Historic Structures

Wye House Mansion, Easton Maryland

Date added: March 15, 2019 Categories: Maryland House Mansion

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.

Construction of Wye House, built for Edward Lloyd IV (1744-96), a wealthy Maryland planter, began about 1781, and the central block and two detached dependencies were completed in 1784. Robert Key, a carpenter of Annapolis, worked on the house between 1781 and 1798 and may have also been the designer of the plan. By 1799, the house had assumed its original and present seven-part form: the two detached pavilions had been connected to the central block by means of small one-story hyphens and two one-story end units had been added to the sides of the pavilions. The portico on the south, or front, elevation and the large veranda on the north, or garden, facade had also been added by 1799. The plantation has been in the possession of the Lloyd family since 1658.

The Wye House is a seven-part composition 151 feet long and is comprised of a tall two-story central block 47 feet wide by 42 feet deep, with two flanking lower two-story symmetrical 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 motives. The tympanums 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. The west end-unit contained a large plantation office and the east unit a wash room and brick passageway. The west pavilion housed a library of 1,000 books on the first floor and there were chambers above; the east pavilion contained the kitchen and servant's quarters.

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 bays, 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 nine over six light sash and those above, six over six sash. All windows have exterior blinds. The center door of the south (or front) facade has a fan transom window under a broken pediment and side windows. The door is flanked by engaged Doric columns and on the outside of the door's side windows are Doric pilasters. The entranceway is sheltered by a small one-story Palladian portico, added about 1799, with four slender columns. The north (rear or garden) 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 1830-1860, the door in the north elevation of each hyphen was retrimmed in 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 three-over-three light sash second-story windows above the floor level. The first floor 18l -century library of the west pavilion was also remodeled into a bedroom.

In plan a central entrance hall extends from the south (front) center door midway through the house, where it intersects a narrow east-west cross hall that leads to the two wings. The east cross hall (to the right) is wider and, beyond an elliptical arch, situated against the south cross hall wall is a fine late Georgian stair. Also from the right side of the entrance hall, near the front, a door leads into a small office, and across the hall is the small south parlor. The north (garden) front of the central block, beyond the east-west cross hall, is occupied by two large rooms: the north parlor to the left and the dining room to the right, or east. In the office, the wall over the chimney is paneled and the fireplace is flanked by cupboards. The high mantel is carved with a Greek key design. In the south parlor, the paneling across the chimney is similar to that of the office. There is a small cupboard to the right of the fireplace and the left side has horizontal paneling of flat sheathing. An eared molding, designed to frame a portrait, outlines the space directly above the fireplace. The hall cornices are carved in Wall of Troy designs. Both the north parlor and dining room, which are connected by an elliptical arched opening with sliding doors, have light cornices and high carved mantels that are surmounted by paneling and eared molding. Both rooms also have "jib" windows - windows whose lower parts are hinged and can be opened for use as doors. The interior of Wye House has several similarities to the Chase-Lloyd House in Annapolis, which Edward Lloyd IV completed in 1774, notably the door escutcheons, drop handles, and flat friezes with curved ends over some inner doors on the first floor. Some of the drop handles are of silver. These interiors are little altered and are furnished with many original Lloyd 18th century pieces and paintings.

North of the house is a grass lawn about 50 feet wide and 100 yards long. At the northern end of this green is located the architecturally noteworthy Orangerie, a brick structure incorporating within its walls the remains of an earlier similar building. The Orangerie is 85 Vz feet long, with a central two-story section flanked by lower wings, and in its present form dates from the 1790s. The two-story hipped-roofed central portion is four bays long and has very tall one-story rectangular windows on the first floor. The brick walls are covered with stucco that is rusticated in imitation of stonework and the second story windows are small and square. The flanking hipped-roof wings, each 26 feet and three bays long, are raised one step above grade, and have very tall onestory arched windows. The building was used to grow orange and lemon trees, and the center second-story contained an 18 -century billiard room. The Orangerie still contains a rare example of an original 18 -century central heating system (hot air duct system).

On both sides of the green are original 18th century formal gardens that cover between four and five acres. On the west side of the green stands the Captain's House, which is believed to have been an original dependency of the first Wye House, built by Edward Lloyd I about 1660-64. This small brick cottage, originally of medieval design with a hall and parlor plan, was remodeled and altered about 1810.