J. Richard Rivoire
Spring Hill Newtown Road, La Plata, Charles County
A narrow, one-story, two-bay, gambrel-roofed frame house with pedimented dormers and two chimneys at one end, the Exchange is a simple, modestly proportioned 18th century house that retains a considerable amount of its original exterior and interior fabric. Among its most notable features is its interior woodwork, including flush plaster paneled wainscoting and, in the large front room, a pilastered and paneled chimney breast. Deeper than wide, the house originally had a three bay south facade, altered by removing and relocating a centered door to the west end of the building early in the 20th century. The house's narrowness is enhanced by the height and depth of the gambrel roof. Built over a full cellar, the house has two exterior chimneys at the east end of finely executed English bond brickwork, joined at the ground and first floor levels by a shed-roofed, projecting brick pent. Later additions include a full-length, one-story, screened porch at the west end and a smaller, enclosed, shed-roofed porch on the north side. Both date from the first half of the 20th century. Interior alterations have been minor, largely confined to the renovation of two small rooms to provide a kitchen and bath. A small, late-18th century frame tobacco house is located about 350 feet west of the main residence. Although converted for use as a stable, the building retains most of its original mortised and tenoned framing, including tilted false plates, and portions of its early roof sheathing of riven clapboards. A 20th century frame garage, well house, and a swimming pool stand near the house.
The Exchange, built c. 1778, is regionally significant as the most architecturally distinctive, least altered, and earliest known example of a late-18th and early-19th century architectural style especially popular among those of moderate economic means in lower Southern Maryland. Characterized by a deeper-than-wide one-story plan of two back-to-back laterally partitioned first floor rooms, with two exterior chimneys and connecting pent at one end, this was a house type built in considerable numbers throughout the area. However, with the exception of The Exchange, all other known and recorded examples have been extensively altered and most date from the period 1790-1820, a fact that places considerable importance on this house to the study and illustration of regional architectural traditions. Particularly significant is its woodwork and exterior detailing, and the fact that it is the only surviving early dwelling of this type built with a gambrel roof. Of equal significance to the study of regional architecture is its adjacent 18th century barn. Believed to be contemporary with the house in age, this structure possesses several important features, notable among them its tilted false plate eaves construction and the preservation of portions of its original riven clapboard roof sheathing. More importantly, it is the only known surviving 18th century tobacco barn in Charles County, historically an area whose socioeconomic life, until recently, depended almost solely on the successful cultivation, curing, and marketing of tobacco.