Kirk E. Ranzetta
Deep Falls Road, Chaptico, Saint Marys County
Deep Falls began as a one-story four-room frame house that is said to have been built in 1745 but, if so, was apparently extensively remodeled at some time during the last two decades of the 18th century then again during the mid 19th century. Of the original house only the basics are known, largely because the later alterations appear to have obliterated any easily available evidence as to its earliest appearance. It is known that it measured about 40' x 30' and that there was at least one pair of external chimneys with triple pents at the east end. A second pair of chimneys, also possibly with triple pents, may have stood at the west end of this first stage but were conceivably removed when the house was extended in that area. The treatment of the original facade has not yet been established but the present arrangement, taking into account several obvious changes, indicates that it had a five-bay principal (south) facade with a centrally located entrance door. This was later expanded to the west by three bays, and still later raised to two stories. A detached kitchen to the east was connected to the main block with a hyphen. Presently, the first floor of each facade is covered by a deep shed-roofed porch with square columns. The first floor is asymmetrical, owing to the two different periods of construction. The five bays to the east consist of a central door flanked by engaged columns and topped with a four-light traceried transom, flanked by a pair of 9/9 sash windows to the west and a polygonal bay window of narrow 9/9 sash windows to the east. The three bays to the west consist of a six-panel door with a four-light transom, and two 9/9 sash windows to the west. The second floor exhibits a symmetrical facade, having been added at one time. The central bay holds a large 12/8 sash window with a semicircular architrave, and two 9/6 sash windows to either side. All these windows retain louvered shutters. The north facade is similar, but the two bays to the east have been raised to two stories via a shed-roofed addition. The west gable end of the building features two exterior chimneys, with a triple pent. Each pent has a 9/9 sash window with louvered shutters and a splayed jack arch. A single 6-light window pierces the frame attic gable. The east gable end also has two large exterior chimneys, but the first floor is covered by a one-story frame hyphen, three bays wide with a central entrance and 6/6 sash windows. This hyphen connects the perpendicular frame kitchen to the main house. The kitchen is one bay wide on the south gable end, and three bays long, with a single gable-roofed dormer with a 9/6 sash window on the east roof slope. The surviving interior details of the earliest part of the house are Federal in style. These include a dentiled ceiling cornice, Federal mantels, and a stair with a dark maple rail and newel, the latter with a rosewood cap and ivory knob, square curly maple balusters, and delicately shaped spandrels.
Major William Thomas, the alleged builder, was born in 1714. Late in his very active political life he was a member of the Committee of Safety for St. Mary's County and a delegate from St. Mary's to the Revolutionary Convention in Annapolis in 1775. His son, also named William, distinguished himself as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, and as President of the Maryland Senate for the twelve years preceding his death in 1813. His son, James, a graduate of St. John's College, Annapolis, was elected Governor of Maryland in 1833 and served a three-year term. James Walton Thomas, a grandson of the Governor, was a successful Cumberland, Maryland, attorney and wrote "Chronicles of Colonial Maryland." Deep Falls has long been recognized as one of the most interesting, attractive, and best preserved 18th century homes in Southern Maryland. Because of its unusual plan and the excellence of some of its interior and exterior detail, Deep Falls is believed to be one of the most interesting examples of Southern Maryland architecture, displaying an intriguing blend of 18th and 19th century styles. The terraced garden side of the house is perhaps one of the best surviving examples of this particular form of landscape architecture in the region. The unique manner in which the house developed into its present form physically reflects the increasing prosperity of a single St. Mary's County family from the colonization of Maryland to the present day. The house today stands as a monument to their many achievements.