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Ridout Row is the earliest known grouping of connected town houses built with a unified facade and common plan in the Chesapeake region. It represents an early attempt to introduce row houses to Chesapeake towns and is one of only a few extant pre-Revolutionary rows containing three or more units. Ridout Row is also remarkable for its integrity, with its basic plan and original fabric largely intact, including its wall, ceiling, and ornamental plaster as well as its moldings and flooring.
The row is elegantly understated, executed in Flemish bond brick to include a stepped water table, belt courses, and gauged brick lintels. The plans of all three units are similar, although modified slightly to reflect the conditions imposed by the formal facade. The somewhat larger center unit forms a slightly projecting pedimented pavilion to create an overall three-part composition. This section boasts a more elaborate Adamesque frontispiece with an entablature supported by fluted pilasters with transom and sidelights. The doorway was moved from its original symmetrical position to the center of the house in order to create a larger front parlor. The entries in the flanking units appear at either end, and have pedimented frontispieces with a round-arch transom. All three entryways rest on a raised basement accessed by a broad window well that provides light to the service areas. Narrow elongated chimneys appear to the end walls of each unit.
The interior plan of all three residences is based on late-seventeenth-century Georgian town or terrace houses in London. The plan locates the central stairway in a transverse passage, thereby allowing the public room at the rear to stretch the entire width of the house. This was used as the dining room, reflecting the importance then placed on dining as a social function; its equivalent second-floor space was used as the drawing room. This placement of the most elaborate room at the rear of the house, away from the busy street and overlooking the garden, became known as the Annapolis Plan. The front room was intended as a parlor, with the main bedchamber above. Additional bedchambers were located in the third story. As was also typical of Annapolis houses of this era, the kitchen, with its large fireplace, was located in the cellar along with other service areas.
Ridout Row was built by John Ridout, a member of the city’s elite society, who arrived in Annapolis in 1753 as secretary to Proprietary Governor Horatio Sharpe. Ridout built this structure adjacent to his own detached residence for investment purposes; it has thus also been referred to as the John Ridout Tenant Houses. The middle house was intended for his mother-in-law, Anne Ogle, while the western house was originally occupied by John Tayloe III of Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Like Ridout’s own house, Ridout Row enjoys a prime location in the heart of the downtown, close to governmental and commercial centers.
“John Ridout Tenant Houses,” Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1964. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS No. Md-252).
Miller, Marcia, and Orlando Ridout, V, et. al. Architecture in Annapolis. Annapolis: Vernacular Architecture Forum and Maryland Historical Trust Press, 1998.
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