J. Richard Rivoire
Teagues Point Road, Benedict, Charles County
Maxwell Hall is a 1 1/2-story, gambrel-roofed frame house that it distinguished from other similar houses in the Southern Maryland region by its massive external chimneys. Although the exterior weatherboarding and most of the cornice and trim was replaced about 1925, the house remains today much the same in appearance as it did when built. The principal facade faces east and is five bays in length. The central entrance door is flanked by 9/9 sash windows. On the lower slope of the roof are three pedimented dormer windows of 6/6 sash. All of the windows and doors, including the dormers, occupy original locations and retain their original dimensions, although most of the trim and sash (particularly on the dormers) has been replaced. The west facade is three bays in length with a transomed center door; above are two dormer windows of the same design as those of the east facade. At both the front and rear elevations are small, crudely built, shed-roofed porches; beneath the roof of the west porch is preserved a small section of the original modillioned eave cornice of the house. At each end of Maxwell Hall stand massive single chimneys, both similar in plan but with several differences. Maxwell Hall was built on irregularly coursed fieldstone foundation walls that enclose a full cellar. At both the front and rear facades are small wood barred cellar windows. At the exposed south end of the cellar is the only exterior entrance to the cellar: a batten door with a large wrought hasp. The floor plan of Maxwell Hall is one typical of the region during this period. The first floor plan consists of four rooms and a short rear stair hall. The interiors of all of these rooms were renovated about 1835 and all of the existing door and window trim, doors, and mantels, are in the Greek Revival style. When these renovations were made several of the closets that were built into the chimneys were covered over and formerly expansive fireplace openings were altered in size. The present stair, rising along the south wall of the hall, is also a later introduction and may be contemporary in date to the other alterations. At the second floor level is a central hall with two doors on each side wall that open into four small bed chambers. All of the wall plaster and trim was replaced in the early 20th century. One unique feature recorded at Maxwell Hall was the evidence of an original use of riven clapboards to sheath an interior partition wall. These clapboards, perfectly preserved under later layers of sawn lath and plaster, extend across the whole of the south wall of the hall. In the cellar are two large rooms divided by a fieldstone partition wall. Two massive summer beams support three sets of common joists. At each end of the house, positioned in from the end walls, are large tie beams into which the summer beams are secured.
Despite the alterations to the structure itself, Maxwell Hall deserves recognition as being one of the best surviving examples of its type of architecture in the lower Southern Maryland region. The continued survival of this house would provide a valuable source for the study of mid-18th century vernacular architecture in this region. In Charles and St. Mary's Counties there are five surviving examples of houses similar to Maxwell Hall. All have the same four room and short rear hall plan, all have gambrel roofs, and all have at least one single massive chimney of the same type as seen here. Features that separate this structure from the others include the massive support system of combined summer and tie beams, the unusual tiling of the chimney weatherings, the miniature bricks used in the construction of the south chimney base, and the great number of fireplaces and chimney closets that were built into each chimney. Of interest on the interior are the unusually large original fireplace openings and, of course, the wall sheathing of riven clapboards.