Orlando Ridout V
John Embert Farm
Baxter Road, Sudlersville, Queen Annes County
The John Embert Farm, now known as Whistlefield, is a 1 1/2 story brick house with a two bay facade. Although the north and south facades share identical fenestration, with a door in the west bay and a 6/6 window in the east bay, the north elevation clearly was intended as the principal facade. The brick is laid in Flemish bond, while the remainder of the building is laid in three-course American bond, and the cellar windows and paired shed dormers are symmetrically placed. On the south facade, the ground level is lower, allowing for a bulkhead entrance to the cellar at the east end. There is a single shed roofed dormer in the east bay. The west gable end was covered until recently by a 1 1/2-story frame addition. This was considered beyond repair and removed, exposing the ghost of an earlier addition in the upper gable. The roof of this addition was about 18" lower than that of the brick house, but had an identical pitch. A door in the center of the gable wall on the first floor appears to be original, but was used for access to the later additions. Another door in the center of the gable on the second floor is not original, and may have been made by enlarging a window. The east gable is uninterrupted by doors or windows. A flush chimney is centered on this wall. The gable roof is of medium pitch, averaging 43 degrees, and is covered with modern corrugated tin. The plain box cornice is not original, but is made up of one-inch material secured with wire nails. Fragments remain of the upper edge of the rakeboards, but no discernible details have survived. Several details do remain, however, to suggest that in its original form the building had a certain degree of sophistication. The north and south doorways have raised-panel jambs and soffits, and all openings have beaded surrounds with ogee backbands. The original door remains for the north facade, this has raised panels on the exterior face to match the soffits and vertical beaded boards secured with wrought nails on the inner face. The raised six-panel door on the west gable is probably also original. The south door has been replaced with a modern batten door. The interior consists of a single room on each floor, yet the level of finish is quite sophisticated. On the first floor, the east gable wall was fully paneled, with an enclosed winder stair to the left and a four-door cupboard to the right. The second floor was more modestly finished but included a molded fireplace surround, baseboard, and chairrail.
Although the house can easily be accepted at face value as a fine example of early-19th century domestic architecture, its greatest contribution is as an exceedingly rare and almost pristine example of a house type that has all but disappeared. Documentary evidence demonstrates conclusively that, popular notions to the contrary, the great majority of the population in Tidewater Maryland and Virginia lived in houses of this small scale throughout the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. The majority of these houses were frame, however, and due to the fragile nature of their materials and the increasing impracticality of their small size, they have all but disappeared from the landscape.