Richard J. Brand
4528, Conowingo Road (US 1), Darlington, Harford County
Gray Gables, an 1880s Queen Anne style frame house, has an irregular plan, projecting bays, steeply pitched multiple gables, and is covered with wooden shingles. A wide porch with chamfered square posts, segmental arches, and a projecting gable runs along the southeast corner portions. The south gable and the porch gable have half-timbering decoration. The wooden shingles covering the sides are arranged in a stagger-butt pattern. The roof and its multiple slopes are covered with slate shingles. The building sits on a random ashlar foundation. The principal windows are rectangular with double-hung wooden sashes and louvered exterior shutters. Each of these has two lights in the bottom sash. The upper sashes on the first and second floors have 9 lights with a large rectangular center light. The top sash of the attic level windows have 16 to 25 lights depending on the elevation. Many of these "Queen Anne windows" are arranged in groups of two and three, such as those of the south and west gables and the first floor hall. A group of six square side-hinged windows, each with 9 lights matching the upper sashes of the principal windows, are arranged vertically in pairs in the projecting stair bay. The window in the triangular shaped dormer on the principal façade (south) and the shed-roofed dormer on the top floor of the back also have the side-hinged windows. The gable-roofed second story dormer on the back (north) has casement windows of 8 lights each. The roofline is pierced by two interior brick chimney stacks. The largest at the intersection of the south and east gables near the center of the house. The other rises from the back between the back gable and the shed-roof dormer. Both have brick capping and belts. Porches with steeply pitched gable roof project from the west and north elevations. These porches are smaller than the front porch and have wooden shingles in a feather pattern in the gables.
Gray Gables is an 1880s shingle sided frame house of modest scale that is significant in Maryland as an important example of the Queen Anne style house that was popular in this century in the last quarter of the 19th century. The major factors that set Gray Gables apart from other examples in the state are the rural location of the house and the high level of integrity of its original character. In general, the Queen Anne house expressed in the full character found in Gray Gables was built in urban and suburban areas, rarely in rural settings as northeastern Harford County. Among the features that characterize these buildings and are prominent in Gray Gables include an asymmetrical plan and massing, multiple roof lines, a variety of surface textures such as shingles and half-timbering, multi-paned windows, bay windows, and small scale woodwork. Gray Gables also has the characteristic floor plan that includes a large entrance hall that no longer functions merely as a passageway or stair hall but also became a living space that is the precursor of the mid-20th century living room; a formal parlor set off to one side indicating its use for formal functions; and a dining room which opens off the large entrance hall and served as an extension of this living space. The house also acquires significance as an intact example of the early work of Walter Cope (1860-1902), a principal in one of Philadelphia's most important and prestigious firms, Cope and Stewardson, at the turn of the 20th century. Although Cope and the firm after his death designed other buildings in the Darlington, Harford County area, Gray Gables is the most intact example of the houses.