THE DOCTOR JAMES MURRAY HOUSE
142-144 PRINCE GEORGE STREET
Welcome to the Dr. James Murray House!
Walking through the rooms of this house transports you back in time over two centuries to the days of the American Revolutionary War. Originally, 142 and 144 Prince George Street was one residence. The core of these two residences started as a double-pike, center-passage dwelling erected in the 1770s. With the growth of Annapolis in the late 19th century, a number of lots and dwellings in the older section of the city were subdivided to provide more housing and commercial stock. Such was the destiny of this two-story brick dwelling in the mid-1880s as the owner added an entrance bay to the northeast and partitioned the old section of the house to create two side-passage residences. The break in the brickwork caused by this radical reconfiguration of the house was masked on the exterior by stucco that obscured the header bond of the original section.
Mr. Thomas Rutland was the builder and original owner of this building. It was during the 1770s that Mr. Thomas Rutland constructed this 50 by 32-foot, five-bay, brick dwelling on the northeast side of Prince George Street. The front elevation was laid in header bond while the rear and sidewalls were faced in English bond, a mid to late 18th-century decorative fashion characteristic of the region. The division between the first and second floors is demarcated by a four-course header bond belt course along the rear façade, a treatment that was almost certainly repeated originally on the front as well. The two-story walls rise above an English bond foundation with a stepped water table.
The original plan consisted of a center stair passage with a pair of flanking rooms on each side. Unlike many Annapolis houses of this scale, the two principal entertaining rooms faced the street front while the two smaller rooms were located to the rear. Internal chimneys located on the gable walls heated all four rooms. Little is known of the original finish of these rooms as they were completely renovated by a subsequent owner in the second quarter of the 19th century. The only surviving interior element from the first period of construction is an enriched plaster cornice on the first floor entertaining rooms and the original center stair passage similar in style to other late colonial examples in the city. The cymatium features an egg-and-dart band while the soffit of the corona consists of alternating modillions and pateras. The bed molding as a fret and rope motif along with a torus-shaped picture molding.
Apparently, Mr. Rutland faced financial reverses and was forced to sell the house to Dr. James Murray in 1785. For part of his career, Dr. Murray was the physician to President Thomas Jefferson. Several of his sons-in-law were signers of The Declaration of Independence. Yes, they did sleep here! ; The 1798 Federal Direct tax assessed Murray $1,200 for this lot which contained the dwelling, a one-story brick kitchen measuring 16 by 32 feet, a 16 foot square brick medical shop, and an 8 by 10 foot brick smokehouse.
Mr. James Iglehart, Jr. purchased the house in 1848 and by the late 1850s had made substantial changes to the exterior and interior. The new owner added the two-story porch at the end of the house facing the harbor, lowered the window openings and inserted stone lintels, replaced the old windows with new 12-light sash, and installed a new front door surround. The interior was nearly completely gutted and refurbished in the Greek Revival style. Stone mantelpieces, symmetrical door and window architrave’s, and other woodwork conform to the new aesthetic. Although the plaster cornice of the central passage was retained, Iglehart replaced the original stairway with a new one. Following the fashion of the period, he created double parlors between the front and rear rooms that opened into one another by a pair of large folding doors.
A generation later, Ann Waddell, Iglehart’s daughter, transformed the character of the house by subdividing the building into two separate domiciles. She closed the doors on the left side of the old center passage and constructed a one-bay entrance and stair passage at the northeast end of the house. Perhaps the most distinctive element in this addition was the polychrome flooring with its alternating pattern of dark walnut and light oak floorboards. Presumably it was Ann Waddell who stuccoed the entire façade of the extended building to hide the distinct periods of brickwork. She patterned the new front door surround after her father’s Greek Revival handiwork. On the inside of the new tenement, doorways were cut through the old brickwork of the former gable-end wall to connect the new stair passage with the two ground-floor parlors and upper-floor bedchambers. These new apertures were embellished with large Greek-inspired corner blocks and symmetrical moldings similar in scale and detail to the previous generation of trim.
Changes in the late 19th and 20th centuries to both sections of the Murray House have been mainly concentrated in the back with the addition and rebuilding of rear wings perpendicular to the main block. However, little has been done to obscure the mid-19th century finishes in the older section, which provides one of the best opportunities to examine trim detail and finishes of the Greek Revival period in Annapolis.