Historic Structures

Poplar Hill - His Lordships Kindness, Rosaryville Maryland

Date added: June 15, 2018 Categories: Maryland House Mansion Plantations & Farms

His Lordship's Kindness is one of the finest of a number of Georgian plantation houses built by Prince George's County's wealthy planter and merchant class during the late 18th-century. Only His Lordship's Kindness and Montpelier, however, incorporate the five-part plan, pavilion front and other elaborate and distinctive features of the Palladian-influenced, late-Georgian design. The main block displays the symmetry and detailing of classic Georgian architecture. The hyphenated wings—a palladian ideal—formulate the fivepart plan. The five-part plan is rarely seen in Georgian architecture prior to the American Revolution. Thus, His Lordship's Kindness is one of a few, high-style, five part- plan Georgian homes built by an elite class in Maryland and Virginia during the late 18th-century.

The interior room arrangement of the house is as formal as its exterior. Upon entering the house, the large center hall and elaborate stairway immediately impress upon the visitor. The hall consumes almost one-third of the first floor—and the second floor. The formal parlor and dining room, located to the front of the house, are separated by perpendicular hallways from the family's private rooms to the rear. These perpendicular halls also allowed the household servants to enter the rooms as needed via the kitchen rather than the formal space. The kitchen—largely the domain of the servants—and the family's private chapel are kept apart from the social space where guests would be received, by their location in the wings to either side.

The man credited with the construction of Poplar Hill or His Lordship's Kindness was Henry Darnall III, grandson of Henry Darnall who first established the family in Maryland and acquired a land grant here in 1703, known as His Lordship's Kindness. Legend has it that while studying in England, Henry III met Anne Talbott, niece of George, the 14th Earl of Shrewsbury, and fell in love. Although the Earl opposed the marriage of his ward to Henry Darnall, when Henry surprised him by providing the large marriage settlement demanded, the Earl conceded and they were married in 1735. The legend further states that the Earl had the house built for them by an English architect as a wedding present, hence the name, His Lordship's Kindness. However, records indicate that the house was referred to during that time as "Poplar Hill" and only more recently known by its tract name, "His Lordship's Kindness," which first appears on deeds to Henry's grandfather in 1703. Furthermore, re-evaluation of the construction and architectural details indicates a later date.

Henry Darnall was said to be one of Lord Baltimore's (Charles Calvert) staunchest supporters during the early period of conflict over Maryland rule. Henry Darnall came to Maryland from England in the 1670s. He was elected to the General Assembly, among other governmental posts, and when Lord Baltimore left Maryland in 1684 Darnall became one of the board of deputy governors charged with running the government in Lord Baltimore's absence. He later returned to England to join Lord Baltimore but returned once again to Maryland as a representative of the Calverts, administering their landholdings here. Thus, it was most likely Lord Baltimore's kindness in granting him this tract that Henry Darnall was referring to. The current dwelling house was built during the later part of the 18th century.

Henry Darnall III was a planter and lawyer who also served as Attorney-General of Maryland in 1754. He and his wife had six children. Henry died sometime between 1783 and 1788. Anne Talbott Darnall died in 1788. Upon her death Poplar Hill became the property of her first child, Robert Darnall, in 1788. Robert lived at Poplar Hill his entire life, running the family plantation. He died unmarried and childless, leaving Poplar Hill to his nephew, Dr. Robert Sewell, upon his death in 1801. According to his Will, "Three hundred and fifty acres.... known as His Lordship's Kindness.... on which my present dwelling now stands together with all the out houses and appurtenances thereon belonging. Together with all the negroes, stock of horses, cattle, sheep....". Robert Sewell was the son of Robert Darnall's sister Mary who had married Major Nicholas Sewell.

Dr. Sewell lived here (and maintained a town house in Washington, D.C.) with his wife, Mary Brent. Upon his death in 1820 Poplar Hill passed to his son, Robert Darnall Sewell, as stated "...land of three hundred and fifty acres at Poplar Hill whereon the mansion house stands, subject to a life estate of his mother...." who died in 1822. Included in the Poplar Hill estate was the "household furniture.... and the implements of husbandry... . the horses, black cattle, sheeps, hogs...." The estate also included one hundred slaves and a list of elaborate furnishings.

Robert, known as Colonel Robert Sewell, died at his Poplar Hill residence on March 23, 1853. Poplar Hill then became the property of his two nieces, Susan S. and Ellen C. Daingerfield, the daughters of his sister Susan, who married Henry Daingerfield of Alexandria, Virginia. According to his will, "....as tenants in common.... my home stead plantation on which I now reside commonly known as Poplar Hill.... all my household and kitchen furniture including bedsteads and bedclothes and every other article or thing whatever which may be in my house at Poplar Hill at the time of my death".

Susan became the wife of John Strode Barbour of Virginia, a railroad builder and manager, U.S. representative and later Senator from Virginia. Susan and her husband resided at the Daingerfield family home in Washington, D.C, while Ellen resided at Poplar Hill. Her brothers, Henry and John S.B. Daingerfield (and his family) were also known to have lived here. Susan's share of the property reverted to Ellen following her accidental death in 1866. According to his testimony following the death of Ellen C Daingerfield, Richard C. Thompson, a farmer and lawyer of Washington, D.C, managed the business of the farm for Miss Daingerfield from 1889 until her death in 1912. He employed the farm manager and saw to the harvest, repairs, etc.

Following the death of Ellen C. Daingerfield in March of 1912 Poplar Hill was passed to Henry Daingerfield, the son of her brother, Henry (who died 1894). As stated in her will, the property was to go to Henry and then to his oldest son. As further stated, "Should the above gifts fail. ... " the property went to Henry's brother, her nephew, Philip Barton Key Daingerfield and then to his oldest son. Thus Henry became the life tenant in 1912. He then leased the property to his brother, John Strode Barbour Daingerfield who operated the family farm here at Poplar Hill, beginning a ten-year lease in March of 1912. John operated the farm until December 1920, breaking the lease early due to high taxes and cost of maintaining the property, and lack of profit. At that time, Henry then assumed management of the farm. After five-and-a-half years without adequate profit, Henry petitioned the court for the sale of the property. Because Henry was childless at the time of the sale, his brother Philip and others became lawful heirs as well.

Thus began an inquiry into the property. In his testimony to the court, Henry Daingerfield described the Poplar Hill house as follows: "The house is 150 feet (across the) front, with a chapel on the west end, kitchen on the east; five rooms on the first floor, four rooms on the second floor and an attic and cellar the entire length of the house. . ." Also on the property according to Henry was a barn, stable, carriage house, two servants quarters, meat house, dairy, granary and cornhouse. Henry Daingerfield claimed that the lack of farm profit and the high cost of maintenance made him unable to adequately maintain the buildings and that they all (including the house) were in need of repair. Thus, the court decided (in 1926) it would be in the best interest of all parties to sell Poplar Hill.

Poplar Hill was offered for sale at a Trustee's public auction on the premises on 28th October 1926. The advertisement for sale described the property as: "Improved by a beautiful and historic Colonial mansion.... (with) a wide beautiful hall extending through the depth of the building. There are two wings... one formerly used as a chapel, the other as a kitchen. The rooms are large and airy and the whole house is flooded with light from a great many windows. It is finished in the finest of wood, with (a) beautiful staircase and many different designs in windows. The mansion fronts on a large lawn falling away from one terrace to another on which are many old and beautiful trees and boxwood. The lawn in the rear is similarly designed. ... It is considered one of the finest old colonial residences in Southern Maryland or elsewhere...."

Finally, the property (house and 202.25 acres, exclusive of the family graveyard) was purchased by Mrs. Rachel Cameron Hale, of Washington, D.C., widow of Senator Hale of Maine. Mrs. Hale then made extensive repairs, as the property required. Poplar Hill became Mrs. Kale's summer home for a number of years until 1940 when it was sold to Caroline E. and Thomas Dunham. It was the Dunhams who changed the name from Poplar Hill to the tract name, His Lordships Kindness. They sold the property to David K.E. Bruce and his wife, Evangeline, in 1946. Mr. Bruce had a distinguished diplomatic career. The property was purchased by John B. and Sara R. Walton in 1955.