Charity V. Davidson
Barstow Road, Barstow, Calvert County
Cedar Hill is one of the few remaining cruciform dwelling houses existing in Maryland. It is built of brick and stands 1 1/2 stories tall, except the porch tower, which is two full stories. All the walls are laid in Flemish bond above a single-step watertable. The chimney stacks are laid in English bond above the "shoulders" of the fireplaces. With the exception of the northwest door and window of the porch tower, there are segmental arches above the windows. The former have flat brick arches of a different color, reminiscent of rubbed brick. The basement arches have segmental undersides and flat uppersides. Windows on the first story of the front facade and tower are 9/6 sash, and those elsewhere are 6/6. The southeast part of the cross consists of a large, full-size, 1 1/2-story section. On the gable end of this section, the chimney stack is flanked by small 4/2 sash windows in the gable. Gable-roofed dormers with 6/6 sash windows appear on either side of the tower on the northwest roof slope, on the west side of the house on the southeast roof slope, and on the northeast roof slope of the rear wing. The opposite side consists of a small cubicle or porch. The chimneys on the gables of the main axis are on the outside of the wall, while the chimney on the southeast is fully within the gable, allowing a stair to be constructed in the northeast corner. Beneath the main axis and tower is a full cellar. The huge fireplace in the southwest part of the cellar definitely suggests the room was used as a kitchen, but this contradicts evidence found in 18th century inventories, which locates the kitchen on the first floor of the house. The southwest cellar room is separated from another room, corresponding to the stair hall above, by two large semicircular brick arches. A stair to the first floor hall rises below the main stair to the second floor. Cedar Hill was constructed with summer beams in the basement ceiling. On the main floor, the porch has an exterior door, two large windows, and an arched opening to the stair hall. Beneath the windows are seats supported on scrolled uprights extending the length of the wall. Since the window and door trim matches that in most of the house, the tall arched opening between the porch and the stair hall seems incomplete because it lacks the keystone and imposts in the trim. The stair has a huge raised panel soffit, square newels, the first with flutes, a well-shaped handrail, and square balusters. The newels and rail are walnut; the balusters are painted.
Cedar Hill is significant as an example of a cruciform house built in the 18th century that is typical of 17th century architecture. Bond Castle in Calvert County, which burned in the 20th century, was a better-known example of the same type of architecture. The exterior and the floor plan of Cedar Hill correspond to documents describing the house of John Bigger, which was built before 1714. However, the interior details, the support system in the basement, and the roof construction indicate a date in the second quarter of the 18th century. The name Cedar Hill dates from the 19th century. The house and its surrounding lands were originally called Bigger, after its first owner, John Bigger. From the late 18th through the late 19th centuries, the property was owned by the prominent Gantt family.