Paul Baker Touart
Rowlandsville Road, Conowingo, Cecil County
The Octorara Farm house was built in sections dating from the period between 1775 and 1840. The main block, which faces west, is a 2 1/2-story, four-bay-wide brick structure composed of four rooms on both the first and second floors; it was probably added to the earlier rear section around 1830-1840. The main block, constructed of brick, is one of the best examples of high style Greek Revival architecture in Cecil County. The western facade of the main block is laid in Flemish bond and is graced by a two story, shed-roofed porch which extends across the length of the facade. The porch is supported by paneled square posts on the first story, and by thin Doric columns on the second story. The four bays of this facade are characterized by symmetrical fenestration with floor-to-ceiling 6/9 sash windows on the first story capped by jack arches. Four panel exterior shutters flank each window. The windows on the second floor are 6/6 with a jib door for access to the porch from the second floor. Two arched dormers occur on the moderately sloping slate-covered gable roof; their 6/6 windows are flanked by fluted pilasters that support arched pediments. The north gable end of the main block, also laid in Flemish bond, contains the primary entrance to the house. This recessed entrance, located in the northeastern bay, is characterized by four-panel double doors flanked by quarter-round Doric columns and louvered exterior shutters, surmounted by an elliptical fanlight. A one-bay-wide hipped-roof porch shelters the entrance bay, and is supported by square posts. A small oculus window occurs to the east of the main entrance. To the west is a false window installed to maintain symmetry. Two four-pane attic windows flank the chimney stack, with jack-arched lintels. A simple barge board closes the gable end. Tall interior end chimneys rise out of this and the south gable ends. The south end is detailed like the north gable end, except for a jib door which opens into the library. The rear section of the house, with a principal axis perpendicular to the main block, has undergone two periods of rebuilding and alteration. The present kitchen, which constitutes the central room of the three rooms of the rear section, is the earliest section of the house, probably dating to c. 1775. The stuccoed stone hall-parlor structure, as originally built, was three bays across by one room deep and 1 1/2 stories high. A 2 1/2-story fieldstone addition, three bays across by one room deep was attached to the eastern gable in the early to mid 19th century. Positioned perpendicularly to this latter addition is a contemporaneous two-bay by one room, 2-story fieldstone section joined to the latter addition at second story level with a passageway separating the sections on the first floor. In the second quarter of the 19th century, when the entire character and orientation of Octorara was transformed by the construction of the adjacent main block, other changes altered the configuration of the rear section including the raising of the roof of the 1 1/2-story kitchen section to two stories and the enlarging of the original hall of that section into a dining room by two additional bays to the west of the doorway. At this time, the rear section received two-story porches to its north and south facades. A 20th century frame addition punctuated by randomly placed windows and doors obscures the original northern facades of the rear section and abuts the perpendicularly placed fieldstone section. Outbuildings dating from the early to mid 19th century include a large four-bay fieldstone barn, a wagon shed, dairy, smokehouse, and tenant houses.
The significance of Octorara Farm lies largely in the 19th century architectural integrity of the structure and the fine collection of 19th century agricultural outbuildings. The front brick block is a pleasing mixture of late Federal and early Empire architectural styles that retains most of its early woodwork. The earlier rear sections are basically plain in detail, but add a tremendous amount to the overall impression of a building that has grown and transformed through the years. The outbuildings, especially the barn, are good examples of early-19th century forms that were needed for the operation of a farm. The agricultural and county estate setting of the house and farm buildings increase the importance of the complex. The house rests on a gentle rise overlooking the Susquehanna River. Ancient beech, sycamore, yew, and boxwood gracefully complement the entire complex. The long lane is bordered with mature sycamores that provide a fitting entrance for this stately country home. Fields and woods surround the house, which is the visual center of the farm.