MHT File Photo
Burch Road, Avenue, Saint Marys County
River View is a 1 1/2 story, Flemish bond brick house that is one of the best preserved examples of its type in Lower Southern Maryland. The river facade faces south onto Canoe Neck Creek and is five bays in width. The centered entrance frames a paneled door with overlight. Flanking the door, two on each side, are four evenly spaced sash windows. The rear elevation has a similarly located door but only one window to each side. The window heads on both elevations are decorated with double-ogee based arches of rubbed, gauged brick. One of the most striking architectural features of River View is the manner in which the ends of the brick gables rise above the roof line to form low, corbeled parapets, a detail that gives the ends of the house a decidedly Jacobean appearance. There are no other known examples of similar parapets on buildings of this date in Southern Maryland. At each end of the roof is a single chimney with corbeled cap. On both the front and rear roof slopes are three pedimented dormers of 6/6 sash each. The roof is wood shingled. Across the south facade is a screened, full-length, c. 1930-40 porch. A smaller, pedimented porch is located over the rear entrance. The full cellar beneath the house is lighted by small, flat arched, wood barred windows aligned with the windows of the front and rear facades. The exterior cellar entrance is toward the south corner of the west end and is a smaller flat headed version of a once larger and arched entry. The first-floor room configuration now consists of a center hall flanked by two rooms on each side. This is, however, an alteration of the original and more regionally characteristic 18th century plan of four rooms with a short rear stair hall. Throughout the house, the moldings, mantels, and doors have profiles consistent with the first half of the 19th century. It seems apparent that at about this time (c. 1790-1840) the whole of the house was renovated. The only seemingly original woodwork in the house is that found on the stair, which features a paneled wall with a closet beneath, with turned balusters that foot into the top of the wall rather than the ends of the steps. The stair paneling is composed of vertical boards with large molding strips applied directly over them in a diagonal position and irregularly spaced. At the east end of the house stands a formerly detached c. 1800 kitchen which was joined to the house by a two-part c. 1900 addition. Several c. 1800 dependencies, including a smokehouse, shed, and log quarter, also remain on the property.
River View was built by the Gardiner family in the early 18th century. The house was willed in 1744 to Anne Neale, sister of Wilfred Gardiner. About the time of the American Revolution, River View was purchased by Ignatius Fenwick. Fenwick was a prominent military figure in Maryland's Revolutionary Navy. He commanded the LYDIA at the Battle of Piney Point in the Lower Potomac River in 1776. Later he commanded the privateer SALLY which raided British shipping during the Revolution. The next owner of River View was Jeremiah Alvey who purchased the property in 1824. His daughter, Mary Amanda Burch, inherited the home in 1841, and the Burch family retained ownership through the 20th century. Despite its interesting history of ownership, the principal significance of River View is its architecture. Particularly noteworthy are the raised gables forming low parapets and the double-ogee based window heads of the front and rear elevations. The original floor plan of four rooms and rear stair hall, although characteristic of 18th century Southern Maryland house plans is, with Marshall Hall, Charles County, the earliest such plan recorded to date. Unlike many houses of the early 18th century River View, at least on the exterior, has remained basically unaltered. Also of significance is the number of early domestic dependencies which comprise the largest single collection of such buildings in St. Mary's County. For these reasons River View is one of the most important sites in Southern Maryland, invaluable to the study of that region's domestic architecture.