MHT File Photo
Mason Springs Road (MD 425), Marbury, Charles County
Although late Federal in its exterior appearance, Araby is actually a mid-18th century house that was extensively altered in the mid 19th century. The initial stage was a one-story, five-bay gambrel-roofed Flemish bond brick structure. Two chimneys were enclosed within each end wall (east and west) and there is a molded brick watertable at the base of all four elevations. The windows have gauged brick lintels and there was a wood, modillioned eave cornice. (A small section of this cornice is preserved under the roof of the existing mid 19th century, north elevation entrance porch.) The interior plan of this first stage, retained when the house was altered, consisted of four rooms and a short rear stair hall. This plan is fairly typical of Southern Maryland architecture dating from c. 1720 to c. 1780. The southeast room has all four wall surfaces sheathed with fielded panels and has two shell alcoves flanking the fireplace. The reeded mantel in this room constitutes its only 19th century alteration. The other rooms have both paneled fireplace walls and dadoes and the fireplaces in two instances have moulded surrounds. The stair has simple turned balusters and a black walnut rail. In the mid 19th century the roof was raised to a full two-story height. The English bond brickwork of these wall extensions contrasts with the Flemish bond of the original walls, making the cornice line and the roof profile of this first stage easily discernable. The one decidedly Federal characteristic evidenced on the exterior is the bridging (or joining by a curtain) of the chimney stacks at each end. Other Federal period influences can be observed in the brick denticulated eave cornice of both the front (south) and rear (north) facades and the short, projecting brick water lip over the main entrance door of the south facade where a flat-roofed porch is believed to have stood. At the west end of the house stands a frame hyphen connecting the house to a one-story brick wing. Presumably the brick wing, positioned at a right angle to the main block, was initially used as a detatched summer kitchen. The later hyphen contains a modern kitchen and a roofed porch with fluted columns and a stone paved floor. On the grounds are several interesting domestic dependencies, large plantings of boxwood, and an interesting rose garden.
Araby was the home of William and Sarah Eilbeck, who's daughter Anne married George Mason (also a Charles Countian), author of the Virginia Bill of Rights and builder of Gunston Hall in Virginia. It is believed that George and Anne made Araby their home until the completion of Gunston Hall, and made lengthy periodic stays here afterwards. Their son, William, inherited Araby upon the death of his grandmother and it was for him that the nearby Mason's Springs was named. George Washington recorded many visits to Araby in his diaries, most of them occurring while visiting a nearby property he owned. As a mid-18th century example of vernacular domestic architecture, Araby is important in that despite the major renovation previously discussed, it retains a significant amount of original interior and exterior fabric intact. In a region where few examples of such structures have survived unaltered, Araby is found to be of particular interest, most notably for its simple but sophisticated interior treatment, the preservation of various construction features, and as an example of a type of house erected by persons of a relatively high position within the socioeconomic class levels of mid- and late-18th century Charles County.