Built in 1774, the Hammond-Harwood House is recognized as the only extant example of colonial-era architecture modeled directly from a Palladian design, making it one of the most sophisticated classical dwellings in America. The first structure entirely attributed to master craftsman and joiner William Buckland, the Hammond-Harwood House is a Georgian-style house, combining English design preferences with local building traditions.
The house maintains its original form; its only alteration is a small, late-nineteenth-century brick extension to the southwest wing. Its five-part plan, symmetrical facade with a projecting center pavilion, and reliance on eighteenth-century pattern books are all emblematic of English classicism. After Italian architect Andrea Palladio revived Roman architectural design during the Renaissance, it was adopted by British architects in the eighteenth century and brought to the colonies by craftsmen such as William Buckland. Here, Buckland based the facade directly on Palladio’s Villa Pisani. The elaboration in details, finishes, and visible elements of construction rival the architectural styles of London’s Georgian town houses. Features such as the low-pitched, hipped roof and slightly projecting center pediment are typical of the late Georgian period.
The interior breaks with the conventional Georgian plan consisting of a center passage, double-pile plan with four flanking rooms, implementing instead a local variation that scholars have dubbed the “Annapolis Plan.” The key element of this plan is a pair of entertainment rooms to the rear of the house with an abbreviated entry that provides direct access, placing service or secondary spaces to the street front. As per the Annapolis Plan, Buckland placed one large entertainment room opening directly onto the center passage on each floor of the house and a smaller entertainment room to the west. All of these rooms overlook the garden. A jib door located in the dining room, which is the largest and best appointed room, provides ready access to the garden, and also allows the house to maintain its symmetry; the door appears as simply another window from the interior and as a centrally placed entry from the exterior. Above it on the second floor is the drawing room, rare in Chesapeake houses. Further attention is paid to the garden facade where there is a shallow pavilion articulated by pilasters supporting a full-height entablature with ornamented pediment. Perhaps the most widely recognized architectural feature of the house is its richly carved central doorway. Other notable features include salmon-colored brick laid in Flemish bond, a wealth of ornately carved interior woodwork in Rococo and Neoclassical styles, and a James Gibbs-inspired bulls-eye window in the pediment.
The house’s architectural significance is further evident in Buckland’s use of the five-part design, which, although rare before the American Revolution, was readily adopted by planters within the Chesapeake region of Maryland. At the Hammond-Harwood House, Buckland created a five-bay main block that is flanked by hyphens and two-story end wings with polygonal bays. The northeast wing was designed as an office suite with no direct access to the main block, presumably to separate domestic from business functions, while open access was provided to the southwest wing that housed the kitchen and other service areas. While other prominent residences of this era featured the Georgian five-part plan, notably the William Paca House (1763–1765) and the James Brice House (1766), both in Annapolis, Buckland’s use of the polygonal bays on the wings is among the features that distinguish the Hammond-Harwood House from others in a similar style. Because of its architectural prominence, the house caught the eye of Thomas Jefferson, who made two drawings of it while serving the government in Annapolis in 1783–1784. Since Jefferson sketched the house prior to embarking on his major addition to Monticello, it is believed this house inspired the polygonal walls of the wings in his new addition.
William Buckland, the man responsible for this elegantly constructed urban villa, is significant in his own right. Buckland was born in Oxford, England, in 1734. At the age of fourteen, Buckland moved to London where he began an apprenticeship in the practice of joinery, eventually becoming a master craftsman. Therefore, as was typical of the period, he was not trained as an architect. At the end of his apprenticeship, Buckland relocated to Virginia where he was indentured to Thomson Mason, statesman George Mason’s brother. During his time in Virginia, Buckland assisted in the design and ornamentation of George Mason’s Gunston Hall ( VA-01-NV53) and John Tayloe’s Mount Airy ( VA-01-PE16), as well as constructing the Richmond County prison and workhouse. In 1771, Buckland moved to Annapolis to complete the interior carvings on the Chase-Lloyd House. Most likely as a result of his work on that house, which sits directly across from the Hammond-Harwood House, Buckland was hired in 1774 by twenty-five-year-old plantation owner Matthias Hammond to construct his Georgian town house. Touted as his magnum opus, the Hammond-Harwood House exhibits Buckland’s skill in adapting Palladian and Rococo designs to meet the fashionable tastes of Georgian style in colonial Annapolis. Buckland died in December 1774, at the age of forty, before the completion of his masterpiece. The Hammond-Harwood House is the only structure wholly attributed to Buckland.
The Hammond-Harwood House is also significant as a product of the era and setting in which it was built. Annapolis experienced tremendous economic development in the two decades before the Revolution. As the state capital, the city hosted the wealthy elite of Maryland society, which, in turn, attracted artisans and merchants. Commerce thrived, imports rose in both quality and quantity, and services multiplied. Annapolis’s economic and political success was accompanied by a wave of extravagant private real estate development. Large, brick town houses began to emerge on the streets radiating from State and Church Circles. The Hammond-Harwood House arose out of this “Golden Age” of Annapolis, along with the James Brice, Chase-Lloyd, and William Paca houses. All four houses illustrate the ways the gentry of Annapolis mimicked the lifestyles of the London elite by building opulent residences, here following a country villa prototype. The Hammond-Harwood House is a superior example of period architecture and survives as a testament to the flowering of American architecture at the end of the colonial period.
Brown, Bennie, ed. Buckland: Master Builder of the 18th Century. Lorton, VA: Board of Regents of Gunston Hall, 1973.
Carson, Cary, and Carl R. Lounsbury. The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, in association with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2013.
Miller, Marcia M., and Orlando Ridout V, ed. Architecture in Annapolis: A Field Guide.Crownsville, MD: Maryland Historical Trust and the Vernacular Architecture Forum, 1998.