Susan G. Pearl
Harry Smith House
4707, Oliver Street, Riverdale, Prince Georges County
The Harry Smith House is a Queen Anne-style frame dwelling which stands on one of the original streets platted in the 1889 subdivision of Riverdale Park. Representative of the transition in domestic architecture between the Queen Anne style of the 1880s and the popular plan of the turn of the 20th century, it is a noticeable landmark in the community, and an excellent example of the earliest dwellings built in this railroad suburb. The house is 2 1/2 stories high, with a hip roof, and entrance centered in the principal north facade. It is nearly square in plan, roughly three bays by three, with a shallow kitchen wing which extends to the rear. The lines of the hip roof are varied by large flush gable dormers centered in its north and east planes. Set into the northwest corner of the house is a large three-story tower which is surmounted by a domed roof. There is much surface variety in the siding of the Smith House: plain horizontal board on the first story, above which are alternating courses of novelty shingles. Windows are double-hung sash and varied: generally 12, 9, 8, or 6 lights over 2 large lights in the lower sash. The interior plan of the house consists of a central passage flanked by two unequal parlors, a three-run stair at the rear of the passage, and a side hall which leads to the rear kitchen wing. The open-string stair has a square paneled newel, set diagonally, which has incised and molded decoration and is surmounted by an urn-shaped cap. Intermediate newels are square and chamfered, and the balusters are turned. The staircase rises, with all detail continuous, to the third story. Trim throughout the house consists of multi-band moldings with central convex band and bullseye corner blocks. Original interior shutters survive in the first-story parlors. The Smith House stands on the central of three adjoining lots which front on Oliver, originally Washington, Street in the original subdivision of Riverdale Park. There are no outbuildings. On each side of this three-lot complex stands a frame dwelling from the early period of development of the Riverdale Park suburb.
The Harry Smith house, built in 1890, is significant for its historic association with the development of the community and for the architectural character of the house. The Smith House was one of the first houses built in the newly developed Riverdale Park, now just known as Riverdale. The community was platted in 1889 with house construction beginning in 1890. As was typical of the time, the developer has the first houses built to stimulate sales. These first houses, including the Smith House, were generally of pattern book designs and were used as sales models. The Smith House is one of the most, if not the most, elaborate of these models built in Riverdale Park. The design source of the Smith House, however, is unknown. It was lived in by a middle class, government worker family, the Smiths, from the time when the developer sold it until the middle of the 20th century.