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Folly Quarter, built in 1831–1833 for the Carroll family, is an excellent representation of neoclassical architecture and among the finest works of Baltimore architect William F. Small (1798–1832), a protégé of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Charles Carroll of Carrollton commissioned the house for his granddaughter Emily MacTavish and her husband, wealthy Scottish businessman John MacTavish. It was built on part of Doughoregan Manor, a 7,000-acre estate patented to Carroll's grandfather in 1702. Carroll was a wealthy planter, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His architect, Small, trained for two years under Benjamin Henry Latrobe, whose influence on his work is apparent. Like Latrobe, Small favored Greek- and Roman-inspired architecture and his designs demonstrate elegant restraint and use of classical proportions and details. In keeping with Latrobe’s “rational house” plan, Small placed the dining room of Folly Quarter to the rear of the house near the service stair and above the basement kitchen. Other characteristically Latrobe elements at Folly Quarter are its placement of windows within arched recesses, the use of tripartite windows, plain wall surfaces, vaulted ceilings, and a second-story circulation space that includes a dome with skylights. Folly Quarter was erected from locally quarried ashlar granite and adorned primarily by monumentally scaled, tetrastyle Greek porticoes supported by four monolithic Tuscan columns and set against a shallow pavilion. The smooth quality of the stone wall surface is enhanced by extremely fine mortar joints and understated detailing, including windows that are nearly flush with the wall and surrounds that are virtually nonexistent.
Folly Quarter was among Small’s last commissions, and as such represents his mature work and demonstrates the lasting influence of Latrobe while manifesting his own personal style. While Small adopted much of Latrobe’s architectural vocabulary, he used even greater restraint. According to historian Robert Alexander, “the style developed by Small was not simply a personal expression; it embodied the position and aims of his social class. Not the style of the common laborer, it was for the trained and skilled man who possessed or aspired to middle-class respectability.” This outlook is also evident in the sophistication and grand scale of the interior plan, elements favored by well-to-do clients like the Carroll family.
The interior of Folly Quarter exhibits far greater complexity and ornamentation than the exterior. It has a center passage that is differentiated architecturally into three sections with a groin vault ceiling with a medallion at the center flanked by coffered barrel-vaults. The hall is as broad as the rooms to either side. To one side are adjoining parlors that measure twenty-five-by-twenty-feet with fifteen-foot ceilings, used as dining and withdrawing rooms. The rooms to the other side, flanking the stair, were used as a library and breakfast room or family parlor. The parlors, separated by paneled folding doors, include ornamental plaster cornices and ceiling medallions, carved white marble mantels with caryatids, and architrave surrounds with bulls-eye corner blocks. An elegant open-well stairway leads to a twenty-four-foot-square second-floor gallery with a domed ceiling pierced by an eight-light oculus. The vaulted basement rooms originally consisted of a kitchen, butler’s room, housekeeper’s room, and storeroom. The original plan called for hyphenated wings to be added later, to include a schoolroom and a Catholic chapel. The property originally encompassed a picturesque landscape with terraced gardens and a full suite of dependencies and agricultural outbuildings.
Small was the son and grandson of master builders, but was the first among them to receive professional training as an architect. His father, Jacob Small Jr., was a wealthy builder and lumber dealer who later served as mayor of Baltimore, and his grandfather, Jacob Small Sr., designed and constructed many local buildings. William Small apprenticed with Benjamin Henry Latrobe at a time when Latrobe was working primarily on large-scale public structures including the redesign of the U.S. Capitol and the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore. Following his apprenticeship, Small designed a number of important public structures in Baltimore including the Athenaeum and Barnum’s City Hotel, at the time the largest in the country and featuring rare amenities such as warm baths and gas lighting. Small was responsible for the temple-front designs for McKim Free School (MD-01-510-0026) and the First Lutheran Church, and for a number of neoclassical and Greek Revival residences. He also designed Pascault Row, the last remaining example of Baltimore’s early-nineteenth-century row housing and an exemplar of the transition from the Federal to Greek Revival style. Small died in 1832 at age thirty-four, before Folly Quarter was completed.
Alexander, Robert L. “William F. Small, ‘Architect of the City’” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians20, 2 (May 1961): 63-77.
Short, Ken, “Carrollton Hall” (“Folly Quarter”), Howard County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 2012. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
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