Michael O. Bourne
Thomas Richards House
Conowingo Road (US 1), Rising Sun, Cecil County
The Thomas Richards house is a stone and brick farmhouse facing north, which is set into a hillside, making it slightly taller on the south elevation. It consists of two sections, the kitchen of fieldstone construction dating from the late 18th century, and the main block of brick construction, dating from the early 19th century. The stone section is 1 1/2 stories with 2 6/6 sash gable-roofed dormers only on the south side. On the north facade it has a 6-panel door with 5-light transom in the east bay, and a 9/6 sash window in the west bay. The shingled roof overhangs this facade by several feet, sheltering the entrance. A brick interior chimney rises from the west end, and on the south facade there are a door and window directly opposite those on the north. A porch extends across this facade, just below the sills of the dormer windows. The brick section is three bays wide, two stories tall, and one room deep, with garrett and basement. This section is a half-story above the stone section due to the slope of the hill. The north facade has a 6-panel door with 4-light transom in the west bay and 9/6 sash windows in all other openings. The windows on the north facade of both sections and the first story, south window of the kitchen have paneled shutters. There is a pent roof across the north facade of the main block between the first and second stories. On the south there are 9/6 sash windows in all openings on both floors. The stone foundation is partially exposed on this facade. There is a small, 4-pane window in the north side of the chimney stacks in both gables of this section. The brick is laid in common bond. The only original outbuilding is the large stone and wood 3-level bank barn. It was built and enlarged in the early 19th century and remains in excellent condition, continuing to be functional.
The Thomas Richards House is important for the basically unaltered condition in which it has survived, serving as an excellent example of the architecture of the turn of the 19th century in Cecil County. Thomas Richards, builder of the house, was a prosperous farmer and active member of West Nottingham Friends Meeting. In his will of 1837 it is stated that he owned shares in the Susquehanna River Bridge. Richards was a successful member of the community and his house is reflective of the solidity of his position. In 1928 U.S. Route 1 was rerouted, severing the northern boundary of the property. This is the tract of land where the famed Richards' Oak now stands. This huge tree, at first called the Lafayette Oak (following the General's visit), is a historic landmark owned for more than a century by the Richards family. The Thomas Richards House is not dated, but it is signed by Thomas Richards on the plaster inside the cooking fireplace. The "rds" was quite smoked over as was any other writing or date below his name. The Richards' did not alter the house during 130 years of dwelling.