Michael O. Bourne
24435, Marble Head Road, Ridgely, Caroline County
Marble Head is a two-story, three-part stuccoed brick house facing northeast. Evidently built in stages between 1803 and 1820, the two-story, three-bay, center hall, single-pile main block is extended to the rear (southwest) with a single-story hyphen that joins a two-story two-room plan service wing. All three sections were conceived as a single unit but probably executed over a period of five to ten years. Assembled entirely of brick, the dwelling is coated with a late-19th century layer of stucco scored with an ashlar strike to imitate stone. Where this stucco has flaked or worn off, the Flemish bond of the main block is clearly evident and the mortar joint is struck. Supported on a raised cellar of common bond, the two-story, three-bay main block has a symmetrical northeast facade with a center, round-arched entrance and flanking window openings. The round-arched entrance is enhanced with early-19th century finishes that include fluted pilasters, raised-panel reveals and soffit, and a pointed-arch muntin design which fills the half-round transom. The four-panel front door dates form the late 19th century. The adjacent window openings were reworked during the late 19th century with 2/2 sash, which have been removed and covered with plywood. The smaller second-story window openings have been covered as well. Two additional window openings light the cellar. Trimming the base of the roof is a late-19th century boxed cornice. A hip-roofed Victorian porch has been removed from the front of the house. The northwest gable end is defined by pairs of boarded-over window openings on each floor which flank the interior end chimney stack. Small window openings light the attic. The late-19th century eave is extended with an enclosed soffit and returns at the base of the roof. The southeast gable end is similarly treated, however, a single window opening defines the first and second stories. The southwest (rear) wall of the main block is partially covered by the single-story brick hyphen. A late-19th century flue stack rises through the south end of the hyphen, and two large chimney stacks rise through the gable roof of the service wing. The interior of the house retains a high percentage of its original woodwork, including A turned newel post, narrow rectangular balusters, and a molded handrail, scroll decorated stringers, turned pendants at the bottoms of upper-floor newel posts, crossetted door surrounds, chair rails, baseboards, and Federal mantels The only remaining outbuilding is a deteriorated 20th-century frame privy.
The property known as Marble Head derives its significance from its intact architectural form and nearly complete interior finishes dating to the early 19th century. Conceived in a three-part plan with a stepped service wing, Marble Head is associated with a pattern of building well known in Caroline County and found throughout the Eastern Shore. In Caroline County, Marble Head stands out as one of the most intact examples of this stepped house form. The stepped rear wing was erected in a two-part scheme with a single-story hyphen connecting a two-story, two-room plan kitchen. The service wing survives with a working fireplace and slave chamber above. The stepped service wing allowed for a connected, rather than detached, kitchen, thereby resulting in a more convenient and efficient operation of the household. At the same time the disassociation of second-floor spaces between the main block and rear wing provided for segregated sleeping chambers for the plantation family and their domestic servants. Fitted with a working fireplace, the cellar in the main house was used for storage and slave occupancy as well. The two-story, center hall brick house was built on a superior level with finely crafted architectural features evident in the round arched entrance, center hall staircase, and adjacent parlor and dining room. While less elaborately executed, the second and third floor finishes demonstrate the hierarchy of architectural treatments found in mid-Atlantic gentry dwellings. The rear service wing contains well preserved interiors also, especially within the kitchen and second-floor slave chamber.