Photo credit: Katherine Grandine , 08/2002

Property Name: Comus Inn
Date Listed: 11/8/2003
Inventory No.: M: 12-8-1
Location: 23900, Old Hundred Road (MD 109), Dickerson, Montgomery County

Description: The Johnson-Wolfe Farm, commonly known as the Comus Inn, encompasses a four-building complex including a c. 1862 vernacular dwelling, smokehouse, and barn, and a c. 1936 poultry house. The Comus Inn is a three-part frame house facing east onto Old Hundred Road. The 2 1/2-story main block of the house is five bays wide, with the northernmost bay set apart. The original c. 1862 log structural core was incorporated into the five-bay, single-pile building with a north kitchen wing that forms the principal block of the current house. This c. 1885 design is expressed in the current facade through its orientation, two-story scale, nearly symmetrical design, and fenestration. Windows are 2/2 sash with louvered shutters. The center bay, slightly left of the true center of the building, is surmounted by a cross gable bearing a four-light round-arched window. The first floor of this bay contains the principal entrance. The south gable end of the building is two bays wide, with a single 2/2 sash shuttered window in the west bay on both levels, and two round-arched 4-light windows in the attic gable. The shallow roof is covered with wood shingles, and the cornice returns deeply at this end. The north gable end has a single exterior chimney, which is covered on the first two floors by a two-story addition, four narrow bays wide. This addition is recessed from the main block, and contains a multi-paned bay window on the first floor and four short 4/4 sash windows on the second floor. The first floor of the east facade of both the main block and this addition is covered by a shed-roofed porch, also with wood shingles, supported by square posts. To the north of this addition is a one-story frame wing. To the rear of these additions is a glass enclosed porch or "Florida room." A 2 1/2-story hip-roofed wing extends to the rear of the main block, and features a 2-story semi-octagonal tower with 2/2 sash windows on the second floor and 6/6 on the first. This hip-on-gable wing, two bays deep, is slightly higher than the main block. The interior of the log core retains its original spatial divisions. Currently, the hewn logs structural system is exposed on the first and second stories above later chair rails. The log core contains two rooms: one lower room and one upper room. Two built-in cupboards are located in the upstairs room. The southern three bays of the house include the original c. 1885 straight stair that features a newel post, turned balusters, and a continuous curved wood handrail. The open stringer is unornamented. The second-story room of this section also has chair rails and built-in cupboards. West of the house is the log smokehouse. This small, square gable-front structure of hewn, chinked logs is one bay wide.

Significance: The town of Comus appears on the Hopkins Atlas of 1879 as Johnsonville, undoubtedly named for the Johnson family, who occupied the tract which included the present Comus Inn. In 1862 Benjamin Johnson, who appears on both the Martenet & Bond Map of 1865 and Hopkins 1879 Atlas, purchased ten acres of "Happy Choice" from Joseph and Ormer Johnson's larger tract. Robert Johnson later acquired a part of this parcel and built the Comus Inn at the crossroads. The town was later called "Nicholson's Crossroads" and "Nicholsonville" after a family who had a store and residence in the town during the late 19th century, and possibly were also the postmasters. The town was later renamed "Comus," purportedly after Senator Lewis McComas who represented the Sixth Congressional District at the time a post office was first established. The Comus Inn, with its two story, gable roof center gable facade and facade porch, though larger and perhaps more decorative than most, is typical of the architecture found in rural Montgomery County. The building also illustrates, through its additions and modifications, the pattern of evolution in domestic design common in rural western Montgomery County. The agricultural outbuildings also exhibit the distinctive characteristics of their types, periods, and methods of construction as representative of farm buildings of their eras. The Johnson-Wolfe Farm (Comus Inn) also represents a locally significant broad pattern of developmental history in the evolution of crossroads communities in the county. The property illustrates this pattern through its history as the domestic component of a modest, small-scale family farm through its evolution into a domestic rural lot that formed the nucleus of the rural crossroads community of Comus.




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