Michael O. Bourne
324, South Kenmore Avenue, Bel Air, Harford County
The Hays House is a frame 1 1/2-story house with a gambrel roof, four unequal bays in length. Of the four bays of the main (east) façade, the northerly three bays are original, likely built in 1788. The southerly bay was probably added in 1811. Main sills have joints at the south edge of the partition between the two sections, and moulding profiles in the southerly bay are slightly different from those in the northerly bays. However, the differences are very slight and the form of the addition is identical to that of the original, indicating the addition to be very early. As the house was moved in 1960, it stands on a modern concrete-block foundation. The original was of stone. A two-story stone south wing, added later in the 19th century (circa 1835-1840), was not moved. Exterior entrances are approximately centered in the east and west façades. The east door has eight panels and the west six, both hung on cast-iron butt hinges. Driven pintels inside indicate earlier doors hung on strap hinges. The east door has a five-light transom. Windows have 6/6 sash. Louvered blinds at each window are hung on heavy cast-iron hinges. A small four-light casement in the south gable end east of the chimney lights the attic within the upper slope of the gambrel roof. Weatherboards of the entire east façade are beaded and they extend unbroken across the entire façade, indicating a date from the period of the south addition. They appear to be fastened with wrought nails. Weatherboards of the north end are riven, each about four feet long, also fastened with wrought nails. The west façade weatherboarding is plain, fastened with cut nails, with no indication of the addition. Finally, the weatherboarding of the south end was added in 1960, copying that of the east front. The east cornice includes bed molding, soffit, beaded fascia, and crown, all characteristic of the 18th and very early 19th century. The cyma-recta bed moulding of the west façade indicates a mid-19th century replacement with the weatherboards. Three shed-roofed dormers on either side of the roof have 6/6 sash. An interior brick chimney rises above each gable end.
The Hays House is a typical late 18th century dwelling of a moderately prosperous citizen. Its small early 19th century addition almost exactly extended the original form and detailing. The house has been little altered since, although it was moved in 1960 one block from its original site. Now it is the headquarters of the Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. The Hays House is one of two remaining houses in Bel Air recorded in the 1798 Federal Direct Tax assessment. Its owner was listed as Elizabeth Gibson (who was the widow of Thomas Gibson). The occupant (tenant) of the house was Josias Smith and the house was recorded as 26 by 15 feet. A wooden meat house was the only recorded outbuilding 10 by 8 feet. At a very early date, an additional 14 1/2 feet were added to form the present structure. Later in the 19th century, before 1861, a two-story stone wing was added, which stood until the earlier frame portion was moved in 1960. Thomas A. Hays, its first owner-of-long-standing, was a major property owner in Bel Air, the cartographer of the earliest known map of the town, circa 1818, made to keep track of his property, and the donor of land for the First Presbyterian Church. A later owner, Frank Hays Jacobs, was an important attorney in the community in the early 20th century.