Michael O. Bourne
Ruthsburg Bridgetown Road (MD 304), Centreville, Queen Annes County
The Thomas House is distinguished by a stepped, two-part plan designed to represent two separate building phases and to have the appearance of a Federal townhouse with a lower, two-story wing. Based on architectural and decorative elements supplemented by family and property records, the house appears to have been built between 1798 and 1821. The main or larger section of the two parts is two stories high and three bays wide. The lower north section is also of two stories and has two bays, but its windows are of smaller dimensions and are positioned lower than those of the main block. Four chimneys protrude from the gable roof of the main block, two on each end. The northwest chimney is the largest of the four and carries the flues for three fireplaces in the lower, north portion of the house. The deep, semi-circular arched entrance doorway is centered on the facade and opens into a hallway extending the full depth of the house. It has a molded pilastered surround with paneled reveals and a traceried fanlight over a six-panel door. The windows are of 6/9 sash on the main block and 6/6 sash on the lower part. All have flat arches of splayed stretcher brick, wood sills, and once had exterior blinds. The roof cornice of the main portion is decorated with carved modillion blocks and a dentiled bed molding and has gable returns. Apparently in an effort to make the lower part appear later, or to accentuate the main block, its cornice has only ogee crown and bed moldings. Both parts of the house are of brick construction, Flemish bond on the west (facade) and south (approach) sides and common bond on the other two. The house stands on flush, common bond foundation walls that enclose a full cellar beneath the main block and a half-cellar beneath the lower section. The cellar rooms are lighted by four windows on the west front and two windows on the east side, all aligned with the windows above.
Built between 1798 and 1821 by a long-established Eastern Shore family, the Thomas House is a Federal brick dwelling whose style and size are indicative of the economic security of its builders and the architectural taste of the time. The first members of the Thomas family arrived in Maryland in the last quarter of the 17th century. The family grew quite large on the Eastern Shore, with branches in Talbot, Kent, and Queen Anne's Counties. The Thomases were typical members of Tidewater Maryland's 18th and early 19th century society. All of the men were planters, with the possible exception of Dr. John Thomas, although it is likely that he farmed also. The Thomas House is a substantial house of the Federal period, solidly and well built. It has what is essentially a four-square plan in a form that successfully combines a townhouse plan with rural vernacular forms. The woodwork on both exterior and interior is of excellent quality, finely executed. The exterior cornice work is particularly handsome. The interior woodwork is almost entirely original, the mantels, paneled recesses, and stair being among the finer details. A unique feature in the dining room chamber is a waist-high door in front of the enclosed stair; this has not been found in any other Eastern Shore building to date.