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Morgan Hill Farm
Morgan Hill Farm is among the earliest extant houses in Maryland, erected circa 1700. Although it was remodeled in the early nineteenth century, it still maintains its early medieval English-inspired exterior configuration and a considerable amount of original material, including exposed timber framing. A number of significant eighteenth-century outbuildings reflect its former use as a tobacco plantation. Also noteworthy is Morgan Hill’s setting—the house is perched at the high point of the farm’s hilly terrain with a stunning view to St. Leonard’s Creek and the Patuxent River.
The main block of the current house was built as a one-and-a-half-story Tidewater-style dwelling with a steeply pitched roof indicative of medieval building traditions brought to the colonies from England. Adapted to American climatic conditions, Morgan Hill and others of its type included a front porch that extends outward from the roof along the south front facade. The original medieval plan included an enormous center chimney with front-to-back fireplaces serving each of its two first-floor rooms in a variation on the colonial hall-and-parlor plan. The center chimney was unusual for this region, and created a plan whereby one entered into a small lobby against the jamb of the massive fireplace, reminiscent of the seventeenth-century English baffle-entry houses. During an early-nineteenth-century renovation, this fireplace was removed and replaced by brick gable-end chimneys with detached stacks indicative of the region during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With the removal of the center chimney came the introduction of a more formal center passage plan, facilitated by the construction of partition walls. Likewise, a single-run, open-string stair replaced what was likely a closed winder stair. Still extant is the early exposed timber framing that includes corner and wall posts and ceiling joists with decorative beaded edges.
Other noteworthy elements of the house include a roof constructed of common rafter trusses held by mortise-and-tenon joints to the ends of overhanging tie beams (rather than the more common false plate). The formerly exposed ends of the tie beams feature decorative molding, now hidden by a boxed cornice. While utilizing lighter weight timbers or “scantling,” the house is double beamed and raftered. An exposed log servant or slave house with a stone and brick end chimney was moved from another location on the property and attached to the east side of the house by a narrow hyphen to serve as the kitchen. Early-nineteenth-century renovations included the replacement of the original windows with the current six-over-six-light sash and likely the installation of the dormer windows. The door and window surrounds, baseboards, mantels, and other detail elements were also replaced at this time.
The farm was originally part of a land grant to Phillip Morgan in 1651, referred to as Morgan’s Fresh. A prominent local citizen and militiaman, Morgan resided on the property but it is believed that the next owner, Robert Day, or perhaps one of his sons, built the house sometime between 1670 and 1700. The property was sold to Richard Breeden in 1836, and he may have been responsible for the extensive renovations, likely in an effort to upgrade the house to meet the more formal standards of the day. Morgan Hill Farm remained in the family until 1949, when it was purchased by Christian Wohlgemuth, who carefully restored the house and built an addition to the rear, creating the current T-shaped configuration. Completed in 1952, the addition intentionally mimics the style and configuration of the original house. Wohlgemuth also built two tenant houses modeled after the original house.
Still extant on the property are the eighteenth-century log tobacco barn, which is covered with frame siding and features still-operational ventilation panels, a log smokehouse, a corn crib, and two log servant or slave houses renovated for reuse (one near the house serves as a guest cottage and the other is located near the waterfront). Morgan Hill Farm remains in the Wohlgemuth family.
Rivoire, Richard J. “Morgan’s Fresh (Morgan Hill Farm, Hill Farm),” Lusby, Calvert County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1975. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Maryland Historical Trust. Inventory of Historic Sites in Calvert County, Charles County and St. Mary’s County, Annapolis: Maryland Historical Trust, 1973 (reprinted 1980).
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