Michael O. Bourne
800, S Rolling Road, Catonsville, Baltimore County
Hilton is an early-20th century Georgian Revival-style mansion created from an early-19th century stone farmhouse. The reconstruction was designed by Baltimore architect Edward Palmer in 1917; detailed drawings and specifications are preserved in Palmer's successor's office, Nes, Campbell and Partners, and copies are preserved in the Catonsville Community College archives. The entrance facade is in the north; the south facade overlooks a broad view across the Patapsco River valley. The main house is five bays in length, 2 1/2 stories above a high ground floor, with a gambrel roof. A closely spaced pair of chimneys rises flush above each gable. A shallower 2 1/2-story wing, five bays in length, with a gabled roof, extends from the east end; a 2-story west wing is but one bay in length. The walls of the original main block are of rubble stone covered with stucco. Roofs are covered with Vermont slate. A small enclosed porch of the Tuscan order centered on the north facade shelters the principal entrance in the ground story; originally fully glazed, it was probably considered a porte cochere. Above the porch in the second story, continuing the axial emphasis, is a tripartite window; and above it in the third story is a wider dormer containing a Palladian or Venetian window. Tall casements or French doors are in each bay of the second story; above are 6/6 windows, below are 3/3 windows; a single 6/6 sash dormer window is centered between the two outer bays of each side. A fully developed cornice has both dentils and modillions and a concealed gutter above it. The first story windows are framed with wooden architraves supporting a frieze and cornice. On the dormer walls Tuscan pilasters flank the sash and support a plain frieze and full pediment. Cheek walls are slated. The south facade is nearly identical, but a terrace at the first floor level extends its full length, enclosed below in the ground story with stuccoed walls, pierced by low arched windows at grade level. The small Tuscan porch is unenclosed and shelters a wide, elliptically arched entrance to the first floor consisting of a six-panel door, leaded sidelights, and a leaded transom. Continuing the axial emphasis as on the north side, there is a tripartite window in the second story and a tripartite dormer in the third, consisting of a slightly projecting 6/6 window flanked by single four-light casements; above the central window is a solid-arched fan-louvre rising in the pediment. The pediment and the flat frieze extending above the flanking casements are supported by pairs of Tuscan pilasters. The east wing is similar in décor to the main block of the house, but the cornice is simpler, with dentils but no modillions. In plan, a wide central hall extends through the house in the central bay of each story, flanked by a pair of rooms on either side. The westerly pair, in the ground and first story, are treated as single spaces; a side hall leads to the east wing between the easterly pair in all stories. On the ground and first floors, the hall is paved in black and white marble laid in a checkerboard pattern, with a black marble base. The walls on both levels are paneled with tall, narrow, flat panels with plain stiles and rails, all of painted wood. The molded plaster cornices include dentils, a soffit with a fret, and a crown molding, all molded with simulated carving --egg-and-dart in the bed molding, acanthus foliage in the crown. An open stair rises against the east wall of the ground floor, toward the north, continuing up to the fourth floor; its molded mahogany rail is supported by slim, Tuscan column newels and slim, turned balusters; step-ends are embellished with scrolls of simulated carving. Mantels throughout are highly ornamented, many with late-18th century Georgian or Adamesque embellishments.
Hilton is an elegant, early-20th century Georgian Revival mansion built within the walls of a large, plain, early 19th century farmhouse. It is prominent today as the well-preserved, tastefully adapted and much used focal point of a modern, thriving, suburban college campus. It was constructed of the best available materials, all specified in detail (its original construction documents, specifications, working drawings and details, are preserved) and identifiable today. It was embellished throughout with highly ornamented mantels, cornices, paneling, stair elements, floors selected from catalogues of the period and assembled in accordance with prevailing taste. Changes since 1917 have been few and they are superficial. The house remains a three-dimensional text of early 20th century taste.