Maidstone, dated through dendrochronology to 1751, is one of the earliest surviving frame houses in southern Maryland and one of the few extant examples of the influence of medieval design on the state’s early colonial architecture. While historically associated with the prominent Quaker Chew family, who later migrated to Philadelphia, Maidstone was built by Lewis Lewin, who purchased the property from the Chews in 1745. Like many in this area that lay between the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River, Lewin’s house formed the centerpiece of a tobacco plantation.
Maidstone features a picturesque, steeply sloping gable roof that extends outward to form porches over the nearly identical front and rear facades—a feature that typified many Maryland Tidewater dwellings of this period. The north and south facades are four bays each, with the north facade distinguished by a transom over the doorway. The house originally encompassed a two-cell deep, four-room plan that was more sophisticated than the common two-room hall-and-parlor plan of the period, allowing for specialized room use. It comprises a large “hall” behind which is a smaller heated parlor or study with an enclosed winder stair, and two smaller unheated chambers to the east. The back-to-back rather than side-by-side positioning of the hall and parlor was an early plan type common to this area. It allowed the rooms to share a chimney block that generally took the form of an exterior double or pent chimney. In the case of Maidstone, an interior T-shaped chimney block serves an enormous fireplace in the hall and a corner fireplace in the adjoining room.
Maidstone’s structural framing is also indicative of early Tidewater or Chesapeake architecture. It exhibits techniques transferred to the colonies by early English settlers, manifested in what became known as the Virginia house form. Used in the Chesapeake region of both Maryland and Virginia, it was an innovative variation on traditional English timber framing that utilized lighter studs and simpler joinery. The beaded ceiling joists are exposed, as are the sill plates and sections of the summer beam that align with the longitudinal partition walls. The roof includes large common rafters spiked into the ceiling joists to form a roof truss stiffened by the partition wall, with dovetailed collar beams to further secure the rafters.
During the mid-nineteenth century, the two smaller chambers were reconfigured for use as a stair hall, running the depth of the house to encompass the exterior entrances at the front and rear facades. The formal stair hall helped the house to more efficiently mediate between its private and public spheres, which now included two additional rooms to the west side (the one to the south heated by a fireplace). During these renovations, the interior was completed in the Greek Revival style, including an elegant newel and balustrade for the open, single-run stair and elaborate doorway and window surrounds with fluted moldings and corner blocks. Paneling and wainscoting taken from another early house in the area have been installed in the two extant original rooms by the current owner. The pedimented dormers along each slope of the roof may have been added as part of the mid-century renovations.
The original separate, one-and-a-half-story kitchen was joined to the main block by a single-story hyphen, likely also undertaken in the mid-eighteenth century. The kitchen wing includes a large open-hearth fireplace, wide horizontal wood paneling, and a boxed winder stairway to the half-story above. Minimal changes have been made to accommodate modern amenities. A meat house stands adjacent to the east side of the kitchen, where an access door was once located. The property also includes a number of significant tobacco barns ranging in date from the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries. The house and outbuildings have been respectfully rehabilitated and maintained over the years by Earl and Jean Hicks, who purchased Maidstone in 1949. The Hicks were responsible for adding plumbing, including bathrooms, and for the creation of a formal garden. They also placed an easement on the property through the Maryland Environment Trust to conserve its scenic rural qualities.
“Maidstone,” Calvert County, Maryland. Measured drawings delineated by Cary Carson and Merry Stinson. Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1940. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS No. MD5-OW1.V, 1-).
Maryland Historical Trust. Inventory of Historic Sites in Calvert County, Charles County and St. Mary’s County. Annapolis: Maryland Historical Trust, 1973 (reprinted 1980).
Parish, Mrs. Preston, “Maidstone (Maid Stone, Canaan),” Owings, Calvert County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1971 (updated by Wayne Hield II). National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Stone, Garry Wheeler. “The Key-Year Dendrochronological Pattern for the Oaks of Maryland’s Western Shore, 1570-1980.” Historic St. Mary’s City: American Institute of Dendrochronology, 1987.