When I first saw this waterfront property on Fox Hole Creek, I was enchanted by the two small cottages; one was clad in Flemish bond brick and the other was clad in white German shiplap siding. I wondered if they were all that remained after an estate house had been destroyed by fire but I soon discovered there never was a main house. I also discovered from the many entries in my primary reference book, “Where Land and Water Intertwine” by Christopher Weeks, that this small house has a big place in Talbot County’s architectural history. William Smythe sold the land known as Fox Hole to John Morris in 1676 and Morris’ grandson, Morris Orem, built the brick house. One of his later descendants, Andrew Orem, retained a surveyor to confirm the tract’s size and Orem then patented the property as ’Orem’s Delight”.
The brick house was built in 1720 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Immaculately restored and loving maintained by the current owners, the house is celebrating its 300th birthday this year. It is remarkable that its compact 20 x 25 foot story and a half footprint has never been incorporated into a larger house on this approximately 50 acre tract.
You don’t have to be a historic preservation architectural buff to appreciate its many original details such as the brick gable north end with a glazed interlocking pattern above the two-brick wide belt course, the stepped water table brick around the perimeter and the late 18th century interior paneling and woodwork. The south end telescopes down to a one-story addition clad in white siding that replaced a much earlier wing that had been demolished in the early 1960’s.
The front door of the brick house opens into a charming living-dining-kitchen area with wood floors, painted wood plank ceiling and windows on both exterior walls for water views. The seating is grouped around the brick fireplace flanked by built-in cupboards, one slightly recessed and behind the sofa is a drop-leaf table for dining. The “L” shaped stair with white risers and wood treads has winders as it ascends to the upper floor. The other end of the room is a galley kitchen separated by a wall opening leading to a hall with a closet, front and rear exterior doors, and another door that opens into a suite containing a bedroom, bath, and laundry room.
The upper floor master bedroom is simply enchanting with its interior architecture defined by knee walls, sloped ceilings underneath the roof rafters, wood collar beams stained a slightly darker color than the wood floors and the doors with quarter circle tops leading to the walk-in closet and to the bathroom. I loved the symmetry of the end gable windows being on axis with the bath and walk-in closet doors that are opposite the windows in the gable wall flanking the chimney, the front and rear knee walls with a dormer window opposite the other and the knee walls with pairs of doors to access storage under the eaves. The black iron bedframe is placed opposite the exposed corbeled brick chimney and the soft sage green walls, off-white trim and the light blue and sage green bedding create a soothing retreat.
The one-story “white house” has a totally different design for a delightful contrast with its much older companion. The entry door is slightly recessed into the lower wing of the telescoped massing to create a foyer with a closet that links the open plan living room and dining room to the screened porch. The living, dining and kitchen areas have pitched ceilings accentuated by stained wood collar beams, lightly stained shiplap wall covering and terra cotta floors for a great flow. In the living room, double unit windows opposite each other, the higher windows on either side of the fireplace and the comfortable furnishings create an inviting space for relaxing by the fire for TV watching with family and friends. The end wall of the dining area has a centered French door with an arched window above and full height windows leading to the porch that spans the full width of the house.
The kitchen has light wood cabinets, white appliances and the wall area above the upper cabinets provides display space for the owners’ collection of baskets, trays and other collectibles. I especially liked how the small tile squares of the backsplash were the same terra cotta color as the floors. This house has two wonderful outdoor rooms-the main floor porch and the rooftop deck. The porch has the same terra cotta tile as the interior rooms, a flat stained wood slat ceiling and wide framed openings for panoramic water views. The white house is located near the brick house but the latter’s side solid brick wall with small windows only at the second level provide privacy for both houses. The roof top deck above is accessed by an exterior stair so this space and its panoramic water views could be enjoyed by both houses’ owners.
Approximately fifty acres of farmland, woods and water views from the dock or the shoreline, numerous sites to build your own dream home, pool, a water pond popular with waterfowl and other wildlife and two existing houses that could become guest and/or caretaker houses makes this site unique. Even though it is impossible to state which house in Talbot County is the oldest, “Orem’s Delight” offers a rare opportunity to own one of a unique group of about thirteen houses that give a glimpse of life on the Eastern Shore in the 17th century.
For more information about this property, contact Cornelia Heckenbach at Long and Foster Real Estate Inc., 410-745-0283 (o), 410-310-1229 (c) or [email protected], “Equal Housing Opportunity”. For more photographs and pricing visit www.stmichaelsmdwaterfront.com or watch the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB5JnAQN4Kk , “Equal Housing Opportunity”.
Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.
Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.