Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ratcliffe Manor

In March of 1894, an article titled, "Should be Restored: The Original Appearance of the Old Senate Chamber" appeared in the Baltimore Sun describing the proposed restoration to when Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the continental army and the renewed sense of patriotism and preservation shared among the citizens of Maryland. The article notes that the project had created "widespread interest and has been the subject of much favorable comment in Baltimore" and the author interviewed several of its residents. Included was a special dispatch to the Sun from Annapolis stating:
“The committee has ascertained that the sashes which were taken from the windows of the State House by Governor Carroll were bought by the late R.C. Holliday [sic] and sent by him to his farm near Easton. Mr. Mayer has written to Senator Charles H. Gibson, who now has the farm to ask him whether the sashes are still there and whether one of them can be procured for a pattern.”
Ratcliffe Manor, circa 1950s.
Pusey Collection, Talbot County Free Library.
Richard Carmichael Hollyday was a lawyer and prominent political figure, eventually becoming Secretary of State in the latter part of the 19th century. During the destruction of the original Senate Chamber in 1876, it can be assumed that Hollyday “bought” the windows with the intention of replacing the current windows in his Eastern Shore residence, Ratcliffe Manor. Another theory assumes Hollyday recognized the windows as “relics” of this hallowed space and preserved them in his home or in an outbuilding on the property. 

Shortly after Hollyday’s death in 1885, his wife, Marietta, remarried Senator Charles H. Gibson, which accounts for why he was the recipient of Mayer’s inquiry. In 1905, Marietta sold Ratcliffe Manor to A.A. Hathaway of Wisconsin who occupied the house until 1917, when it changed hands to the McCoy family and was sold again to the Smith family in the 1940s. From descriptions of the house dating from the 1940-1960s, it can be inferred that the house had not undergone any major restoration efforts since it had been built and much of the original material is still intact. 

Drawing Room, Ratcliffe Manor, circa 1950s.
Pusey Collection, Talbot County Free Library.
In hopes of learning the outcome of Mayer’s inquiry, all subsequent issues from the Baltimore Sun and other Baltimore papers have been searched and the article from 1894 remains as the only mention of the sash windows. Back in September, staff from the Maryland State Archives and the Maryland Historical Trust traveled to Ratcliffe Manor to determine if the original State House window sash had been installed in the house. The owners, Tony and Hope Harrington, graciously allowed us to photograph and explore the house.

Drawing Room, Ratcliffe Manor. Image courtesy of Sasha Lourie, MSA, 2012.
The majority of the windows in the house are 18th century and feature a 12-over-12 design, like the original windows in the State House. Unfortunately, the State House windows are not present at Ratcliffe, and it seems unlikely that they were ever part of the main house. Mrs. Harrington indicated that there were no other buildings on the property that could accommodate windows of the size that were removed from the State House. She and her husband have owned the house since the mid-1990s, and they have not seen any caches of architectural elements on the property.

Sasha Lourie and Hope Harrington in front of Ratcliffe Manor. Image courtesy of Hayley Jenkins, MSA, 2012.

The windows, like many other pieces of the original Old Senate Chamber, were salvaged by patriotic citizens during the 1876 renovation of the space. If you have any information about material original to the Maryland State House please contact the Maryland State Archives. See our CONTACT section or email:

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