Riverside Way, Belcamp, Harford County
This large center-hall brick house has a severely plain exterior, in vivid contrast to the elegant finished rooms inside and the spectacular staircase in the hall. Flemish bond brickwork rises two stories high from a lighted stone basement. Oblong, 64’ by 45’, 7 bays by 2 (with 6 by 2 upstairs), the house faces south. A low stone wing running east, formerly a separate coach-house now connected to the house, serves as a garden workroom for the present owner. The gable roof ridgeline runs east-west over a plain cornice and trim eaves. About six feet in from either end wall are two chimneys rising from back-to-back fireplaces on both floors. Unshuttered windows have 6 lights over 6. Indoors there are large rooms on either side of the hall. The wainscoted hall, 16’ by 45’, is amply lighted by windows on either side of the front and back doors and by light descending through the wide stairwell from two windows in each end of the hall above. The most extraordinary feature of Sophia’s Dairy is the double stair which extends upward on the west wall from both ends of the hall. It continues east in one short flight, then separates and parallels the lower flight to the second story hall. The step ends have handsome scrolled fretwork, and the balusters are turned. At the base of the stair the handrail terminates in a volute, as does the lower step. Raised panel dado extends around the room and up the stairs, as well as on the stair soffit.
This fine Georgian center-hall house was built in 1768 by the third generation of the Hall family to own this land, Sophia White Hall and her husband Aquilla Hall. Quoting from family papers, Walter Preston wrote in "History of Harford County" that the house was built using "the hands of five redemptionists, two of whom were masons, two carpenters, and one a laborer, who worked with imported bricks and who, when their work was finished, received freedom as their reward." Aquilla Hall was sheriff of Baltimore County in 1762, and a member of the house of Delegates in 1763. In 1773 he was one of five Commissioners of the newly formed Harford County. He owned the house at Bush in which the first court of the County was held. His name appears first among the 22 signers of the Bush Declaration, believed to be the first Declaration of Independence in the country, signed 22 March 1775, 14 months prior to the signing of the world-famous document prepared by Jefferson in Philadelphia. He was appointed Colonel of the militia by the State Convention of 1776. He was a Lord Justice of the Court at Bush in 1779, the last year of his life.