A Moment in Time: The Earliest Known Photo of Hammond-Harwood House

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This photo, published in 1892 in the book Examples of Domestic Colonial Architecture in Maryland and Virginia by James M. Corner and Crane and Eric E. Soderholz, may be the earliest showing the Hammond-Harwood House. At the front doorway of the main house, a wooden stoop rests on four stout columns, probably of wood. The stoop and its steps stand perfectly square and plumb. The white-painted finish of these elements, and of the doorway, is brilliant and was obviously recent when the photo was made, but the main cornice had not yet been re-painted. At this time, the front doors of the house and of the near wing were painted a dark color, contrasting with the white wooden trim. 
A large stone at the outer corner of the north wing may have served as a splash block, standing under a truncated rain leader. Nearby, a bollard delimits what was presumably the northern boundary of the property, just at the foundation of the wing. At the stone curb of the Maryland Avenue sidewalk, a cast-iron hydrant aligns with the flank of the wing. By this time, there appears to have been a brick walk along King George Street as well as Maryland Avenue.

Judging from the visible texture of the yard, the area looks to have been planted with some sort of ground cover which began a short distance back from the walk. This planting and the narrow strip of lawn at the walk were neatly maintained, and the property generally presented a well-groomed appearance. Further down the street, a relatively young tree stood at the curb, more or less aligned with the far hyphen. The magnolia there now was not planted until the 1950s.
The photo seems to have been taken in the spring. The image is credited to the Heliotype Printing Company of Boston. Sanborn fire insurance maps for this area of town show that lots behind the Hammond-Harwood House remained vacant until 1891 at least. That would seem to be the condition reflected here. This means that the property would have been in a landscape environment that was much less urban than it is at present, where Maryland Avenue and King George Street are fully built up with residences and shops, scores tourists and locals walk past the house all day long, and the now paved streets host hundreds of cars daily..
By Mark Wenger and Barbara Goyette

Posted on Mar 18, 2023 in , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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