MHT File Photo
John Churchman House
115, Churchman Lane, Rising Sun, Cecil County
The John Churchman House consists of two distinct sections. The east half is a two-story, three-bay, gable-roofed brick house laid in Flemish bond with dark glazed headers on three sides and the date 1745 in glazed headers on the east gable end. The west half is a two-story, two-bay, gable-roofed house built in 1785 of uncoursed fieldstone. Facing south, the brick portion has a door in the center bay of each floor, the first floor's 6-panel door being surmounted by a 4-light transom. The second floor door formerly opened out to a small balcony. Windows on the first floor are 9/6 sash, while those on the second floor are 6/6. The north facade holds a central door with a narrow 4/4 sash window in the extreme western end of the first floor, and an off-center 6/6 window on the second floor. The east gable end holds a window on each floor (6/9 below, 6/6 above) and a flush chimney to the north of the ridgeline. The 1745 date is picked out in glazed headers in the attic level. A pent eave roof separates the first and second stories on the south and east facades. The first floor interior of the brick house is an important survival of early colonial plan and woodwork. The main dining space, essentially a cross-passage, is the larger of the two rooms and has opposing front and back doors. The stair is located in the west wall of the cross passage and is encased by a fully paneled wall with distinctive wrought hardware. The parlor room features a diagonal hearth with mantel shelf and built-in corner cupboard with original cornice and bran escutcheon. The mantel bears the initials of the carpenter, Hezekiah Rowles, on the face. The stone half of the building is two bays wide, with a door in the east bay of the south facade, and a 9/6 window in the west bay, with two 6/6 windows on the second floor. There is a large keystone lintel above the cellar window below the 9/6 window. The west gable end has two 6/6 windows on either floor and small square windows in the attic gable flanking the interior brick chimney. The attic level of this half of the building was altered in the early 20th century when the roof level was changed to line up with that of the brick portion. The present paired attic windows are restorations, as is the chimney. The north facade has a door in the east bay and no opening in the west, with two 6/6 windows above. This portion of the building is wider than the brick portion, extending farther to the north. Pent roofs originally separated the first and second stories on the south and west facades of the stone portion. This has been partially restored on the south facade. The floor plan of the stone section consists of two rooms arranged front to back on each floor with a stairway rising form the back to back corner fireplaces. Each fireplace wall has a small cupboard; one fireplace also has a small built-in drawer. There is a cellar with partial brick floor, as well as a cooking fireplace with its original crane, remains of a beehive oven, and a dumbwaiter to the first floor. Although both halves of the house suffered alterations in the early 1900s and some physical deterioration for many years thereafter, the house has been partially restored according to structural evidence and old photographs. Nevertheless the house retains most of its original appearance on both the exterior and interior.
The John Churchman house is significant for two reasons. Architecturally it is a rare and important early example of the Pennsylvania Quaker tradition in 18th century Maryland architecture. Among the distinguishing features of this tradition are the remains of pent eaves, a second story door on the brick half, and the elaborate use of Flemish bond with glazed headers. The brick half also contains a wealth of well-preserved original (1745) woodwork including a paneled stairwall, mantels, and a corner cupboard. Although there are other examples of such early Colonial woodwork in Cecil County, its appearance in a house of these modest proportions is highly unusual. Also noteworthy is its attribution to the carpenter Hezekiah Rowles, whose work elsewhere in the immediate area is well documented. Secondly, the house is important for its definite associations with several generations of the locally prominent Churchman family, a number of whose members were important in the religious and educational history of Maryland-Pennsylvania Quakers in the 18th century. John Churchman, Jr., the builder of the 1745 section and son of the original settlers of this area was a well-traveled Quaker minister whose published accounts of religious journeys in Britain and Europe were widely read. His son, George, builder of the 1785 half, was also a Quaker minister, clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and a founder of the Westtown Friends School near Philadelphia. His son, John III, was an internationally known geographer and scientist, who published a map of the Delaware peninsula, explored the properties of magnetic north, and along with Benjamin Franklin, was one of the first Americans elected to the Imperial Russian Academy of Science.