Kirk E. Ranzetta
22530, Washington Street (MD 326), Leonardtown, Saint Marys County
The Abell House, constructed c. 1910, is a two-story, three bay frame dwelling situated on the east side of Washington Street in Leonardtown. Positioned near the former location of the Leonardtown wharf, the house commands sweeping views of Breton Bay, a sheltered harbor of the Potomac River. The house demonstrates the eclecticism characteristic of Victorian era architecture in St. Mary's County, exhibiting a vernacular interpretation of the Queen Anne style in its asymmetrical massing, bracketed eaves, multiple cross gables, and tall slender finials. Side and rear porches were enclosed in the late 20th century. Oriented on an east-west axis, the principal elevation of the roughly L-shaped house faces west towards Washington Street. The house's braced, circular sawn frame originally rested on a brick pier foundation. The spaces between the piers along the exterior perimeter of the building have since been filled in with brick. The exterior of the building was originally sheathed in weatherboard fastened with wire nails. This material, however, is currently covered with aluminum siding. The roof, which is pierced by a single, centrally located chimney flue, is covered with asphalt shingles. The fenestration of the west facade of the main block consists of a door and two 2/2 sash windows. (All former louvered shutters have been removed, and most windows are 2/2 sash.) The door consists of three rectangular panels topped by a large glass pane, and is flanked by sidelights and a three-light transom. All of these openings are shaded by a wrap-around porch with a concrete floor. The porch, with turned posts and scroll-sawn brackets, wraps around the north side of the house, and leads to a second entry into the rear room of the original dwelling. This is a six panel-over-one pane door. The wide overhanging eaves are decorated with scroll-sawn brackets that are found on every elevation of the house. A single cross-gable is fenestrated by a single pane pointed-arched window. The south elevation consists of three different sections. The westernmost is two stories, topped by a cross gable with a single pane pointed-arched window and a finial. The second section, slightly set back from the front block, also has a cross gable, finial, and two windows on the second floor, but the first floor is pierced by two sets of paired 6/6 sash windows. Historic maps and architectural evidence reveal that this was once a porch that was actually recessed below living space on the second floor. This porch was later enclosed. The third section of this elevation originally served as the rear porch, but it too was enclosed within the past two decades. The rear or east elevation has been extensively modified on the first floor with modern doors and windows. The second floor is pierced by four 2/2 windows. A cross gable projects from the roof and is pierced by a pointed-arched window. A finial rises from the peak. A small projection from the kitchen's rear wall holds two 4-light casement windows. The north elevation is unfenestrated on the first floor. The second floor of the front section holds a 2/2 window, while the rear section features a distinctive stained glass window with a floral design. It remains unclear whether this window is original to the house. The kitchen wing is lit by one 2/2 window. All of the gables are decorated with finials and small pointed-arched windows. The interior follows an asymmetrical plan. The closed-string stair has a turned newel and balusters. The interior plaster, some doors, and all mantels have been removed pending rehabilitation. The overall plan, much of the fenestration, the main staircase, and the exterior architectural details will be retained. A rear service stair will be removed due to its lack of compliance with modern building codes.
The Abell House is significant for exemplifying the eclecticism of Victorian-era domestic vernacular architecture in St. Mary's County. The dwelling's asymmetrical massing, bracketed eaves, multiple cross gables, and tall slender gable peak finials are inspired by the Queen Anne style. Overlooking Breton Bay near the southern end of Washington Street in Leonardtown, the house is reminiscent of the waterfront development that characterized the area beginning in the mid 1880s, but has since vanished. The house derives additional significance for its association with Enoch B. Abell, a significant local political leader, attorney, and entrepreneur who was integral in developing Leonardtown's waterfront area into a terminus for steamboats plying the Potomac River. Abell had the house constructed c. 1910, and resided in the house until his death in December 1924.