Mark R. Edwards
Whitehall Road, Skidmore, Anne Arundel County
Whitehall is a five-part brick building of unusual length. The gable-front central block, 1 1/2 stories in height, features a massive pedimented portico supported by four fluted Corinthian columns on the south facade, facing Whitehall Creek. This 2-story gable-front section is flanked by drawing rooms with perpendicular gable roofs hidden on both front and rear facades by partial brick balustrades. At some unknown date, but probably by 1769, two brick wings were added with connecting one-story arcaded passages to the main block. Four bays wide by three deep, the end wings are one story high but their pyramidal roofs and central chimneys give the effect of two-story units. Massive brick chimneys rise from either gable end of the main block as well as the centers of each end wing. On the north facade, the basement level is exposed. This basement level contains 6/6 sash windows, while those on the first floor are 9/9 sash apart from the windows flanking the central entrance. Both front and rear entrances contain traceried fanlights and are flanked by two 6/6 sash windows. The entrance on the south facade, beneath the portico, is slightly more elaborate than that on the north, but both carry full neoclassical pediments and are flanked by pilasters. Inside, the coved ceiling of the great hall projects upward into the roof, reaching a height of 20 feet. The rich neoclassical embellishments have been attributed, though not substantiated, to William Buckland, the most widely acclaimed architect/builder of the late Colonial period in Maryland. Some of the richly carved ornamentation includes egg and dart molding, modillions, decorative window casings with lateral consoles, and four satyr-like masks at the corners of the coved ceiling. The rococo plasterwork is documented as the work of John Rawlings, at the time a craftsman newly arrived from London. The main block of the building and the arcaded hyphens were raised to two stories at some point, but restored in the early 20th century down to its 1769 appearance.
Built by Governor Horatio Sharpe as a retreat and entertainment pavilion, Whitehall was later enlarged and became his residence from his retirement in 1769 until his return to England in 1773. The original pavilion, gardens, parks, and entrance court of this 1,000-acre estate were designed and built under Sharpe's supervision. The house is representative of the high achievement in Georgian architectural design. It is a two-story five-part Flemish-bond brick building of unusual length, about 200 feet. The giant portico on the central portion of the house, with its Corinthian columns, is one of the earliest in the American colonies.