Photo credit: J. Richard Rivoire , 1978

Property Name: Spye Park
Date Listed: 10/4/1990
Inventory No.: CH-304
Location: Griffith Lane, White Plains, Charles County

Description: Spye Park is a modestly scaled, 1 1/2-story, three-bay frame dwelling with one corbeled exterior chimney at each end, a dormered gabled roof, and a full-width front porch on chamfered square posts. This porch, on the south facade, is sheltered by an extension of the roof. Extending off the building's west gable end is a lower, two-part frame wing. This wing consists of a small hyphen connecting to a slightly larger structure, which in turn has a shed-roofed addition on its north side. This portion of the building has an exterior chimney on its west gable end. All first floor windows on the south and north facades, and most on the east gable end, have 6/6 sash. The two gable-roofed dormer windows hold narrow 4/4 sash. The exterior chimneys stand slightly to the south of the peak of the roof and are flanked by windows in the attic gable. The entrance on the south facade, topped by a transom, is slightly west of center. The central entrance on the north side has two windows to the east and one to the west. Spye Park's present plan and appearance is the result of a series of 19th and early-20th century alterations to an 18th century structure. In its original form the house was a rectangular, one-room-deep building with end chimneys. Of a locally traditional hall-parlor plan, with two small attic chambers off a central stair passage, the building's interior featured a corner stair immediately to the left of the front door, brick nogged walls, exposed ceiling joists, and partially exposed wall framing. In the early 19th century the house was enlarged by adding several rooms across the rear elevation and rebuilding the roof to cover both the enlarged house and the front porch. Subsequent changes included the relocation of the stair to a central rear passage, a relocation of the partition that separated the two original first-floor rooms, centering the door of the front elevation, and the addition of dormer windows to both sides of the roof. The existing west wing was built early in the 20th century on the site of a detached kitchen dependency. A short distance west of the house stands a timber-framed tobacco barn with braced roof trusses seated on tilted false plates. Believed to date from the late 18th or early 19th century, the barn was later extended at the east end and a shed addition made to one side. Other outbuildings on the property include a former animal barn, a cornhouse, a poultry house/machine shed, and a wellhouse, all of which were built in the 20th century.

Significance: The earliest part of Spye Park is a rare surviving example in Charles County of a modestly scaled and finished hall-parlor dwelling dating from the 18th century. While such buildings represented a traditional form of housing in this locality from the 17th century to the early 19th century, remarkably few examples built before 1800 exist. Of those few that do, Spye Park is of particular interest for its small scale and formerly exposed interior framing. It is also the only known 18th century house surviving in Charles County that received a valuation of less than $100 in the 1798 Federal tax assessments. The 18th century section is believed to date after 1767. The house was altered about 1814 with changes that are of significance in their own right, largely due to the carpentry used in fashioning its new roof and the fact that the roof projects forward to cover the full-width front porch. The combined plan and appearance of the house following the c. 1814 alteration is wholly unique in a local context. Some additional changes were made to the house in the latter part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, but these do not diminish the building's historic architectural integrity since significant physical evidence remains of the plan and carpentry of the house prior to these later alterations. Also of considerable architectural significance is the c. 1800 tobacco barn, an exceptionally rare surviving early barn for southern Maryland having both tilted false plates and braced rafter trusses.




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