Paula S. Reed
Joseph C. Hays House
103, 105, West Main Street (MD 34), Sharpsburg, Washington County
The Joseph C. Hays House sits on the west half of Lot No. 48 in the northwest corner of the Sharpsburg town square. The Federal-style brick facade with its adjoining copper commercial bank front anchors the square and compliments the similarly Federal-styled Grove House on the square's southwest corner lot, directly opposite. Facing south, the Hays House was initially constructed c. 1823 as a stand-alone three-bay side hall and double parlor house, which was doubled in size with the brick addition on the east wall. Constructed shortly after completion of the initial three-bay house, the addition provided a two-bay east parlor for the house and a one-bay office/commercial space. Expansion of the commercial space to include the east parlor probably occurred during the mid 19th century with the occupation of Sharpsburg dry goods merchant Benjamin F. Cronise. In c. 1920, the storefront was converted to a bank space and the copper front applied. The second story is six bays across with a space between the fifth and sixth windows, indicating the original delineation between the house and office/commercial space. The brick is laid in Flemish bond at the front elevation. The front entrance is located in the third (east) bay of the original house section. It is an arched opening with double three-panel doors and an elliptical fanlight. The large 6/6 sash windows have splayed jack arches with louvered shutters on the front facade. The copper bank front has a central pedimented cornice over a cantilevered flat hood held with chains and embellished with diamond-shaped opaque glass drops. "BANK" is embossed within the central pediment. Plate glass windows, with two rows of textured multipane glass above, are on either side of the central half-glass door. A modern brick facade supports the copper front. A modern concrete slab is laid on the walk in front of the main house three bays, which formerly supported a Colonial Revival porch, added c. 1900 and removed in 2004. The slab covers a coal chute that leads into a cellar coal bin beneath the house. The west elevation of the house abuts the adjoining stone house on the east half of Lot 47. The east elevation of the building stands approximately 2-3 feet from the adjoining building to the east, which is located on the east half of Lot 48. The gap narrows considerably on the northern end of the east elevation, which is part of two north additions to the bank. Only a single opening in the east gable peak (attic level) is currently visible. The north elevation is comprised of two opposing rear wings. The wing on the north side of the east half is a modern brick addition to the bank building with a "drive-through" teller window. The wing on the north side of the west half is comprised of a late-19th century two-story brick kitchen/service addition with a recessed double porch which runs the length of the east elevation of the wing and turns to run along the north elevation of the main house block, of which only one bay remains visible between the two wings. There is evidence on the interior second story above the bank that the porch once continued across the entire north elevation of the building. Brick chimneys rise in the west gable end and the east wall between the original house section and the house/office addition. Both the east and west rear wings have a brick chimney. The foundation is local limestone. The house is laid out in a side hall-passage and double parlor plan. The three-panel front doors are surrounded by a double-fielded architrave with Grecian ogee backband. The stairs rise along the east wall with an oval handrail set on plain rectangular balusters with delicately turned newel posts. The risers are decorated along the side with a scroll-cut trim. The surfaces of the doors facing into the hallway are grain-painted to resemble mahogany. Interior woodwork, much hardware, structural elements, and refinements all reflect the period of construction of the respective components of the house. Only the late-20th century banking room has lost its historic character, but the Classical Revival facade remains fully intact.
The Joseph C. Hays House is locally significant for its architecture as an example of an early 19th century town residence combining domestic and commercial spaces. The brick house is important as an intact and well preserved example of a late Federal period building with features indicating the emerging popularity of the Greek Revival style in the 1820s. The area in and around Sharpsburg experienced a local building boom in the 10 years between 1815 and 1825, when many of the wealthier families in the area constructed brick houses of nearly identical style and size, distinguished by elliptical fanlighted entrances. While most of the other buildings were more rural, stand-alone mansion houses in character, the Joseph C. Hays House represents the town version of this expression. The full double service porch across the back (now enclosed within a later addition), rather than the local tradition along the side wall of the service wing, reflects the owner's adaptation to the town lot and his need for a commercial space (doctor's office). The early-20th century copper bank front, although an alteration to the original Federal symmetry of the house, is unusually intact and is illustrative of the commercial-front style of the first decades of the 20th century. The period of significance, c. 1823-c. 1920, spans the period between the initial construction of the house through the conversion of the commercial side to a bank, by which time the property had attained its characteristic features.