This distinctive house was originally the home of John Camper Harrison, who founded the Tilghman Packing Company in 1897, along with his brother Oswald and S. Taylor. Harrison’s brother-in-law, William Catrup Nichols, built the house in 1900, one year before the death of Queen Victoria. American Victorian architecture was influenced by the last decades of her reign by the use of extravagant, complex shapes and elaborate details. The focal point of this house’s exquisite asymmetrical front elevation is the bay wall projection at the second floor over the low sloped metal roof of the four bay porch below and a steep gable roof above. The house became a T” shape with the two-story rear addition of 1910 and later one-story additions contained both a screened porch and a sunroom.
On the day of my tour, I was fascinated by the range of fretwork beginning with the unusual curved elongated oval with a sawtooth edge at the sides of the porch’s columns that reminded me of a crab’s claw, a clever and fitting motif for a company whose products were canned seafood. The bay projection’s solid fretwork with a blue accent, the side bay projections with more curved shapes infilled with pierced triangular shapes and the fretwork below the peak of the front gable with scalloped edges cut into the solid form were exquisite. I also was intrigued by the porch’s columns’ design with two spheres separating the three lengths of the columns. The massing, light blue siding and creamy trim were the icing on this one of a kind cake.
The front porch is a delightful outdoor room with a row of shrubbery along the front edge providing seated privacy for relaxing in the antique rattan chairs for glimpses of the water. I especially liked the distressed look of the original half wood/half glass entry door that opens into a spacious foyer with the side “U” shaped stairs beginning with one step up to a landing then several counterclockwise turns with landings to the second floor. Wide cased openings on the foyer’s opposite walls lead to the living room on the right and the dining room on the left. Each opening is infilled with a set of magnificent oak pocket doors believed to have been reclaimed from the Sharp’s Island Hotel, along with the cap rail of the staircase.
My favorite room was the living room with its corner wood-burning fireplace, long windows and the front wall’s bay projection infilled with windows. The dining room’s bay projection is much wider than the living room’s bay with long single windows centered on each wall and a pair of long windows overlooking the porch. What a setting for memorable meals and family celebrations under the dimmed light of the crystal chandelier!
Behind the main rooms are the open plan kitchen-breakfast-sitting area with another wood-burning fireplace. Side windows and a half-French door provide views of the mature landscape. Backing up to one end of the kitchen’s “L” shape is a row of backlit glass shelves with glass fronted base cabinets facing the sitting area for display. A second stair wraps around the chimney land leads to a charming bedroom that at an earlier time may have belonged to household staff.
Off the kitchen is the spacious laundry/mudroom leading to the long screened porch and a full bath with a white clawfoot tub. Next to the sitting area’s fireplace is a four paneled door with black strap hinges that leads to the remaining rooms of the sunroom and bedroom/office at the rear corners of the house. The sunroom’s wrap-around windows and French door have views to the landscaping and the marsh. The corner bedroom has windows on each of its exterior walls for diagonal views of the landscape.
The second landing at the stairs leads to the rear addition containing a full bath, and another multi-purpose room that could be a sitting room for the bedrooms. The rear room is the charming former staff bedroom. Now a guest room, the white iron bedframe rests on a round floral rug over beautiful hardwood floors and the ceiling rafters are slightly dropped below the white ceiling to highlight the saw cut edges.
At the top of the stairs to the second floor is a short hall between two bedrooms located at the front corners of the house. In between these spacious rooms is the room above the foyer with an exterior bay wall that projects over the porch below that could become a full bath. The space beneath the bay window would be a perfect spot for a clawfoot tub and so fitting for this historic house. The primary bedroom is located over the dining room and has the same bay wall projection infilled with windows and a double unit window at the front wall for abundant sunlight. The other bedroom also has abundant light from the front double unit window, two windows on the side wall and another window at the rear wall.
The John Camper Harrison house is a Victorian gem that is the cornerstone of Tilghman Island’s architectural past-I envy the next owners who will become stewards of this remarkable house!
For more information about this property, contact John McGlannan with Meredith Fine Properties at 410-886-1135 (o), 410-714-9166 (c) or email@example.com.
For more photographs and pricing visit www.meredithfineproperties.com, “Equal Housing Opportunity.”
Photography by Ted Mueller Photography, www.TedMuellerPhotography.com, 443-955-2490
For more information about the history of the Tilghman Packing Company, view the PBS video from 6-12-17:“Til-Made, Remembering the Tilghman Packing Company” at https://www.pbs.org/video/til-made-remembering-the-tilghman-packing-company-skfsrc/
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.