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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Michael O. Bourne, 05/1997
Johnsontown (DELISTED)
Inventory No.: CH-348
Other Name(s): Hawkmoor
Date Listed: 5/31/1991
Location: 9880 Johnsontown Road, La Plata, Charles County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: c. 1800
Description: A two-story, two-part clapboarded frame dwelling, facing south. Johnsontown represents two major periods of construction, the older part being its west end section. Built between 1798 and 1818, in its original form it was essentially a one-room deep dwelling erected over a full, brick-walled cellar. The interior spatial arrangement included a large drawing room and two smaller adjacent rooms on the first floor, and two bedrooms above. The exterior featured full-width front and rear porches, and an exterior chimney flanked by one-story frame pents. The centrally positioned entrance door of the four-bay principal facade opened directly into the drawing room, while the end door of the three-bay rear elevation opened onto a small stair passage. In about 1818 the house was enlarged by a two-part frame addition to its east, chimney end. The wing consisted of a two-story, two-room section with an exterior chimney at its east end. This was joined to the original part of the house by an off-set, one-story hyphen containing a passage and a pantry. In the early 20th century the house was extensively renovated, work that included the replacement of the roofing, exterior siding and window sash. It was at this same time that the former hyphen was raised to two full stories. Not many years later, the front and rear porches of the main block were removed. In 1980, after standing vacant for over 20 years, the house was rehabilitated. While all of the existing exterior finishes are new, they replicate known original features. The building's original spatial arrangement, woodwork, and other early finishes remain preserved. Approximately 125 feet to the southeast is a multi-use agricultural building believed to be contemporary with the oldest part of the house. A heavily timber-framed structure, it originally was used for the storage of grain and whole corn in the lower rooms, while its steeply pitched loft was used for curing tobacco. The exterior of this building was remodeled in the early 1950s, but it nevertheless retains a significant amount of early fabric and carpentry details. About 75 feet from the west end of the house is the site of a small cemetery where several mid-19th century owners of the property are interred. Adjacent to this is a second cemetery, relocated in 1990 from a nearby historically associated property. This cemetery consists of seven monuments, including an obelisk and ledger, a tablet and ledger, four ledgers on angled marble bases, and a large granite stone marking two graves. The graves range in date from 1859 to 1912 and are of the same family that owned the property from 1818 to 1943. Significance: Johnsontown comprises two buildings, a house and a granary, that are each of architectural significance in a local historic context. The exterior design, spatial configuration, and detailing of the earliest part of the house, believed to have been built between c. 1800 and c. 1810, clearly reflect the dramatic change in housing forms at the middle and upper economic class levels that occurred in this region between about 1790 and 1830, especially from the one-room-deep, hall-parlor house type characteristic of the Colonial period to the three-bay, side-passage houses of the Federal period. Remarkably few houses survive in Charles County that illustrate as well as Johnsontown this highly important phase in local architectural development. Although several other houses of a similar transitional design and room arrangement once existed in this area, Johnsontown is the sole surviving example of its form. Enhancing the building's architectural interest is the distinctly unusual original plan of its east wing, built about 1818-1820, which, while later altered, is clearly evident on the interior. The adjacent granary, believed to be contemporary with the oldest section of the house, is arguably one of Charles County's most architecturally significant agricultural buildings. In addition to being one of the earliest surviving agricultural-use structures of any type in the county, it is particularly important for the fact that it was carefully designed to perform several specific but separate functions: that of grain and corn storage, and for the curing of tobacco. Its age, design, function, carpentry details, and known original exterior finishes combine to establish this building as one that is altogether unique and highly important among all other surviving pre-Civil War agricultural structures in this locality.
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