Paul Baker Touart
11842, Porfin Drive, Berlin, Worcester County
Williams Grove is a two-story, three-part house facing northwest. Built in three principal stages, the center-passage main block and its additions are supported by a minimal brick foundation, and the building is sheathed with different types of wood shingles. The various gable roofs are covered with wood shingles as well. The construction sequence began c. 1810 with a two-story, two-bay frame house with a single-story, one-room plan wing in the stepped configuration typical of the region. This early portion comprises the two northern bays of the two-story section and one bay of the 1 1/2-story wing of the present building. The initial house was expanded during the mid 19th century to the north and south. A two-story, three-bay side-passage addition was extended southward, and a new common rafter roof was built across the old and new sections; a single-story section was extended to the north, and 6/6 sash shed-roofed dormers were added to light the loft rooms. In the early 1970s, a two-story kitchen and garage wing was attached to the north end, giving the entire house an L shape. The interior retains a large percentage of the early- to mid-19th century woodwork intact.
Williams Grove is significant as an example of regionally distinctive vernacular architectural form. In its stepped, linear profile, the two-story frame house exemplifies the so-called "telescope" building type which is associated with the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia during the 19th century. In the case of Williams Grove, this stepped form was achieved during a single building campaign. The earliest section (c. 1810), now comprising the center portion of the house, involved a two-story, two-bay, one-room plan main block, with a lower one-room plan wing projecting from its gable end. A shared chimney stack indicates that the two sections were constructed at the same time. Around 1850-1860, the house was enlarged with a two-story side passage/parlor extension to the south. To the north, the single story wing was extended as well, and shed-roofed dormers were introduced on each roof slope. The three-bay addition transformed the two-story one-room plan dwelling into a center passage/single- pile structure, a vernacular house form typically employed in the region during the 18th and 19th centuries. Included in the rebuilding was a new roof and a two-story porch stretching across the entire length of the enlarged structure. Williams Grove is the only stepped dwelling in Worcester County that developed in this particular manner. The exterior covering of cypress shingles reflects a local architectural tradition and indigenous material; stands of cypress in Worcester County were exploited for building products as early as the 17th century, as the durable rot-resistant wood was valuable for roofs and siding. The interior contains early- to mid-19th century Federal and Greek Revival woodwork representative of regional craft traditions during the period; surviving features include stairs, mantels, doors, windows, and flooring.