Susan G. Pearl
522, Church Road South, Upper Marlboro, Prince Georges County
Bowieville is an elegant two-part plantation house of the late Federal style, built of brick and covered with stucco. The main block is 2 1/2 stories, five bays by two; its hip roof is surmounted by cresting at the ridge. Entrance is in the central bay of the five-bay principal south facade through a double door with formal classical enframement in a shallow projecting pavilion. The door is framed by two sets of engaged Doric columns, and surmounted by a semi-elliptical leaded fanlight with deep paneled soffit and full entablature. Windows in the main block are generally 6/6 sash, with louvered shutters. The second-story window above the formal entrance, however, re-emphasizes the formality of this approach with a tripartite window consisting of 6/6 sash flanked by another pair of engaged Doric columns and narrow 2/2 sash sidelights, all surmounted by a narrow three-course architrave with bold moldings. The projecting pavilion is gabled at the third level; its boxed molded cornice is returned, and the returns rest on the molded capitals of "ghost" pilasters, giving the impression that the entire pavilion projects forward on pilasters. Within the returned cornice of the third-story gable is a tripartite semi-elliptical window; louvered spandrels flank a six-light single-sash window. Between the second- and third-story windows, a tripartite molded panel with a central elliptical panel re-emphasizes the decorative motifs, as indeed these motifs are continued throughout the exterior and interior of this remarkable building. The west elevation is three bays wide, repeating all of the general features of the main facade, but with no decorative motifs. The north, or garden facade is four bays wide, and is dominated by a one-story, facade-width semi-elliptical porch built c. 1930 to replace a rectangular porch, which probably sheltered only the two central bays. The openings in these two first-floor bays consist of 6/6 sash windows over molded panel jib doors. The east elevation of the main block is essentially enclosed by a two-story kitchen wing, also of brick covered with stucco, and also with 6/6 sash windows and louvered shutters. The hip roof of the main block is covered with 1912 tin shingles later patched with asphalt shingles. The central flat crest of the roof is bounded by a plain wood railing, accessible by a ladder from the central room of the third-story attic. There is a gable-roofed 6/6 sash dormer window with a semi-elliptical lintel in each of the north, east, and west planes of the roof. There are four tall stucco-covered brick interior chimneys, two each on the east and west planes of the roof. The southeast chimney is false, created solely for the purposes of symmetry. The floor plan of Bowieville is formal, embellished with outstanding decorative detail. The trim incorporates much classical detail, marking a stylistic transition from the Federal to the Greek Revival style. The door and window surrounds replicate fluted Doric columns and the bullseye corner blocks echo the same fluted profile; plaster medallions in the formal foyer and parlors are composed of acanthus leaves and papyrus stalks. The two formal parlors show some of the same detail as the foyer, including the elegant interior fanlight in the dividing wall, and are further embellished by two fine marble mantels with classical fluted frieze and Tuscan colonnettes. Jib doors lead from these two north parlors out onto the semi-elliptical north porch. The delicate winding staircase is enclosed in a small space to the east side of the central foyer. The second story of the main block is composed of bed chambers only slightly less formal in detail than the public spaces on the first story. The two-story east wing houses a large kitchen space at basement level, pantry and dining room on the first story, and small additional bedchambers on the second story. The mansion stands on the highest point of land overlooking Black Branch; grounds include the remnants of terraced gardens immediately to the northeast, a large gable-on-hip-roof tobacco barn farther to the northeast, and a complex of small farm buildings to the southeast.
Bowieville is the most sophisticated house of its period in Prince George's County. The detail, transitional between the Federal and Greek Revival style, is virtually intact and unaltered, and renders this house of major architectural importance. The house was built 1819-20 by Mary Bowie on property which she inherited from her father, Robert Bowie, Governor of Maryland, 1803-06 and 1811-12. Bowieville most closely resembles Mattaponi near Nottingham, another Bowie family dwelling which Mary Bowie's brother renovated in the same style during this same period. Mattaponi has undergone significant alteration, and Bowieville is therefore a unique example in the County of this plantation house style, unrivalled in its elegant detail. Mary Bowie died only a few years after the Bowieville house was completed; the property was sold in 1846 to William J. Berry, one of the County's wealthiest planters.