Photo credit: C. Engstrom , 08/1977

Property Name: Thornton
Date Listed: 12/23/2005
Inventory No.: K-195
Location: Perkins Hill Road, Morgnec, Kent County

Description: Thornton comprises a 352-acre family farm that is seated along Morgan's Creek, a tributary of the Chester River. The 2 1/2-story 5-bay house, constructed c. 1788, is principally Georgian in style. The brickwork is Flemish bond on the north facade and three-course common bond on the other walls. The house stands on a tall basement with a molded water table laid in English bond. The windows on the lower story are 12/12 sash while the second story windows are 12/8. It appears that the original raised panel shutters and hardware survive on the first floor. Three gable-roofed dormers, likely added later, are present on the north facade and two on the rear. Chimneys are enclosed in the gable walls and have corbeled and banded brick caps. Front and rear entrance doors have six raised and beveled panels on the outside; inside they have unusual horizontal battens which are beaded and grained and closed with late-19th century hardware. The north front entrance has a five-light transom, and architrave trim with triglyph corner blocks and paneled pilasters. There are full-length louvered shutters. The jambs have flush beaded panels. A 1 1/2-story kitchen wing is attached to the west gable end, one room deep and four bays long. It has a catslide gable roof extending above a shallow front veranda which is as long as the wing. The long slope of the roof is towards the rear of the building. Both slopes have gable dormers. A flush chimney stands at the west gable end. Another protrudes from the center of the wing. Both have corbeled caps; the central chimney is extremely tall and slender. A belt course on the main block of the building has been chiseled off. Window openings on both front and rear have splayed jack arches; those in the attic have rowlock arches. The wing has three-course common bond on all facades. The house has the typical Georgian floor plan, comprised of a central stair hall with rooms on either side. The house appears to retain all of its original interior woodwork and plaster. For example, the fireplace mantel in the principal room has a classically oriented pedimented form with a crossetted corner overmantel and a scrolled mantel shelf support. Interior doors have six raised panels with apparently intact hinges. The 2 1/2-story stair hall retains much of its original decorative graining and the tread brackets have delicately executed floral motif. The architectural detail of the second floor is less extensive. The house contains seven fireplaces. Extensive renovations in the 1980s included the removal of 19th century elements such as second-story shutters and hardware and remnants of a front porch, although a reproduction porch entablature was added that followed the ghost of the original pediment, and the surviving pilasters were retained. Outbuildings include an early-20th century dairy barn, a late-19th century animal barn, a second-half 19th century granary, a smokehouse, and two sheds.

Significance: Thornton is significant for the architecture of its principal dwelling, a late Georgian style farm house built during the late 18th century, which retains a high degree of integrity. The design, form, materials, and workmanship are characteristic of a type of prosperous farmer's dwelling of the period in the region. The house's interior finishes are finely executed and exceptionally well preserved. Thornton retains an unusual amount of original trim and detailing on the exterior, but the interior is a treasure of early woodwork and decoration. Virtually all major features remain in place and most are decorated with painted graining. This decoration is extremely valuable and rare; having passed from favor in the 20th century, much of it was painted over and damaged. It has survived at Thornton, however, and in almost perfect condition. The property derives additional historical significance for its association with the agricultural development of Maryland's upper Eastern Shore region. The farm is particularly noteworthy in that it has been owned and operated by the same family for nearly 300 years. The farm has been under cultivation by Thomas and John Brooks and their descendants since 1712. During the 18th and 19th centuries the farm was cultivated by successive generations of the Brooks family. Agricultural census records show that the farm exhibited typical characteristics for a medium-to-large-sized operation during the 19th century. For much of the 20th century the farm was occupied by tenants, yet management decisions remained with the family. In the post-World War II period, the farm was a diversified small dairy operation run by tenants. Dairying had ceased by 1980, when the family returned to living on the property and overseeing day-to-day management of its operations. This record of continuous occupation is highly unusual in the present day, and justifies the inclusion of the entire 352-acre parcel within the boundaries of the nominated property. The property is also eligible for its potential to contribute to our understanding of the region's history. Subsurface deposits around the house itself remain intact, and evidence of a late-19th century tenant occupation exists elsewhere on the property. These two archeological sites present the potential to yield information regarding the relationship between tenants and landowners in the latter half of the 19th century. Comparison of assemblages from each site would illustrate the differences and similarities in the material culture between these two economic conditions. Further excavations at the tenant farmer site would also yield information on the nature of this reported dwelling, about which there is little written evidence.




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