Moving Home: Historic “Mary’s Mount” in Harwood is Familial & Familiar to its Owner
Jan 22, 2016 10:47AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
A one-time history major who spent many years living in Europe, Fendi Clagett has an affinity for the timelessness of historic homes. So when she moved back to the United States, she didn’t have to look far for her new home—it was right next door to the home in which she was raised—historic Larkin’s Hill Farm (now owned by her sister) in Harwood.
Clagett purchased Mary’s Mount, as her home is known, in 2008, and since then—with the help of Annapolis architect Cathy Purple Cherry and Pasquarelli Construction—has made the home comfortable by 21st century standards, while respecting the property’s 18th-century heritage.
“Fendi’s goal was to maintain the character of the house,” says Purple Cherry, who was actually familiar with the property from its history as a Christmas tree farm. “It was absolutely the right decision.”
The earliest portion of Mary’s Mount—which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969—was built in 1771 for Col. Richard Harwood as a 1 1/2-story gambrel roof structure. From 1820–1965, the property was owned by the Bird family, one of whose members added the middle section of the house in the 19th century, joining together the separate outdoor kitchen (typical of that era) with the main house, creating a “telescope” effect. An oversized one-story, flat roof garage was also added to the home in the 20th century. “Our design goal,” says Purple Cherry, “was to disguise this modern piece of the structure under a multi-level addition that respected the original structure and massing of the main house.”
When Clagett purchased the home, it was “dark and had no flow,” she recalls. “I wanted to open up the rooms, bring in more light, and make it livable once again.”
Mary’s Mount was never a “fancy” house, says Clagett, but its double brick chimneys with pent roof (which provides warming closets between the two chimneys) was an iconic feature of early Anne Arundel County architecture.
Besides its long history, what attracted Clagett to the property was its 311 acres contiguous to Larkin’s Hill that she would be able to preserve as riding territory (she’s an avid horseback rider).
Clagett interviewed 13 architects before selecting Cathy Purple Cherry to oversee the renovation of the house. “When she took me to her own home, which was built in 1740, and I saw how she modernized it and used spaces creatively while still respecting the history of the house, I knew we had the same viewpoint.”
It took Clagett and Purple Cherry about a year to complete the renovation plans, which included, among other features, adding a double-wide veranda where Clagett could host post-riding breakfasts, and a one-and-a-half-story addition with master suite.
Clagett was insistent on retaining as much of the house and its outbuildings as she could (even the old smokehouse has been kept, now used for storage), and when that wasn’t possible, using elements that would echo the older section, such as reclaimed doors, double-honed soapstone, bead board, and glass panes from old windows.
Though Clagett didn’t go so far as to research historically accurate paint colors, for example (she has used Benjamin Moore shades of blue, pale yellow, and light grey throughout the house), she did consult with a local historian to determine what in the house was historically significant. The original chair rails, floorboards, and front hall paneling, for example, have been retained, but since the house had already been significantly altered in renovations by previous owners, she also felt that she had some leeway in making her own improvements, such as transforming windows into French doors that open to the veranda.
“I love the history of the house,” says Clagett. “I imagine generations past walking on the same floorboards that I’m walking on now. I like a house to show its history, while still being livable.” “I’m stunned by the transformation,” Clagett continues. “There’s nothing I regret and nothing I would change. It’s perfect just the way it is.”