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Property Name: Gobbler Hill
Date Listed: 12/23/2009
Inventory No.: K-401
Location: 10121, Fairlee Road, Chestertown, Kent County

Description: The house known as Gobbler Hill faces west, over looking the village of Melitota and the surrounding landscape. Built in 1858, the center-hall plan frame house is constructed on a foundation of local fieldstone and brick. It is five bays wide, two bays deep, and two stories tall, covered in pine weatherboards. It has a shallow hip roof that is surmounted by a tall belvedere. On the front of the house is a full-width porch, a 1988 reconstruction whose design was prepared utilizing historic photographs and archeological evidence. Behind the main block is a 1989 two-story frame service wing that creates a T plan. The cornice is enriched with large curved eave brackets and turned acorn pendants at the corners. There is a robust cyma reversa molding at the roof edge as well as a built-in gutter system. Full-height pilasters with Doric capitals are present on all four corners of the main house. Pilasters rest on copper-capped brick piers that are integrated into the foundation. The same cornice detailing, but at a smaller scale, appears on the hipped roof of the porch and belvedere. The belvedere roof is supported by eight square columns in the simple vernacular Doric style. The belvedere has no exterior walls, windows, or cresting but does have a balustrade that matches that of the front porch. The full-width five-bay front porch has six Doric columns with large cyma recta capitals and two pilasters located at each porch-main house junction. The classic entablature is represented at the column/pilaster and architrave junctions. The porch has cyma reversa molding and built-in gutters as well as eave brackets and turned acorns along the cornice. There is a sawn open-fret balustrade between columns at bays 1, 2, 4, and 5, as well as between end columns and pilasters. The main entry is a Classical-style enframement displaying two-panel double doors, a four-pane transom light with molded transom bar, and sidelight assemblies with bolection molded lower panels. The centrality of the building’s organization is reinforced by the location of a tripartite window in the central bay on the second floor, with 3/3 sash sidelights flanking a 6/6 window. Elsewhere, the windows are quite large and have 6/6 sash with slender Gothic-bead-shaped muntins. The house has interior end chimneys with short stepped brick stacks. The wing was constructed so as to be compatible with, yet differentiated from, the original construction. On the interior, Gobbler Hill has spacious rooms which retain fine mid-19th century woodwork. The mantel in the north room, first floor is a marbleized slate in a Greek Revival style. The south room also has a marbleized slate mantel, simpler in design. On the second floor, the decorative detailing is simpler and includes a wooden mantel which is wooden with curved shelf and chamfered pilasters with lamb’s tongue stops. Behind the tripartite window is a small room that has a stair to the belvedere. The major stair is large in scale. The walnut newel has a carved octagonal shaft and is similar to a newel advertised by George O. Stevens, a millwork company in Baltimore. The balusters are turned oak, also with an octagonal shaft. There are also foliated step end brackets. Four-panel doors with original hardware are found throughout the house.

Significance: The house known as Gobbler Hill, located at the crossroads of Maryland Route 298 and Route 514 in Melitota, formerly known as Willis’ Crossroads, is significant for its architecture. Constructed in 1858 for William W. Stephens, this rural building represents an excellent example of the transition in architecture from the late Greek Revival to early Italianate style. The Greek Revival is represented in the two-story, five-bay wide, two-bay deep, center-passage plan building with its symmetrical façade and shallow hipped roof. Additional Classical patterns include square Doric columns and pilasters, rich entablatures, large cyma reversa roof-edge moldings, as well as symmetrical windows with 6/6 sash. Early Italianate influences include deep soffits with large curved brackets and turned acorn pendant, rectangular belvedere with hipped roof, bracketed soffits, acorn pendants, and fret sawn balustrade and a one-story, full-width hipped-roof porch with trim reflective of that on the house. In Kent County, several examples of mid to late Italianate houses can be seen, such as Captain James Taylor’s House on Water Street in Chestertown, and Morton Hall in Sassafras. However, only Brampton near Fairlee and Gobbler Hill represent this rare transitional type. William W. Stephens, a prominent local farmer, was considered one of Kent County’s most important citizens. His wife Maggie and their four children lived on the property from the time of its construction in 1858 until the house was sold in 1890. Mr. Stephens, founder and president of the Kent County Agricultural Association, held the first County Fair on the grounds of his farm, which was originally about 300 acres. Over the years, subdivision has reduced the property associated with the house to the current 65 acres.




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