Michael O. Bourne
8148, Martin Lane, Williston, Caroline County
Potter Hall is an early-19th century, Federal-influenced dwelling. The principal facade faces west towards the Choptank River, and appears in three sections: the northernmost is a tall 2 1/2-story Flemish bond brick block, three bays wide and two bays deep, which adjoins a lower 2 1/2-story, two-bay wide central section, also of Flemish bond brick. The third (southern) section is of frame construction, one story high and three bays wide, and was added in 1930 to house a modern kitchen. Each of the three sections has a gable roof, with the ridgeline running north-south. The brick sections of the house attained their present form in 1808, when a one-story, two-bay, c. 1750 building was raised to 2 1/2 stories (incorporated in the central section) and the large northern block, known as "The Mansion," was added. The east and west facades of the northern block are identical, with a side entrance and two 12/12 sash windows in jack-arched openings on each story. The entrances feature six-panel doors enframed with fluted pilasters surmounted by semicircular fanlights. Recent porticoes with Chinese trellis balustrades and fluted columns replace the former two-story verandas. Both facades have two gabled dormers, each holding 9/6 sash. The central section has an entrance on its east facade, sheltered by a small gabled porch and flanked by two 9/6 sash, with two similar windows on the second story; the west facade is similar but lacks the entrance. A gabled dormer, added after 1920, appears on either slope of the roof. The juxtaposition of the northern and central sections creates a center-passage plan. The interior retains a great deal of original woodwork, including paneled doors, molded cornices, chair rail, door and window trim, fireplace surrounds, cabinetry, and stairs.
Potter Hall is significant for its architecture and for its association with the Potter family, prominent in local and state affairs. Architecturally, it embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Federal style as expressed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In the context of Caroline County’s historic architecture, Potter Hall is one of six surviving large brick plantation houses dating from the late 18th to early 19th century. Its abundant woodwork presents the best example in the county of the delicacy of design and execution which characterizes early Federal ornament. The second-story entrances, which once served broad porches, are unique in Caroline County. Potter Hall was originally settled by Zabdiel Potter, a sea captain from Rhode Island, in the mid 18th century. He built a wharf and the small brick house which was later incorporated into the central section of the present structure. Zabdiel developed Potter’s Landing into a key early port for the shipping of tobacco to Baltimore. His son and nephews were important men in the history of the county and the state.