Michael H. Day
Governor John Walter Smith House
104, South Church Street, Snow Hill, Worcester County
The Governor John Walter Smith house is an expansive 2 1/2 story Queen Anne frame house erected in 1889-1890. The dwelling is supported on a raised brick foundation and covered by a broad slate hip roof extended by numerous towers and bays. Encircling the house on several sides is a Tuscan-columned wraparound porch, and extending to the rear is a 2 1/2-story service wing. The asymmetrical exterior features a broad range of porches, windows, and towers sheathed with contrasting surfaces covered with weatherboards and wood shingles. The highly complex roof, a combination of gable and hip roofs, is complicated with a bell-shaped tower on the northeast corner and a conical tower to the southeast. The paneled double door stands in the center bay of the approximately 7-bay east facade. Windows on the first and second floors are 1/1 sash, while those in the attic gables, towers, an oriels are 6/1 or 4/1. Elaborate interior chimneys rise from two laces on the rear roof slope. The interior boasts much of its original woodwork and hardware including a rare collection of Art Nouveau colored glass windows. The house occupies a generous lot dotted with mature shade trees and shrubs in a southern residential district of Snow Hill, Maryland. A one-story frame outbuilding stands to the rear of the house.
The Governor John Walter Smith house in Snow Hill, Worcester County, is significant for both its architectural character and for association with Governor Smith for whom it was built. The Smith House is one of the most sophisticated examples of a Queen Anne influenced house on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Built in 1889-1890, the house is characterized by an asymmetrical plan, multiple roof lines, polygonal towers, a variety of window types and materials, and elaborate decorative detailing on the interior. Of particular note is the extensive use of stained glass in the windows and the overall grand scale of the building. The house was built for John Walter Smith (1845-1925), one of the most influential businessmen and politicians in Worcester County. Smith owned a large amount of land on the Eastern Shore and was involved in establishing and serving as a director of several businesses including lumber, transportation, banking, and agriculture. Politically, his most influential roles were as a two term Governor of Maryland from 1900-1908 and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He served in the House from 1898 to 1900, just before being elected Governor, and in the Senate from 1908 to 1920, just after being the state's Governor. Serving in these major political positions, Smith brought great prestige and influence to the Lower Easter Shore. The house was clearly built with entertainment in mind which is evident in the plan of the large public spaces which easily flow into each other. Smith resided in this home until his death in 1925.