Jay Van Renssalaer
54, East Gordon Street, Bel Air, Harford County
Proctor House is a two-story detached Gothic Revival cottage with board and batten siding. The house is basically L-shaped and is set on a rectangular lot with the principal entrance in the south elevation along Gordon Street. The house was constructed between 1860 and 1873 and enlarged about 1884. The initial dwelling being the center and west wing, with the east wing, porch rear ell, and possibly the entire second story, being added circa 1884. The house is structured as a central gabled section with a two-story bay window This section projects forward (south) between a two bay west wing and a three bay east wing. A north wing extends behind the west wing. All gables are decorated with bold jig-sawn vergeboards and jig-sawn pinnacle. Two chimneys with broad bases and corbeled caps rise through the ridgeline of the roof. Rafter ends are exposed under the roof sheathing and have scrolled decorative ends. Small brackets decorate and support the roofs of the two-story bay window, and recessed and molded panels decorate the space beneath the windows. The rear porch roof is supported off the wall by chamfered diagonal braces. On the interior, each section contains essentially a single space in each story. Modern partitions subdivide the two rooms in the gabled section. The east wing also contains an entrance and stair hall. Of particular note on the interior are an arched slate mantel painted to resemble several colors of inlaid marble and the stair's turned walnut newel post.
The significance of Proctor House is derived from its architectural merit. This two-story house is the only non-religious building of the Gothic Revival style in the town of Bel Air, the seat of Harford County. It was constructed between 1860 and 1873 with the present appearance the result of circa 1884 renovations. The vertical board and batten siding, steep pitched gable roof, jig-sawn vergeboards and crocket finials mark it as having been influenced by the architectural philosophy of Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing popularized the Gothic Revival designs of architect A.J. Davis for cottages and "villas" through a trio of books he published on landscape design and architecture. Picturesque country cottages were extremely popular nationally in the 1840s and 1850s. The style continued to influence the domestic architecture of the more rural areas well after the Civil War. In Bel Air, Proctor House is an architectural link between the numerous frame and brick classical and vernacular buildings and the surge of later Victorian residential buildings that developed in the town around the coming of the railroad in 1883.