William Bodenstein, Undated Photo
Bruffs Island Road , Copperville, Talbot County
Period/Date of Construction:
1781-84; 1799; 1830-60
Architect: Robert Key?
Wye House and its accompanying outbuildings stand at the end of a long tree-lined lane and circular drive. The main house, a seven-part late-18th and 19th century Georgian and Federal style dwelling is comprised of a tall two-story gable-front central block with two flanking lower two-story gable-front pavilions, two connecting one-story hyphens, and two one-story large end-units. The center block and pavilions are topped by wide low-pitched gable roofs which are brought out to the main facades as smooth boarded pediments and treated as classical temple motifs. The tympanum of both facades of the central block contain a large lunette window. These pediments are framed by four tall chimneys, two located on either side of the main house. The one-story hyphens, each containing one room and a narrow passageway, are covered by pent roofs which cannot be seen from the south or front side of the house. The two corresponding one-story end units have hipped roofs and their ridge poles parallel the long axis. Of frame construction, the walls are brick nogged and covered on the exterior by clapboards. The central block is five bays wide, the pavilions and end units are each two, and the hyphens one bay wide. The corners of the main block have broad unfluted colossal pilasters and those of the pavilions, narrow unfluted colossal pilasters. Small modillions embellish the main cornices as well as the pediments of the central block. First floor windows of the main house have 9/6 light sash and those above, 6/6 sash. All windows have exterior louvered shutters. The center door of the south (front) facade has a fanlight under a broken pediment and sidelights. The door is flanked by engaged Doric columns and Doric pilasters appear outside the sidelights. The entranceway is sheltered by a small one-story Palladian portico, added about 1799, with four slender columns. Above this is a tripartite window with pilasters. The rear (north) elevation of the central block has a one-story covered porch extending across its entire front. This long veranda has jalousies on the sides, six fluted columns with delicate palm-leaf capitals in front, and a slender balustrade on the roof. Added in 1799, the north porch is Early Federal or Republican in style. In the period 1830-60, the door in the north elevation of each hyphen was retrimmed in the Greek Revival style and their pent roofs were extended out to cover these entries, but pitched at a lower angle, thereby giving the effect of a flattened half-gambrel. In 1914 the two pavilions had their gable roofs raised about a foot and a half to elevate the ceilings in the second floor bedrooms and also to raise the original 3/3 light sash second story windows above the 6/6 windows at the first floor level. At the north end of a grass lawn north of the house is the orangery, a brick structure with a 2-story 4-bay hip-roofed main block with flanking hip-roofed wings. Other outbuildings include an early-19th century gable-front frame dairy, a two-part frame smokehouse, a 20th century garage, a mid-19th century carriage house, and an early- to mid-18th century 1 1/2-story Flemish bond brick dwelling commonly referred to as the Captain’s House. Located farther from the domestic buildings is an early-19th century frame tenant house, a mid- to late-19th century barn, three late-19th century corn cribs, and two tenant houses.
Wye House, built in 1781-84 and achieving its final form by 1799, is an outstanding example of a large Southern frame plantation house. Possibly designed by Robert Key, architect and carpenter of Annapolis, Wye House is a seven-part "Roman Country House" composition and it illustrates the transition in style from late Georgian to Early Federal architecture. The orangery still contains a rare example of an original 18th century heating system (hot air duct system). The additional buildings that accompany Wye House include rare and important examples of domestic and farm-related structures that contribute significantly to the historic and architectural qualities of the property as well. As a group they form one of the rarest collections of 18th, 19th, and 20th century buildings in the state.