An old house to hit the road for history

January 09, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

The Brome-Howard House in St. Mary's City is 150 years old, but it's still too new to be part of Maryland's plans to revive its vanished 17th-century Colonial capital.

On Tuesday, the three-story Greek-Revival mansion, built in 1840 as the center of a 1,800-acre tobacco plantation, is to be rolled down Route 5 toward a new foundation a mile south of its original perch above the St. Mary's River.

Four original outbuildings, including a two-room slave quarters, will also be relocated.

Historic St. Mary's City, the state's outdoor museum of history and archaeology, has ordered the $220,000 move as part of its mission to uncover and develop the remains of Maryland's first capital.

"It's a wonderful 19th-century house," said Karin Stanford, a spokeswoman for Historic St. Mary's City, "but our focus is the 17th century. We never knew what to do with it."

Besides, archaeologists have found the house stood on top of a portion of one of the old capital's most important sites -- the spot beside the river where Leonard Calvert, Maryland's first governor, built his home in 1635.

The spot was also the scene of fighting during the English Civil War. Forces loyal to the English Parliament sacked St. Mary's City in 1645 and turned Calvert's house into a fort.

Like the town itself, Leonard Calvert's house disappeared after the capital moved to Annapolis in 1694. But the state hopes one day to rebuild it on its original site.

Plans to move the Brome-Howard House have been opposed by some in the community who favor a "multilayer" interpretation of the site addressing more than just the 17th century. They also fear that the heavy work will damage Indian and Colonial artifacts beneath the soil.

Jerry and Jim Matyiko, of Expert House Movers of Maryland Inc., working with archaeologists to avoid such damage, have already jacked up the 55-foot by 80-foot frame structure and moved it to the side of Route 5. Four brick chimneys and six fireplaces were dismantled earlier to lighten the load.

The buildings will be rolled south to the new site, where a foundation and utilities have already been prepared.

Ms. Stanford said that Historic St. Mary's City had used the old mansion for exhibits and events. No decision has been made on how to use it at its new location.

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