This wooden house grew old with Annapolis
Date: The Washington Post, June 14, 2019, Kathy Orton
Annapolis, Md., is filled with historic houses, many of which have survived from the 1700s. But most are brick homes, designed to endure. The Sands House is from the 1700s, too, but it was constructed of wood, a more perishable material. Yet it has lasted just as long as its brick brethren and is believed to be the oldest frame house in the Chesapeake region.
Glenn Campbell, senior historian with Historic Annapolis, has a theory about why the Sands House remains to this day.
“I think mainly because it stays in one family,” he said. “People continue to use it. People continue to have a use for it. There wasn’t a break where it wasn’t occupied and fell derelict. . . . We tend to have the big 18th-century brick mansions because they were built as substantial houses to survive. So many of those 18th-century wood-frame houses, over time, they fall derelict, and people tear them down and build something different.”
Although the exact age of the house and its builder are unknown, parts of it date from the late 17th century. A test known as dendrochronology was performed on some of the interior beams. It revealed that they came from trees cut in 1681, more than a decade before Francis Nicholson drew the original Annapolis city plan.
John Irvin, the first known owner, acquired the house in 1739. The house was sold twice before John Sands purchased it in 1771. Sands was a mariner. He probably bought the house because of its proximity to the city dock, which at that time was across the street but has since moved. Sands and his wife, Ann, lived in the home with their five children. At some point, they added onto the house, creating space for a tavern.
From 1771 to 2015, seven generations of Sands’s descendants resided in the house. Though unusual, it’s not unheard of for the same family to occupy a home for more than two centuries. Not far away, the Jonas Green House remained in the same family from 1740 to 2016.
Ann Jensen was the last Sands heir to live in the house. She sold it to neighbors, Jane Campbell-Chambliss and Pete Chambliss, who donated it to Historic Annapolis. The preservation organization had a study done to evaluate the property’s potential uses.
“It was determined that the best use of the property would be to retain its long-standing historic use as a residence,” Karen Brown, vice president of preservation at Historic Annapolis, wrote in an email. “The best way we can honor this highly significant property is to find a preservation-minded owner to restore the building in a way that embraces its historic significance and details.”
Besides the hand-hewn beams in the upstairs rooms, the house has several distinctive architectural features. A spiral staircase, usual for this type of home, graces the entry. Many original elements remain, including the roof. When the tavern was added, a new roof was placed atop the old one, protecting the original.
Each resident has put their stamp on the house. Among the additions are a bay window, a front porch and a rear wing.
A renovation in the late 1980s revealed a treasure trove of documents and letters secreted in the house. Among the finds was a letter John and Ann Sands received during the Revolutionary War telling them that their eldest son, William, had been killed at the Battle of Long Island on Aug. 27, 1776. The letter, along with diaries and other important artifacts, were given to the Maryland State Archives.
The five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,740-square-foot house is listed at $675,000.
Listing: 130 Prince George St., Annapolis, Md.