Thursday, May 22, 2014

William Buckland's Annapolis

For those of you who are desperate for a sneak preview of the Old Senate Chamber, you may be surprised to find that hints are all around you! Our architectural historians have conducted months of research on interiors in many colonial structures in the Annapolis area, and the architects who created them.

One man in particular had a long-standing association with the Old Senate Chamber that merited attention. We encourage anyone who is paying a visit to Maryland’s capital this holiday weekend to keep a special eye out for the works of Virginia and Maryland architect, William Buckland.

Portrait of William Buckland by Charles Willson Peale, 1774 and 1789, completed thirteen years after Buckland's death. Before Buckland is the floor plan to his masterpiece, Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Born in Oxford, England in 1734, William Buckland was apprenticed to his uncle, James Buckland, a joiner in London in 1748, thereby beginning his career as an architect. The period of Buckland’s training was at the height of the Palladian-style architectural movement (a style apparent in the Old Senate Chamber), which deeply influenced his own work. Almost immediately after the end of his apprenticeship in 1755, Buckland signed an indentureship contract to Thomas Mason in Virginia to complete Mason’s Gunston Hall. Alongside fellow Englishman, William Bernard Sears, Buckland produced in the mansion, his first commission, a remarkable building that combined Rococo and Palladian influences.

Entablature above a dining room door in the Chase-Lloyd House, attributed to Buckland. Image courtesy of MESDA S-11416 in Beckerdite, Luck, "William Buckland Reconsidered: Architectural Carving in Chesapeake Maryland, 1771-1774." Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 8, no. 2 (Nov. 1982), p.48.

In 1771, Buckland moved to Annapolis in order to assist in the completion of Edward Lloyd IV’s townhome, now known as the Chase-Lloyd House. This period ushered in a renaissance for Buckland, and he worked on several other prominent homes in Maryland during the period, including the Hammond-Harwood House in downtown Annapolis. During his time in Maryland, William Buckland became particularly known for his classical, skilled interior and exterior carvings. Unfortunately, however, he did not get the chance to do much in Annapolis; Buckland died only a few years later in December 1774, before the Hammond-Harwood House could be completed.

Two children approaching the front door of Hammond-Harwood House, c.1905. This door, said to be one of the most beautiful in America, is attributed to Buckland. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 2140-1-631.

Buckland’s time in Annapolis coincided with the beginning stages of one of the period's biggest construction projects in Maryland - the State House. The supervisor, Charles Wallace, had successfully built the bones of the structure, but he was not necessarily an architect by trade. In order to create the elegant interiors admired by the delegates of Congress in 1783-4, historians have previously thought that Wallace may have hired Buckland to design the room. According to oral tradition, when Buckland died in 1774, John Randall (the same whose descendant later saved the columns of the gallery during the 1876-1878 renovations) finished the interior work.

Recent research into Buckland's career has been unable to prove that he actually conducted any work in the Old Senate Chamber, and his early death makes his connection to the room (which was completed in 1779) tenuous at best. However, while there is a dearth of information on whether Buckland actually worked on the Old Senate Chamber, his influence upon Colonial Annapolis' style cannot be ignored. You can be assured that our architectural historians have intensely studied Buckland’s style as part of research on the appearance of the Old Senate Chamber.

Interestingly, while Buckland may not have worked on the interior features of the OSC, we do know that he supplied furniture to the state of Maryland. In late 1773 and 1774, Buckland was paid £25 for his work on public buildings, and later, £15.7.6 “for making one large double desk covered in green cloth” for the loan office.[2] No matter how small it may have been, Buckland without a doubt made a mark on the eighteenth-century public buildings around the city.

We encourage you to take a break this weekend and visit some of Buckland’s work in Annapolis. The Hammond-Harwood House, one of Buckland's masterpieces, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 12-5pm. For more information, please visit their website.

[1] Buckland has also previously been credited with interior work on the James Brice House and William Paca House, though no recent scholarship has been able to find evidence (documented or architectural) for this. For the most up to date information on Annapolis architecture, consult Miller, Marcia M. and Orlando Ridout V, eds., Architecture in Annapolis: A Field Guide. Maryland Historical Trust Press: Crownsville, MD, 1998.
[2] Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 17 December 1773, Archives of Maryland Volume 64, page 143. See also Rosamond R. Beirne to Guy Weatherly, 10 January 1963, citing the Scharff Papers, Maryland Historical Society.

1 comment:

  1. Always interesting and informative. Thanks.