Maryland was first colonized by English settlers in 1634—almost 400 years ago. Nearly four centuries of homes in our state have been built, torn down, and built again. People may overlook Maryland’s architectural impact in favor of historic structures in nearby Washington, D.C. and Alexandria; though this is understandable, many casual architecture and history enthusiasts are missing out on a fascinating opportunity to learn more about the homes that have sheltered and supported Marylanders for nearly 400 years. With that in mind, following is a brief history of architecture of Maryland homes.
In the Beginning…
The oldest existing Maryland home still standing is located in Centreville and dates back to 1683. The next oldest is Holly Hill in Friendship, which was initially built in 1698, with periods of further construction continuing until about 1730. According to Holly Hill’s page on the Maryland Historical Trust website, the structure is one of the few remaining examples of the Medieval Transitional style of architecture that was common in mid-18th-century Maryland.
Also dating back to the 1600s is Morgan Hill Farm in Lusby. The original structure was built sometime between about 1670 and 1700, and it is a great example of a 17th-century home that has kept many of its original features intact.
In Galesville, Cedar Park truly offers a weathered, historic look. The home was originally built in 1702, and its oldest portion is the earliest surviving earthfast-constructed dwelling in Maryland and Virginia. The house was encased in brick in about 1736.
Georgian architecture generally refers to any building styles built between 1714 and 1830—when monarchs named George ruled England and, generally, its colonies around the world. This style was popular in Maryland, particularly Baltimore, in the 18th century. The James Brice House in Annapolis is a stunning example of Georgian architecture. Construction began on the mansion in 1767 and took nearly seven years to complete. The original structure included 90,800 cypress shingles (you know we couldn’t get through this post without mentioning at least one roof…).
The National Register of Historic Places has placed hundreds of Maryland structures on its rolls. The organization also designates historic districts—these areas and neighborhoods are great for getting an overview of a region’s architecture and history. A few notable residential districts locally are:
- Brookeville Historic District: This small town features residences dating back to the 18th century, including many unaltered homes from the early and mid-1800s.
- Kensington Historic District: Kensington developed as a turn-of-the-20th-century community, and its architecture is influenced by multiple styles, including Colonial Revival—a sort of descendent of the 18th-century Georgian style.
- College Heights Estates Historic District: This mid-1900s suburban neighborhood might not call to mind architectural brilliance, but this district’s mix of Cape Cods and pre-ranch houses carries historical significance, reflecting how Maryland evolved as the automobile culture took hold.
- Upper Marlboro Residential Historic District: For a 300-year trip through architectural time, Upper Marlboro offers everything—styles include Queen Anne, 19th-century Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, Cape Cod, and bungalows.
We’ve only scratched the surface of Maryland’s architectural history—there is plenty of information online if you want to learn more. Some resources are:
- The Maryland Historical Trust’s list of properties on the national register
- Baltimore County’s Architectural History website
- The Trust for Architectural Easements’ Maryland page
- The Victorian Preservation Association’s Maryland page
If you do go looking for historic homes, remember that many remain private residences; admire from the sidewalk—don’t disturb the owners.
Also, if you own or are thinking of buying a historic home, renovations and repairs must be executed with extra care—not only to preserve the integrity of the structure, but possibly also to adhere to historic-district and local standards.
Where are your favorite examples of Maryland architecture?