair, and one room on the second story, lighted by a gable-roofed 6/6 sash dormer window on the north and south roof slopes. A small two-story west kitchen addition and one-story south shed-roofed addition were added c. 1920. The additions and later renovations in 1956 were sensitively done, retaining 18th century material and the scale and character of the earlier part of the dwelling. The house faces south, with a three-bay facade consisting of a central door flanked by 6/6 sash windows. The western window is now covered by the shed-roofed addition. The east facade consists of a casement window in the center of the first floor, and a 6/6 sash window in the gable above. The north facade contains two openings, grouped in the center of the wall. The easternmost is a wide glazed door, and the western opening is a 6/6 sash window. Above this window is a 6/6 sash gable-roofed dormer. A similar dormer appears above the central entrance on the south facade. The west facade is mostly covered by the early-20th century addition, which is two bays wide, with a wide shed-roofed dormer. An interior chimney rises through the west gable end of the wood shingled roof of the main block. The large deep fireplace in the first floor was covered by a mantel of random fieldstone laid with concrete mortar, during the 1920 renovation of the house. The original hearth opening with a round arch of brick headers is visible behind this mantel. The interior walls are plastered, and the ceiling has exposed rough-hewn beams with plaster between them. The window in the north wall, which was altered from a door, is set above a wainscot panel. The flooring varies in width from seven to nine inches. The flooring and plaster date to c. 1920. The hewn beams are original material. A separate room on the east side of this floor contains a built-in cupboard in the southeast corner and a closet with a door of vertical beaded boards and HL hinges in the northeast corner, beneath the stairway. The wood moldings, doors, and hinges all date to the c. 1920s or the c. 1956 renovation. It is not known if this small east alcove is an original room division.
The Market Master's House is significant for its association with the 18th century development of the town of Bladensburg. Bladensburg was established in 1742 as a regional commercial center by an Act of the Maryland General Assembly. With the establishment in 1747 of a government tobacco inspection system, Bladensburg became a designated tobacco inspection and grading port. Lot 38 of Bladensburg was purchased by Christopher Lowndes on September 23, 1760, and he built this structure by 1765. Lowndes was a businessman who built nearby Bostwick in 1746, and served as a Justice for the County from 1753-1775, and under the new State government, until his death in 1785. He also served as a Town Commissioner from 1745-85. By 1776, although still a village, Bladensburg was one of the busiest ports in Maryland, exporting more tobacco than any other port on the western shore. Tobacco was an important part of Maryland's economy in the 18th century. The use of the Market Master's House as a headquarters for tobacco inspectors or an overseer of tobacco marketing activity has not been proven, and no description of an approved Market Master has been found for the town of Bladensburg. However, the Market Master's House is one of only four buildings remaining from this significant period of the town's history. Of the four 18th century buildings, the Market Master's House is the only one which illustrates the minimum type of structure required by ordnance in order for a property owner to retain ownership of a lot in the newly formed town.