J. Richard Rivoire
Chapmans Landing Road, Bryans Road, Charles County
Mount Aventine is a farm complex located along the Potomac River in western Charles County, Maryland. The complex consists primarily of domestic and agricultural resources. Prominent among the resources is the main house, a second-quarter 19th century Greek Revival-influenced brick house enlarged about 1860 to its present five-bay, center-passage, 2 1/2-story appearance. On the south elevation, the central entrance, with transom and sidelights, is sheltered by a one-bay pedimented porch. Windows of 6/6 sash have louvered shutters. On the roof are three asymmetrically placed gable-roofed dormers with 6/6 sash windows. The north facade, facing the river, is similarly fenestrated, but with a shed-roofed porch across the first floor. The western three bays of the house are likely the original portion, as suggested by its ground floor plan, the arrangement of windows and doors, and the bridging of two flush gable chimneys at the west end. At the east gable end of the building, a second pair of chimneys are built partially protruding from the end of the house, a features represented in other area houses dating from the early 19th century. The oldest part of Mt. Aventine is believed to be the 1 1/2-story west wing. Entirely of stone construction, the wing is two bays wide on the north side and has a partially exposed stone chimney with brick stack at the west end. On both sides of the gable roof is a single gable-roofed dormer with 6/6 sash window. On the south side of the wing is a shed-roofed brick addition. At the opposite end of the main block stands a one-story, two-bay brick garage that was added to the house in the mid 20th century. Also on the property are a 19th century frame smokehouse, the site of another 19th century house complex, late-19th /early-20th century agricultural outbuildings, a c. 1900 house and dairy barn complex, historic roadbeds, a family cemetery, and sites of a 19th century fishery and an 18th century house.
The existing Mount Aventine house is one of Charles County's most important examples of local antebellum architecture, notable for the manner it evolved to its present two-story, five-bay, central passage plan c. 1860, from a side-passage, double-parlor dwelling constructed about 1840. The building's overall historic architectural integrity and its locally unique stone wing considerably enhance its architectural significance. So, too, does this building's obviously intentionally planned siting to provide a broad unobstructed vista of the Potomac River, Chapman's Landing, and the Chapman's Point fishery. It was this building's physical prominence from the river that undoubtedly led to the use of its former cupola as a signal station by the Federal government during the Civil War. Mt. Aventine was one of a number of strategically located signal stations along both shores of the lower Potomac that included Mt. Vernon and Hallowing Point. Mt. Aventine also derives significance from its association with the Chapman family, who were very active in Charles County political and agricultural history. The Chapmas, owners of the Mt. Aventine tract from 1751 until 1916, maintained extensive landholdings and investments throughout Northern Virginia, including scattered plantations and mills on the Occoquan, town lots and houses in the port city of Alexandria, investment shares in the Ohio Company, ironworks in both Maryland and Virginia, and other profitable enterprises. Their use of their Charles County estate was similarly diverse. Mt. Aventine was not only a valued family-occupied plantation cultivated by a large labor force of slaves, but was also the location of a ferry operation established in the latter part of the 18th century and a commercial fishery in the 19th century. The Chapmans' ferry, which operated from at least the early 1780s through the mid 19th century, was one of several important crossings of the Potomac River connecting Northern Virginia to Maryland. By the 1840s, the ferry had been expanded to include a wharf servicing steamboats traveling between Washington, Alexandria, Annapolis, and Baltimore. The Chapman's Point fishery was one of several similar enterprises that existed along the county's northwest and west shoreline beginning as early as the 1740s. The Chapmans' fishery was one of the largest and most economically viable of these fisheries.