MHT File Photo
Medical Hall Historic District
Medical Hall Road, Churchville, Harford County
Medical Hall was constructed of stuccoed stone between 1825 and 1840, in a retarditaire interpretation of the Georgian-Federal period vernacular. Typically the structure is five bays long, two bays wide, and 2 1/2 stories high. The windows have shutters and 6/6 sashes. Three dormers, one at each end bay with the third in the center, project from the gable roof. A chimney is located in each gable end. The structure stands above a lighted basement. The principal (west) façade has a centrally placed door with sidelights and a rectangular transom subdivided in a radiating pattern usually associated with elliptical fanlights. Immediately south of the house is a stone springhouse which 20th century owners have converted into a pumphouse. East of the house is a stone cottage believed to be a 19th century tenant house. The three-bay structure is 2 stories high. The first floor windows have 6/6 sashes. All windows and doors have rectangular lintels of stone or brick. The gable roof has deep eaves and a central chimney, a modern replacement of a central stove flue. South of the house stand a smokehouse, a springhouse, and a dwelling. The substantial character of their fabric and the 18th century style appearance lend currency to the belief that these structures consisted of the nucleus of the original farm complex. The springhouse was constructed of stone and sits low to the ground under its gable roof. The smokehouse is similarly a stone building but is a full story and a half. A square window is located in the gable end with a door on the adjoining side. The dwelling is an interesting three-part, L-shaped vernacular structure. The base of the L is a 2-story stone structure two bays wide and two bays long. The windows have 6/6 sashes and flat arched lintels. A 1 1/2-story stone structure adjoins one gable end at a right angle forming the L. This section has a more steeply pitched roof than its neighbor and a much larger chimney stack emerging from the gable end. A shed-roof porch begins at the center of the 1 1/2-story stone section and extends across the third frame section. It shares the same roof as well as the shed porch with the 1 1/2 story stone section. In addition to the 19th and possibly late 18th century structures, Medical Hall contains three important archeological sites. Of primary importance is the site of Dr. John Archer’s office and medical school. An 1860 landscape painting of the house has substantiated the assertion that ruins south of Medical Hall are the office. The dimensions of the ruins match those given in an 1814 Federal tax assessment. To the north of the house on a rise of ground is the probable site of Dr. Archer’s first house, which he abandoned in 1777 because of recurring nightmares. Immediately adjacent to the present Medical Hall is the site of Archer’s second house.
The importance of the Medical Hall complex centers around its historical association with John Archer (1741-1810), the first man to receive a degree in medicine in America. Archer was first in the first class to receive degrees in medicine from the Philadelphia College, the earliest chartered medical school. Prior to that time he had been one of an estimated 3500 practitioners without a degree. Archer treated countless patients from his office, taught medicine to 50 students, and initiated innoculation for whooping cough. He devoted much of his time to the needs of the poor. Archer founded the Harford County Medical Society and was a charter member of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland. Archer’s public service extended to direct participation in the American Revolution. One of Archer’s six sons, Stevenson Archer, was appointed by James Madison to be judge of the Mississippi Territory in 1817. He returned to Maryland and continued his political career as a Congressman, judge of the circuit court, and Chief Justice of Maryland (1844-1848).