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The Chase Lloyd House: Inside this Beautiful 18th-Century Annapolis Mansion

Jun 15, 2015 10:10AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Carol Sorgen · Photography by Stephen Buchanan

With its elegant Georgian façade, the Chase-Lloyd House on Maryland Avenue is rightly considered one of Annapolis’—indeed, one of the country’s—significant architectural treasures. Unlike its more famous neighbors, however, such as the William Paca House and the Hammond-Harwood House, both of which are now museums open to the public, the Chase Lloyd House remains what it was and has been throughout its long history—a private residence.

What distinguishes the Chase-Lloyd House today from its storied past is that it is not the home of one individual family. Rather, its mission is to carry on the legacy of the last private owner, Hester Chase Ridout, whose will, executed in 1886, dictated that her home would provide a haven where women “may find a retreat from the vicissitudes of life.” Today, says Board of Trustees Vice Chair Molly Smith, the home continues to accomplish Ridout’s mission, serving as a residence—whether long-term or short—for eight women, while also maintaining the material fabric and artifacts of the beautiful 18-century mansion in which they are housed.
Smith points out that the Chase-Lloyd House is not a charity; the residents apply to live there and pay what they can afford. There are no requirements in terms of income, religion, philosophy—the only requirement, says Smith, “is that they get along with each other!” (And that they be able to come to the dining room for meals when they are at home; there is a gracious staircase descending from the private rooms but there is also an elevator for those who might need it.)

“Living here is not for everyone,” Smith says, noting that the house is not an assisted living facility. Residents are independent; some have jobs, others help care for their grandchildren. “You can nestle into your room and stay there if you like, or you can be as active in the world as you choose,” Smith says.

The house gets its name from its first owner, Samuel Chase—one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence for Maryland and Supreme Court Justice—as well as from the wealthy plantation-owning Lloyd family, who lived here for generations after Edward Lloyd IV bought the half-finished home from Chase. Smith notes that while still operating as an independent living facility for “women of a certain age” (current residents range in age from 52 to 97), the house also exists as a monument to Georgian architecture and an important part of American history.
Construction of the house began in 1769 when Samuel Chase was just 25. Before he ran out of money in 1771, the unknown architect and builders Chase had hired completed the foundation and outer shell of the Georgian-style mansion. From its unusually tall three-story height, it would appear that Chase wanted his home to rival those of his far wealthier neighbors in grandeur. Unfortunately, however, he had to sell the unfinished mansion and settle for a less grand home elsewhere.

Chase sold the house to wealthy plantation-owner Edward Lloyd IV. Like Chase, Lloyd wanted a home in Annapolis so that he could establish himself in politics. At the time of the purchase, he had just been elected as delegate for Talbot County on the Eastern Shore where his plantations and primary residence were located. Lloyd hired renowned Colonial architect William Buckland to finish the interior.

Buckland echoed the perfect Georgian symmetry of the outside of the home on the inside, even installing false doors to ensure the same symmetrical aesthetic on the first floor. The contrast of the austere elegance of the exterior and elaborately decorative moldings and plaster ceilings of the interior are also indicative of the Georgian style. The height of Buckland’s skill, however, is reflected in the central cantilevered staircase and the Palladian window at the top of the first staircase tier. Buckland completed the home in 1774.
The Chase-Lloyd House is one of the last of its kind to be built in Annapolis. Though the house has been restored and updated for modern use many times, it has remained true to its initial design, says Carol Kelly, House Manager. Many original features remain, such as old-growth pine floors, ornamental plasterwork, and molded ceilings (the one in the first-floor parlor needed to be reattached after numerous flyovers by the Blue Angels through the years resulted in serious cracks). And while there are several pieces of original china and other furnishings that date back to the home’s beginnings, the Board always keeps in mind the comfort of its residents. The moss-green walls in the parlor, for example, may not be historically accurate, “but we have chosen colors that the ladies can live with,” Smith says.

“We know we have history,” adds Kelly, “but our mission is taking care of the ladies. We’re a historic house serving a humane need.”

While the residents’ rooms on the upper floors are not open to the public, the first floor of the house can be toured on Mondays through Saturdays, March–December from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5.

“It’s time that more people know about the house itself and its mission,” Smith says. (The Board also agreed that it was time the house moved into the 21st century; “We even have a Facebook page now,” Smith says with a laugh, and new auxiliary member Laurie Burr is setting up a Twitter page.)

Other nods to contemporary life are the outdoor organic garden that has been certified “BayWise,” and an active recycling program, “and now the ladies want WiFi!” Smith says.
Smith adds that through the years the house has “always just rolled along…replacing things as needed.” But with increased costs, the need to make the house more energy-efficient, etc., the Board is looking into ways to establish a capital improvement fund instead of pulling money for repairs and improvements from the operating expense budget. “We want to delicately improve the facility without damaging the structure.”

To that end, for the second year in a row, the Chase-Lloyd House is held an Appraisal Fair, on Saturday, June 13th, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Experts from Freeman’s Auctioneers of Philadelphia were on hand to appraise items brought in by visitors. Tours of the first floor of the house, live music in the garden, and raffle baskets added to the afternoon’s enjoyment, says Shirley Hatch, Chair of the Auxiliary.

“The objective of the fair,” she continues, “is to make members of the Annapolis community more aware of our history and our purpose. We want people to see that we are not only taking care of the ladies who live here but also caring for an important piece of our history.”