Michael O. Bourne
17615, White's Ferry Road (MD 107), Poolesville, Montgomery County
Darnall Place is a farm complex of four small 18th century stone buildings, a 19th century frame wagon shed/corn crib, a 20th century concrete block barn, and three late-19th or early-20th century frame sheds. The stone buildings are all constructed of red-brown Seneca sandstone and feature wrought nails, roof rafters joined without ridge poles, mortise and tenon joints with wooden pegs, mortar made almost entirely of clay with little or no lime added, and hand hewn timbers. Their construction is very simple, with the stone laid on the ground and the 24" thick walls strong enough to stand unsupported. Timber plates are laid on the tops of the walls with roof timbers, notched and joined, resting on the plates. Over some of the doors and windows are stone voussoirs forming jack arches; over others, a single flat stone forms the lintel. The dwelling consists of a one-story building with a large external stone chimney on the east end. The facade is three bays on the north and two on the south. To the west is a 1 1/2-story frame addition which, although modern, is compatible with the older stone wing. The addition replaces a log wing which in turn had been replaced by a six-room frame wing, which then burned in 1952. Two other stone buildings also remain on the property. One, a meathouse/dairy, contains two rooms divided by a stone partition. The main (south) facade has two doors, both with heavy timber frames. The west door has a keystone flat arch of three blocks of stone. In the west end are two windows, one in the gable and one for the ground level room; both have one-piece stone lintels. The other stone building is the slave quarter/kitchen, with a door on the east, a small window on the west, and a cooking fireplace on the north wall with an interesting stone arch and a dirt floor. The single opening on the second story is a door in the south wall reached by a ladder placed against the exterior wall. The stone barn is small building with three doorways with segmental arches of three blocks each. The north doorway has a flat arch. At either end are two windows at the first and second floor levels, with horizontal wooden bars mortised into the heavy frames. Joists for the loft are mortised into the stone walls, and mortises for partitions or stalls are evidenced on the underside of the joists.
In the section of Montgomery County in which this farm is located, many log houses and a few large manor houses remain to demonstrate the way of life of early buildings of the scale, material, or type of construction as that found at the "Darnall Place." It is a complex of small stone farm buildings reminiscent of a farmstead in Europe or the British Isles. There is no sign of professionalism in design, only practicality and basic principles of construction applied to achieve a beauty, simplicity, and solidity that have endured since the 18th century. The group of buildings has continued in the same function form the time they were built, that of a middle class farmer's dwelling, the building for processing and storing his food, housing his help, and shelter his animals. Except for the absence of a tobacco barn, it is possible to see in this group, beneath a minimal overlay of modernization, the pattern of a late-18th century farmer's domestic and farming practices. The structures individually and the farmstead as a whole retain enough significant design and integrity to convey the feeling of a small farmer's life in the late 18th and early 19th century. The complex is of particular interest for the construction techniques in stone, the survival of a large number of early outbuildings, and its unusual rather English flavor. The alterations and additions have not detracted from the significance of the structures individually or as a farmstead.