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Wilson House, Galesville

Wilson House
Main Street
Galesville, Maryland
Anne Arundel County

Context:

Directly off the left side of Route 255 in Galesville, Anne Arundel County, is the Wilson House, a three-bay, two story transitional frame house with a two-story, braced-frame rear wing believed to be built by a former slave, Henry Wilson. The homestead is the focal point of a 27.5-acre property that Wilson began to accumulate the land for in 1865. He bought 2 acres for $250, and the additional 25.5 acres (from Ann Sarah Hughes and Thomas Franklin) in 1871 for $1275. In 1870, Wilson was one of 2,730 freedmen who owned property in Maryland, but more importantly, one of only 462 who owned a house in the state. (Schweninger 1990,153, 180).

History:

Henry Wilson manumitted by his father, Thomas, in July 1828, when Henry was twenty-three years old and deemed "able to work and gain a livelihood." (Manumission Record) In 1830, two years after Wilson was freed, there were 4,076 freemen in Anne Arundel County, compared to 10,347 slaves and 13,872 whites. (Wright 1921, 86 - 87). In that same year, ther were a toatl of 52,938 freemen and 102,994 slaves in Maryland; in the United States a total of 319,599 freemen and 2,009,043 slaves combined to form the African-American population (Wright 1921, 92). Land and home ownership would become the most visible measurement of African-American's freedom from slavery and white oppression.

Th exact date of Wilson's demise is unknown, but he had died by at least 1878 and the house remained in his family, beginning with his wife, Kate, and ending with his grandaughter Mary Louise Crowner. Ms. Crowner moved out of the home in 1970.

Description:

The main block of the gable-roofed building measures approximately 32 feet wide by 16 feet deep. Modern asbestos shingling covers the exterior walls. This portion of the house can be accessed by the central front door on the south elevation, or from a door in the north elevation.

At the time of documentation the windows were boarded up and there is no evidence of the window configuration left, but it is most likely they were six-over-six light, double-hung sash windows. The openings on the south (front) elevation are symmetrical. The first floor openings consist of a central door flanked by one window on each side. The second floor contains three windows placed directly above the first floor openings. There is a diamond-shaped window located in the cross gable of the south elevation.

The north, rear, elevation displays a similar balance of openings, but the presence of the rear wing obscures the view of all openings. Visible on the first floor is a central door and one window to the right and the second floor contains two windows placed directly above the first floor openings.

The east elevation has one opening located at the attic level directly beneath the peak of the gable. The west elevation contains three windows, one on each floor, vertically aligned under the peak of the gable.

First Floor Plan:

The Wilson House exhibits a central hall, single-pile floor plan, with chimneys located in the center of the main block. A rear wing is located off the northwest corner of the house. The front entry door on the main block opens into a central stair passage that extends to the back (north) wall, where another door is located.

The central hallway contains an open-string, straight staircase on the west wall that leads to the second floor. Most of the banister is gone, but originally it was designed with two square balusters per tread

Two rooms of equal proportion, 12 feet wide by 15 feet deep open from the central hallway. Each room has two windows, but the fenestration pattern is different. The west room contains one window on the south elevation and one on the west elevation. The door from the hallway to the west room is located near the rear (north) wall of the hallway. The door from the hallway to the east room is located near the front (south) wall of the hallway.

 

There is a fireplace in each room, located against the hallway wall. The west room has a door that leads into the rear addition. The current floor in the west room appears to be a later addition, as it covers part of the original hearth bricks. The hearth bricks are painted a bright red and bulge upward in a mound formation.

Second Floor Plan:

Essentially, the first floor plan is replicated on both the second floor and in the attic level. At the end of the second floor hallway are two doors, each opening into a room measuring 12 feet wide by 15 feet deep. Both rooms have a window on the south wall, while the west room has a window in the west wall and the east room has a window in the south wall. Each room contains a closet. The closet abuts the chimney stack that jogs from the central wall partition.

The same staircase provides access to the attic floor, where two rooms are located. Both rooms have a window in the gable end wall, which is directly across the room from the chimney stack.

Rear Wing:

The rear gable roof wing measures approximately 14 feet wide by 12 feet deep. It appears that the rear wing's actual construction pre-dates that of the main block, suggesting that it either stood on this site before the later portion was built or it was moved from another location to serve as a kitchen wing for the main dwelling. Like the main block, its exterior walls are covered with asbestos shingling.

 

The rear addition could be accessed through an interior door in the west room of the main block or an exterior door in the east wall of the wing. One window is located in the west wall, but its sash is missing. An interior chimney stack jogs out from the north wall, with a circular opening for a stove pipe.

The Period I walls were covered with lath and plaster above the chair rail and wainscoting below. The modern, Period II, walls are covered with wallboard above the chair rail. Originally, a ladder stair allowed access to the second floor of the wing, but the only evidence that remains is a 5 feet wide by 2 feet wide deep opening in the ceiling.

The wing has a braced-frame system, with sash-sawn timbers.

Preservation Plan:

The family has no concrete plan of action for preserving the house, but they hope to restore the home as it was when Henry Wilson occupied it. Steps have been taken to secure a 501-C3 status, with the idea that the next step will be to seek out and secure financial assistance to preserve and restore the building. Currently, the windows are boarded up to prevent any further damage to the interior of the house.

Contact:

Jack Smith (410) 867-1215
Gertrude Makell (410) 867-4612

Wilson Farmstead Stabilization Project 2015

Wilson House 2015

The Henry Wilson home stabilization project in 2015. Photo by Bill Gibbons


As many of you have observed while driving into the Village, the West River Improvement Association Inc. is delighted to announce the emergency stabili­zation work at the Henry Wilson Farmstead is complete. As one of the pillars of the surviving built environment that tells the story of Galesville's African American heritage, the farmhouse is now poised for a final round of rehabilitation so the structure can ultimately be open to the public.

The farmhouse is highly significant to African American history in the State of Maryland. The house and associated lands provide a tangible link to slavery, manumission, tenant farming, and to the semi-professional Negro League ballfield that survives adjacent to the house. The entire complex has been determined eligible for the National Register. The house itself was constructed ca. 1870 by Henry Wilson, (a former slave who was manumitted in 1828 at age 23) on 2 acres of land purchased from the Tulip Hill plantation. By his death in the late 1870s, the parcel had grown to 26 ˝ acres, and his cross-gabled I-house was a fashionable demonstration of his success and position.

We wish to acknowledge the hard work and persistent efforts of Lynne MacAdam, Cyrena Simons, Buz Winchester, John Cox, Jim Day, Jack Smith, Gertrude Makell, Bill Gibbons and the many others that brought this project to a successful outcome.

Works Cited:

Anne Arundel County Manumission Record (1816-1844), 401 – 402.
"To Whom It May Concern let it known that I Thomas Wilson of Ann Arundel County in the State of Maryland far divers good Causes me therein to moving? and also for the further consideration of Ten Dollars Current to me in hand Paid have released from Slavery manumit and set free negro Henry Wilson my son and slave aged about twenty three years and able to work and gain a livelihood and him the said Henry Wilson I do declare to be henceforth free and manumitted and discharged for all manner of service or servitude to me my heirs executors and administrators and assigns forever in ? whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal this Tenth Day of July 1828. His Thomas X Wilson mark Signed, Sealed, and Delivered in presence of Gidean White.”

Schweninger, Loren. Black Property Owners in the South, 1790 - 1815 Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Wright, James M., "The Free Negro in Maryland, 1634 - 1860," in Studies in Histroy, Economics, and Public Law Volume XVCII, Number 3. NEw York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1921.