Almodington is one of Somerset County’s most elaborate mid-eighteenth-century Georgian plantation houses. It represents the emergence among the county’s wealthy planter class of the brick, single-pile, center-passage house, marking the transition away from the prevailing frame, one-and-a-half story, hall-and-parlor-plan dwellings of previous generations. Almodington was also far larger than the average dwelling of the period, with a main block measuring approximately 55 by 24 feet. Moreover, Almodington’s decorative brickwork clearly distinguished its exterior appearance, while its interior exhibited refined detailing and a formal plan that mediated between public and private spaces.
Almodington remains among the finest pattern brick houses in an area still rich in decorative brickwork. Its glazed headers were used to highlight Flemish bond construction and perhaps the expenditure represented by the volume of bricks required to lay every other brick on end. In addition to its glazed checkerboard pattern, Almodington’s fine brick craftsmanship is displayed in the gauged-brick jack arches that appear over the windows on the south facade, the unusual segmental arches with alternating glazed rowlocks, and unglazed soldier bricks on the north facade, water table, and ornamental belt courses. Other noteworthy exterior architectural features include its rare surviving plaster cove cornices, original twelve-over-twelve sash windows, and characteristically Georgian, classically inspired frontispiece with Ionic pilasters and modillioned cornice.
The interior plan encompasses a broad center passage with stairway, regulating access to the formal rooms to either side. The larger of the two rooms is the parlor to the west. The current paneled walls and other woodworking, including built-in coved shell cabinets, were reconstructed from the original following their removal and reinstallation in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1918 as one of twenty interiors intended to chronicle the story of American architecture and furnishings created between 1680 and 1915. While its removal is unfortunate, it speaks to the caliber of craftsmanship at Almodington. To the east is the dining room, which is somewhat smaller due to the presence of a paneled partition wall that separates it from a narrow passage running perpendicular to the center hall. This hall allowed servants to move unseen between the formal rooms of the main block and the service area to its rear. The dining room retains its finishes such as its paneled window reveals and overmantel, as does the center passage with its dogleg stair with ornamented stringer, turned balustrade, and molded handrail that terminates in a spiral pattern.
Fronting the Manokin River, this house formed the centerpiece of original owner John Elzey’s 1,000-acre tract called Almodington. The property was first patented in 1633 for his grandfather, John Elzey I. It is likely that this house was built on the site of an earlier Elzey family house. Almodington is a product of the area’s wealth. This area of Somerset County, located near the county seat at Princess Anne, surpassed all others within the Lower Eastern Shore in wealth and influence throughout the colonial period; it contained the largest percentage of brick dwellings and 1,000-plus-square-foot residences than anywhere else in the county, according to historian Paul Touart.
Almodington’s two-story, one-room-plan rear kitchen ell was erected sometime between 1783 and 1798, as indicted by tax assessment records. A two-part, story-and-a-half service wing was added to the side of the house during the mid-twentieth century to house a modern kitchen. Almodington remains a private residence.
Touart, Paul B., “Almodington,” Somerset County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1986. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Touart, Paul B. Somerset: An Architectural History. Annapolis and Princess Anne: Maryland Historical Trust and Somerset County Historical Trust, 1990.