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Built between 1801 and 1803, Homewood is one of the most refined and well-articulated country houses of the Federal period. The property upon which Homewood was erected was purchased in 1800 by Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737–1832), a wealthy planter and politician and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather, Charles Carroll the Settler, first immigrated to the Maryland colony in 1689 with a commission from colonial proprietor Charles Calvert. Carroll gave the property to his son Charles Carroll Jr. (1775–1832) upon his marriage to Harriet Chew of the well-known Philadelphia family. An architect for the house has not been identified, although it is believed that Carroll acted as his own “gentleman architect” relying on pattern books of the period. Among the likely sources for the design of Homewood was William Pain’s The Practical Builder, first printed in America in 1797. Robert and William Edwards, the highly skilled master carpenters responsible for Homewood’s construction, may have also helped with design. The same is true of bricklayer Michael Keplinger. Homewood is a Palladian house of the late Georgian period and thus embraces elements of Federal or Adamesque design in delicately refined details like the three-part windows, elaborate doorway entablature, and interior plasterwork.
Homewood was a country retreat that Carroll used during the summer and autumn, spending the rest of the year in a town house in Baltimore City. Charles Carroll Sr. financed Homewood’s construction, and although the allowance for expenses was generous, Charles Jr. spent three times the initial proposal. This is reflected in the exceptional quality and craftsmanship of details throughout the house, making it one of the nation’s finest examples of Federal-period domestic architecture. As a five-part composition, the plan of Homewood follows the classical tradition of the sixteenth-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, as interpreted by British architects and adopted by the colonial elite during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This plan type was used mostly for country houses or as the centerpiece of an agricultural estate. While today Homewood is located within the city limits of Baltimore, at the time of its construction, the 130-acre woodland estate was about a mile north of the city and situated on gently rolling land that afforded a view of the harbor. The house was largely complete and ready for occupancy in 1803, although changes and additions continued to be made until 1806.
Homewood is built of Flemish-bond brick with stone trim and comprises a one-and-a-half-story central block with hyphens connecting to flanking single-story, pyramidal-roof wings, resting on a high basement. The central block has a low, hipped roof with a gable-front peak that is ornamented by garlands around a shield-shaped window below which is located a tetra-style portico. The front entry includes a full entablature complete with side lights, tracery fanlight, and fluted pilasters. It is flanked by nine-over-nine-light windows with the large panes and thin muntins that are a hallmark of the Federal style, along with jack-arched stone lintels with keystones; similar but smaller windows appear in the wings. Above each window is an ornamental stone panel. The three-bay hyphens include a central entry flanked by Palladian windows. A pair of chimneys is located toward the center of the main block, with individual chimneys at the center of each wing.
On the interior, the central block of this five-part residence comprises rooms for entertaining, including reception, dining, and drawing rooms. Following a Georgian plan, it has a wide center reception hall adjoining a back hall in which the stairway to the upper level is located. The halls are flanked by large rooms and bisected by a perpendicular cross hall that also provides access to the hyphens and wings. The front rooms include the more public dining and drawing rooms, while those to the rear include a back parlor and guest bedchamber. The west wing is the service area of the house including the kitchen, pantry, and housekeeper’s room, while the east wing was intended for the exclusive use of the master and mistress to include a bedchamber, dressing room, and office. Over the center block is a half story that includes a central hall flanked by two chambers to either side, and there is a full basement with a wine cellar and other storage areas. The interior plasterwork and other details are exceptional, including groin vaults in the center halls ornamented with bellflowers and an oval medallion with radiating leaves, and window and door surrounds with flattened oval pilasters.
Charles and Harriet’s eldest son, Charles Carroll III, inherited Homewood and lived here until inheriting the family estate, Doughoregan Manor, from his grandfather. Homewood then became the residence of the second son, John Lee Carroll, who served as governor of Maryland from 1875 to 1880. Homewood was purchased by Baltimore merchant Samuel Wyman in 1839, remaining in the Wyman family until 1865. In 1897 Homewood became a country school for boys and was finally acquired in 1902 by Johns Hopkins University. Homewood is now a house museum maintained by the university; it serves as the showpiece of the college campus located to its rear. Homewood was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971 and underwent a major restoration beginning in 1976. Also on the property is the c. 1802 brick privy that is divided into separate sections for men and women. The spaces are finished to include wood paneling and half-dome plastered ceilings.
Arthur, Catherine Rogers, and Cindy Kelly. Homewood House.Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
“Homewood, HABS No. MD-35. Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, 2005.
Morton, W. Brown. “Homewood,” Baltimore City, Maryland. National Register Nomination Form, 1971. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
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