Silver Houses Historic District
Darlington, Harford County
The Silver Houses Historic District is a group of mid-19th century farmsteads and a church located near Darlington in rural east central Harford County. The district comprises a total of 36 resources, including four stone residences with related agricultural outbuildings, and the site of a fifth stone house (marked by a large frame barn, a frame tenant house, and two outbuildings). The houses were built between 1853 and 1859 by members of the Silver family, and are large vernacular dwellings heavily influenced by the Classical Revival and Italianate styles. Two of the houses were partially designed by a professional architect, William H. Reasin; the other two may have been influenced by the architect's work. These houses display a degree of architectural sophistication which is uncommon for the period in rural areas of the county. All are constructed of locally quarried stone with finished Port Deposit granite sills, lintels, quoins, and exterior steps. The district also includes the Deer Creek Harmony Presbyterian Church, a Gothic-influenced stone building of 1871, designed by John W. Hogg. This church, and the 1837 building it replaced, were erected under the influence and with the support of the Silver family. The historic buildings are widely spaced over the open agricultural landscape of the district, but are united by sight lines from the site of the John Silver House, which was a c. 1844 stone dwelling that burned in 1902. The site is currently marked by a mid-19th century frame barn, which defines the center of the present district as well as the approximate center of the original Silver family property. The district retains considerable integrity; neither the contributing buildings nor their rural agricultural setting have been significantly altered since the Silver family's occupancy.
The Silver Houses Historic District possesses significance as a distinguishable architectural grouping of four houses and one house site with related agricultural outbuildings built from 1853 to 1859 and a church built in 1871 which are locally significant as examples of the Classical Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival styles. The buildings are linked in four main areas: 1) They have a strong visual relationship, all being visible from a central point. 2) All were built by or with the influence of the Silver family within a 20-year period, the majority within a period of six years. 3) The architectural design of the buildings is unusual in Harford County, showing a polish and sophistication not often found in rural areas. Three of the buildings were designed by professional architects and the other principal buildings may have been influenced by their work. 4) The stone materials for the buildings came from quarries in the same vicinity and high quality workmanship in stonemasonry and carpentry is evident in all of the buildings. Based on existing survey records, these connections are unique among other groupings of mid-19th century family houses. The district has a high level of integrity, retaining its rural agricultural land use, and remaining largely in the ownership of the Silver family until the mid 20th century. Alterations to the buildings have been few and do not substantially affect the historical character.