J. Richard Rivoire
8835, Mt. Air Road, Faulkner, Charles County
The property history of Mount Air indicates that the main residence, with the exception of a more recent kitchen addition, was built in 1801, a construction date based on historical evidence and its overall design and interior detail. Traditionally, the house is said to have begun as a much smaller dwelling, possibly one of the two frame dwellings mentioned in a 1798 property assessment. Mount Air is basically a regionally typical Federal-style house, but the central block is unique among numerous other examples in Southern Maryland in that it is actually three stories rather than two, having framed stories over an exposed brick basement. Laid in common bond, the basement is thinly stuccoed and painted white, fully exposed on the south side and most of the ends, and nearly fully exposed on the north. The basement windows, rather than being full-size sash type which the height of the walls would allow, are small, rectangular openings with wood-barred grills, positioned flush to the top of the walls and aligned with the openings above. Above the basement the house is three bays wide. The front and rear double-leafed entrance doors with transoms occupy the first bays in from the west end. Overall, the central block is well proportioned, the large windows (12/12 on the first floor, 8/12 on the second, and 12/8 in the gables) in harmony with the wide expanses of wall area. The garden side entrance is fronted by what appears to be an early, if not original, one-story portico with deep stairs, balustrades, and a pedimented roof supported by four turned and tapered columns. On the south (river) side the house is fronted by a three-story galleried porch. Although of recent origin, it replaced a similar porch of two-story height. Among the many interesting features of the central block is a double chimney with pent at the east end, partially covered by the east wing. At the basement level the chimney has two separate bases. On the main floor they are joined above an arched doorway and on the second floor they are fully joined, having small closets in the space provided by the connecting wall. Above the tiled weatherings of the chimney and shed roof of the pent the chimney again separates into two freestanding stacks. Flanking the central block are two wings, both thought to be original to or possibly earlier than the main section. The two-bay west wing is two stories high, with one frame story over a one-story brick basement. At the exposed end stands a single exterior chimney. The east wing in its original form was a near duplicate of the west except with a higher-pitched roof. Along its north wall it retains an early, shed-roofed porch. During a mid-20th century renovation a one-story kitchen-service addition was made, partially extending the porch. One of the turned Doric columns was removed and the remaining three repositioned.
Mount Air, with its superb situation, early boxwood garden, and unique form, is one of Charles County's most important privately owned cultural assets. It has the only known boxwood garden in lower Southern Maryland of its dimensions and age to retain its original formal plan. Although there are many historic houses situated along the river and offering expansive water views, few can rival that of Mount Air. The architecture of the house is from all indications unique among its contemporaries in age and basic design: actually a three story structure, two stories over an elevated basement, it has an unusual three-part plan that includes a Federal-style main block with flanking wings. These two features, plus the double chimney with two-story arch and third story connecting pent at one end of the central block, have no known regional counterparts. A fourth significant detail is the handsome interior woodwork, locally among the best of its type, and nearly complete. The recorded history of Mount Air unites the house and property with Charles County's earliest history and most prominent families, thus contributing a fifth distinction.