Michael O. Bourne
Sandy Hook Road, Forest Hill, Harford County
The balanced lines of the D. H. Springhouse, a little gray stone building set into the base of a steep hill, attract the eye at first glance, and then several exceptional details, one by one, hold the attention. This is a stone springhouse with a schoolroom above, 16' 6" by 23', with one narrow wall set into the bank over several fresh springs. It measures two bays by one. The gable roof ridgeline runs east-west. The quality of stonemasonry is notable. All corner stones and all stones facing west, south, and east, are perfect ashlar, precisely cut rectangles smoothly finished on all six sides. Even courses fit the quoins. Lintels and sills bear traces of finely notched chisel lines, parallel or radiating to a perfect curve at each end. Entry to the schoolroom is through a wide doorway a few steps above the high ground at the west wall. Two windows with pegged oak frames, double hung with 6/6 lights, are located in the north and south walls. Shutter hinges and hooks are still in place. Entry to the springhouse below is through a wide round arch in the south wall, made of nine stones, four on each side of the perfect keystone. On this level are two rooms. The first, smaller, is the churn room with a small fireplace in the northwest corner, used to keep the butter and cheese warm enough in winter. The springhouse, about 14' square, had underwater shelves of stone on which crocks of milk and cream were set. Here the swirling springwater kept them cook but above freezing. Dairy products and meats and other perishable foods for the family and some of the young livestock were kept for a day or so this way. Features of the stonemasonry skill include three window lintels with a rams-horn pattern finely etched with radiating chisel lines. The east end wall has a large stone plaque with scrolls and columns in low relief around a raised oval, gracefully inscribed "D. H. 1816." The peak of the east wall is topped with a square stone base that supports a tapering four-sided arm under a tiny Ionic capital. The capital supports a one-inch cube centered under a perfect sphere which measures about 6" in diameter. All of this is formed from a single stone.
Primarily interesting because of its extraordinarily fine craftsmanship, the D. H. Springhouse has several other points of interest. The owner of the remote farm on which the springhouse was built was Judge William Smithson who 30 years earlier, in 1775, had been a signer of the famous Bush River Declaration, prototype of the Declaration of Independence. Smithson was a Lord Justice of the Court in Harford Town in 1780 and served many sessions as justice of the Circuit Court in Bel Air until 1801.