Nathan and Susannah Harris House
541, Rising Sun Road (MD 273), Rising Sun, Cecil County
The Harris House is a large stone dwelling constructed in 1798. Its construction date is documented by two datestones incorporated into the uncoursed rubble masonry of the principal (south) facade. The building is two stories high, four bays wide by two rooms deep, with a very steeply pitched gable roof. There are two front doors, located in the inner bays of the south facade, flanked by windows in the two outer bays; the second story is pierced only by three windows, aligned over the first, third, and fourth bays from the west. Large rectangular blocks suggest quoins at the corners. The east gable end has two windows on each story, with two smaller ones lighting the attic; the west gable has one window on each floor, offset to the left, and two attic windows as on the east end. Many of the windows retain their original surrounds, but all but two hold replacement 2/2 sash. Two windows on the north elevation retain original 6/6 sash. Stone jack arches appear above first-floor windows on the south and west facades. The south end has a basement entrance and a window, both with stone jack arches. Each gable has an interior end chimney of brick. A small one-story gable-roofed frame wing, constructed in the early 20th century, extends to the rear. The interior presents an unusual variation of the traditional Anglo-American three-room, cross-passage plan, with the insertion of a formal hallway between the west kitchen and the two east rooms. The house retains many significant construction features, including principal-rafter-and-purlin roof framing, a large kitchen fireplace with oven opening, and four fireplaces with diagonal hearths (a characteristic of Anglo-American vernacular architecture in the region). Most of its original interior trim is intact, including baseboard, chair rail, and architrave moldings; mantels and fireplace surrounds; beaded vertical board partitions; paneled doors (two of which have original Suffolk latches); stair and balustrade; and beaded ceiling joists.
The Harris House is significant for its architecture. It incorporates two datestones documenting its construction in 1798, and embodies the distinctive characteristics of vernacular dwellings of the period in Quaker-settled areas of northeastern Maryland and adjacent Pennsylvania. Characteristic features include squarish proportions, stone construction, principal rafter-and-purlin roof framing, and diagonal hearths. The house presents a noteworthy original variation on the traditional three-room, cross-passage plan by the insertion of a formal center hallway; this modification is expressed on the exterior by a second entrance, ordering the first story façade in four symmetrical bays. This plan variation reflects the incorporation of an element selected from the current architectural fashion of the late 18th century into a long-established traditional British form. The house retains an unusually high degree of integrity; most of its original interior features and detailing remain intact. Through this unique combination of high integrity, unusual variation on a traditional plan, and firmly documented construction date, the Harris House contributes importantly to an understanding of the architectural history of northeastern Maryland. The house derives additional significance from its association with the expansion during the 18th century of the Quaker community called the Nottingham Lots, established by William Penn in 1701. When Penn laid out the community, it was located in disputed territory, claimed by both Pennsylvania and Maryland. Penn hoped that the settlement would help him retain his claim to the land as part of Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1767, however, the Mason Dixon Line settled the dispute and gave most of the area of the Nottingham Lots to Cecil County, Maryland. The Harris House is located on Lot #1, at the west end of the Nottingham Lots.