Kirk E. Ranzetta
230, Jefferson Street (MD 5), Leonardtown, Saint Marys County
Constructed in 1830-1840, Buena Vista is a 2 1/2 story, three-bay, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling with a two story, three-bay, frame, wing. Both sections rest on a brick foundation and are sheathed with clapboard. All windows on both sections are 6/6 double-hung sash windows. The roof of the main block, covered with standing seam metal, is pierced by two interior-end brick chimneys. The wing, meanwhile, exhibits an exterior end brick chimney. The main block of the dwelling exhibits a side-passage plan with a double parlor while the wing consists of a stair-passage (which also now contains a storage closet) and one large room. The south or primary elevation consists of the three-bay main block and three bay wing with each window and door symmetrically aligned with the bay above it. The main block's first floor is pierced by two 6/6 sash windows with louvered shutters and a five-panel door (two vertical panels on the bottom and three panels above) with a three-light transom. The first floor bays are shaded by a Doric pedimented portico supported by four square columns that exhibit entasis or a slight curvature in their profile. The pediment does not contain any decoration, but exhibits a subtle three-step cornice. The second floor of this section features three windows while two gable-roofed 6/6 sash dormers exhibiting engaged pilasters and corner blocks pierce the roof. The gable end wing also consists of three bays. Two small 6/6 windows and a door pierce the first floor. These bays are also shaded by a porch supported by four square columns that also exhibit entasis. The second floor is pierced by three small 6/6 windows. The north elevation resembles the south elevation in that it features the same number of sash and doors on all floors. This elevation, however, does not exhibit the same degree of decoration. The main block, for instance, features a smaller portico over the passage entry. This portico is supported by two square columns that exhibit entasis. Notably, a window on the second floor of the wing exhibits a plain frieze above its header. The other windows on the second floor do not exhibit similar treatments.
Buena Vista represents a significant example of a Greek Revival style dwelling in St. Mary's County. The 2 1/2 story, frame, side-passage plan dwelling exhibits a pedimented Doric portico on its primary elevation with columns that bend to suggest entasis. Its interior decoration follows a clear hierarchy that simultaneously communicated wealth, domestic organization, as well as social distance. The dwelling's plan as well as the range in decorative schemes--from the turned newel, scroll-sawn stair brackets, and staircase paneling to the east wing's plain mantel, rudimentary winder stair, and smaller trimwork around the windows and doors--served to guide guests towards the more formal spaces of the home and also inform visitors of the occupant's wealth and social status. These are elements typically found in elite homes of the mid 19th century. While an exceptional example of the Greek Revival style, the house is also significant for its association with a local farming family as well as a local builder and architect. According to oral tradition, Vincent Camalier, a local builder and architect, built the 2 1/2 story, side passage plan house for George and Mary C. Combs in the 1840s. Camalier, a master carpenter who migrated from Washington, D.C. to St. Mary's County in 1831, erected a Greek Revival dwelling that reflected the Combs family's wealth and prestige. Architectural evidence found in the east wing suggests that this service wing (which probably predates the main house) was moved from another site and then added to the main house possibly in the 1860s. The addition may have reflected the need to consolidate domestic service. This architectural and documentary evidence reveals how St. Mary's County residents found it necessary to retain domestic servants even into the late 19th century.