William D. Morgan
Algonquin Road, Crownsville, Anne Arundel County
The architectural evolution of Belvoir illustrates the development of an early Maryland manor house. It is a 2-story, T-shaped building. The stem of the T is the earlier part, having a steep gambrel roof and walls of fieldstone with a Flemish bond brick end wall and exterior chimney. Both brick-end and fieldstone walls have a slightly projecting watertable. The four windows in the end wall have segmental brick arches. There are two gable-roofed dormers on each side of the roof. The later main portion of the house is all brick, and incorporates that part of the earlier section which extends into the top of the T. The bonding on the first story is English, while it is Flemish above the belt course. The second story has been added. The brickwork also shows that the south section was added after the central portion; this is indicated by the chimneys in each portion of the brick part. The older one is chunkier and more massive and at one time was partially an exterior chimney. The entrance porch is similar to that at Gunston Hall, Lorton, Virginia, with its English Baroque pediment with four columns and four pilasters. Resting on a c. 1920 base, the porch may be of that vintage. In 1920 a wooden, gambrel-roof wing was added at the west end. The cellar ceiling has been lowered, and there are early fieldstone foundations.
Belvoir, constructed of brick, stone, and wood, is a product of building evolution spanning the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The earliest portion, a gambrel-roofed stone and brick wing, extends from the rear of the house. This portion was probably built c. 1736 by John Ross shortly after he acquired the tract of land called Bear Ridge on which Belvoir stands. It has often been speculated that this early section could date to the 17th century, but documentary evidence indicates that during this time, Bear Ridge was used as a working farm, or in the language of the 17th century, a "bare plantation." This suggests that John Ross was the first person to construct a substantial plantation dwelling on the property. During the 18th century, major additions were made to the small stone house. By 1798 when it was owned by Colonel Henry Maynadier, the house measured 66' x 22', corresponding to the central block as it appears today. The original stone dwelling survives as a rear wing, creating a T-shaped plan. A frame gambrel-roofed wing, which extends from the north gable end, houses a modern kitchen constructed in 1961. The significance of Belvoir is derived from its association with numerous historical figures. John Ross (1696-1766) served as clerk of the Provincial Council from 1729-1764 and was the great-grandfather of Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner." In 1789 while a student at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Key visited Belvoir, then owned by his great-uncle, Dr. Upton Scott, the physician for Governor Horatio Sharpe. During Scott's ownership, General Rochambeau's troops camped at Belvoir on their way to assist the Continental Army in the defeat of the British at Yorktown. Ironically, Scott was a Tory sympathizer.