Peter E. Kurtze
954, High Street (MD 20), Chestertown, Kent County
Lauretum is a large stuccoed frame house built in 1881 for Chestertown lawyer Harrison W. Vickers. The form and massing of the house are complex, reflecting the eclecticism of the late Victorian period. It comprises a three-story gable-roofed rectangle with clipped gables whose ridge runs east-west, and three-story gambrel-roofed sections extending to the south and west. Various chimney rise from the interior of the building. A two-story service wing extends to the west, and a small one-story gambrel-roofed wing--originally an office--projects to the north. The principal facade faces east, consisting of a central entrance flanked on either side by double windows. The window openings have granite sills, and are headed with shallow segmental arches which are trimmed with applied fretwork. The sash is 20/2 lights in the pattern associated with the Queen Anne style (rows of multiple square panes in the upper sash). The double entrance doors are paneled with applied bolection molding, and are surmounted by a single-pane, segmental-arched transom; the transom bar is decorated with applied fretwork. A Stick-Style porch shelters the entrance, with a jerkinhead roof supported on four square posts; the porch is decorated with fretwork above a row of dentils. The second story of the east facade is four symmetrical bays wide, with three bays under the gable and the fourth bay in the gambrel-roofed section. The third floor has a double window under the clipped gable, and a dormer in the gambrel. The building's prominent overhanging eaves feature exposed decorative rafter ends and stickwork brackets at the corners. The south elevation of the main block is two bays wide, defined on the ground level by tall 16/4 windows with granite sills. These open onto a broad porch which spans the south end, its shed roof supported on exposed members with simple chamfered brackets and some decorative fluting. Two 20/2 sash windows mark the second floor. At the third-floor level, an elaborate oriel contains a triple window, each sash comprising 8/8 vertical lights, with panels above and below. The frame projection is clad in wainscot boards and sawtooth shingles, and is decorated with fretwork, scalloped and drilled molding, and spool molding. The porch continues across the south elevation of the west wing. On the ground floor there are two tall windows in the living room area, and a door giving onto the porch from the family dining room. Four windows with granite sills and 16/2 sash are arrayed across the second story.
Lauretum is significant for its architectural character. Designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind and constructed in 1881, Lauretum combines features of several late 19th century architectural fashions in a highly picturesque composition which represents an outstanding expression of late Victorian eclecticism. The irregular massing, multiple roof forms, clipped gables, and windows comprising numerous small (frequently colored) lights in the upper sash evoke the Queen Anne; the oriel window, exposed rafter ends, and the rectilinear posts and brackets supporting the porches and overhanging eaves relate to the Stick Style; the decorative designs of Charles Eastlake are reflected in the exterior fretwork and interior mantels and stair; and Gothic influence is seen in the towers and in the exceptional decorative treatment of the parlor ceiling. Lind, the architect, was born and trained in England, and became one of Baltimore's most influential practitioners during the period 1856-1883. He was among the founders of the American Institute of Architects, and the first president of its Baltimore chapter. Lauretum is Lind's only work on the upper Eastern Shore, and the only residence of the period in Kent County firmly attributed to an architect. The house retains a high degree of integrity, with the majority of its character-defining features intact on the exterior and interior. Especially noteworthy details include a variety of well-executed plaster ornament and the unusual striped alternating oak and mahogany flooring in the entrance hall; several of the windows retain colored lights in the multi-pane upper sash. The property derives additional significance from its association with Harrison W. Vickers (1845-1911), who was prominent in commercial, legal, and political affairs in Kent County.