Paula Stoner Dickey
Unger Road, Smithsburg, Washington County
The Bell-Varner House is a 2 1/2-story, five-bay brick dwelling with a two-story, four-bay rear wing. The house was built into a slight bank making the front elevation a full three stories in height. The lowest story consists of the foundation of roughly coursed fieldstone. The bricks at the front elevation are laid in Flemish bond while the side and rear elevations display common bonding. Flat brick arches appear over the openings, and a corbeled brick cornice finishes the walls. A datestone set in the north gable is inscribed "Jonas Bell, 1851 C.B." Most windows display modern, 1/1 sash windows within narrow frames; however, 6/6 light sash remain at several first-story windows. Most of the windows have shutters that are half louvered and half paneled. The main entrance is located in the center bay of the main story at the front elevation. The entrance treatment includes a high transom and paneled jambs. Directly beneath is a door in the ground story level. A raised porch extends along the front elevation at the main story level and continues with the north elevation. A partially enclosed double porch is present on the south elevation of the rear wing. The roof is of slate, terminating with a plain barge board set directly against the end walls.
Dated 1851, the Bell-Varner House is a documented and well-maintained example of mid-19th century domestic architecture in Washington County. Its five-bay, center-door plan represents a significant architectural group in the county and the Cumberland Valley. The house has undergone relatively few exterior alterations. The house is also important for the 18th century woodwork and structural elements found in the basement. These suggest that parts of an earlier house were used in construction of the present dwelling, or that the present house rests on foundations of a possible 18th century structure. According to the datestone, the house was built by or for Jonas Bell. Members of the Bell family were prominent in the early life of the Leitersburg vicinity.