Built in 1765 the Robert Long House is a Georgian or Colonial style structure reflecting the architecture and building traditions of mid- Eighteenth Century England during the reign of George III. It does not, however, mirror the then most current trends in English architecture prevalent in the 1760’s in London. Since the most fashionable architectural design publications were not easily or quickly obtained by the American construction trades, most Colonial builders and carpenters relied on architectural pattern books that had been published years earlier. This resulted in an American architecture that was dated and provincial when compared to contemporary buildings in England.
The architecture of the Long House, although stylistically Colonial in nature with English precedents, was influenced by the localized tastes of the Mid-Atlantic region. Constructed in brick by Robert Long, a merchant from southern Pennsylvania, the house reflects more of the architectural elements found there and not the architectural vocabulary of Tidewater Maryland. Major features such as the pent roof just below the second floor windows and the shed dormer are more to be found in the southern counties of Pennsylvania or the Delaware River Valley than in Maryland.
Although not a high style residential building, one of the most notable features of the
Long’s masonry house is the carefully crafted Flemish bond brick pattern on the Ann Street elevation. Consisting of a brick bond laid horizontally with a long brick, called a Stretcher brick, followed by a short brick, a Header brick, the bond is created by this sequence of long brick, short brick that is continued across the front of the house to form the pattern. As a more expensive brick bonding pattern due to the greater labor and skill needed to create the pattern, Flemish bond, was used only on major facades with less decorative patterns employed on the minor elevations of the structure.
In the case of this house, the Flemish bond pattern was enriched by coating the exposed ends of the Header bricks with a ceramic glaze that reflects light creating a wonderful visual interest to the façade. Facing east the glazed Headers catch the sunlight giving a brilliance to the house that is both unique and a lasting legacy from Robert Long to future generations.
Since the importation of goods and materials from England was costly and time consuming, most building materials were manufactured locally. Blessed with numerous clay deposits conveniently located from which to fabricate brick, Fell’s Point afforded Long the more expensive opportunity to construct his house with oversized, handmade brick rather than the more cost effective wood framed construction that required less time in both the production of usable wood products and construction completion.
Brick by 1720 had become the construction material of choice in England. Long’s selection of brick firmly placed him in step with contemporary English fashion. Bricks in England, however, were more refined and regular in their manufacturing process. Being handmade, bricks in colonial America were often slightly irregular on the edges and not always of the same size. To compensate for these manufacturing problems, masons in order to give the visual appearance of a straight joint line struck a grape vine joint. This joint is formed by using a metal tool that creates an indented straight line between the courses of brick giving the impression to the eye of a straight, even joint. Here at the Robert Long House the grape vine joint, contributes to overall success of the Ann Street façade.
Raised several feet above the level of the sidewalk the brick walls at the first floor elevation are resting on basement walls constructed of local stone. Typically in Colonial masonry traditions, and as is the case at the Robert Long House, there is a specially moulded brick called a water table brick that forms a course occurring where the brick meets the stone basement wall. Providing a transition from the thinner dimension of the masonry wall above to the wider stone walls of the basement, this profile brick prevents water from collecting at this transition point and penetrating masonry joints by allowing water to drain away without obstructions to its flow.
Just below the window sills at the second floor is a belt course which was a common 18th Century architectural element. Here the belt course provides the terminus for the pent roof across the front of the house. Belt courses projected slightly from the face of the wall and were usually three to four courses in height. They served as a decorative element to add interest to the façade but by the end of the 18th Century had become obsolete and disappeared from the new design aesthetics.
As with Flemish bond brick work, double hung windows with multi-pane sash are a hallmark feature of Georgian or Colonial architecture. The use of double hung windows, however, was a relatively new convention. Prior to the 1670’s window installations in England would have been with casement windows. During the second part of the 17th Century trade and commerce greatly increased between England and the Netherlands. As part of that interaction the Dutch introduced the double hung window to the English architectural vocabulary. By 1700 the double hung window was used universally in all English buildings.
Set within a wide wooden plank frame, the double hung sash provided a relatively economical way to admit light into the interior rooms. The wide window surround in addition to providing a frame for the sash carried the load of the masonry above the window opening. Following the building conventions of the day, the height of the window sash decreased as it rose from the first to the upper floors.
The labor intensive handmade process of glass manufacturing produced only limited quantities of glass with few size options making it a very costly building component.
The double hung sash with its multi-pane configuration allowed for many smaller lights of glass to be assembled in such as fashion as to compensate for the smaller size of the individual lights.
Typically the dimensions of a single pane were 8” wide and 10” high. The number of lights determined the dimensions of the sash. Window sash were fabricated to have 2 lights across, or 3 lights across or 4 depending on the cost of the sash. The height of the sash was also determined in this manner with the number of lights vertically selected.
In keeping with English building conventions window sash in the 18th Century were usually configured with the larger sash as the top sash. In the Robert Long House the larger windows on the first floor are 12 over 12 with the second floor sash being 12 over 8 and the dormer window being 6 over 6. All of these various sash sizes are based on an individual glass light dimension of approximately 8” x 10”. This glass size is fairly consistent throughout Colonial America and continued into the 19th Century until better glass manufacturing processes were developed.
Solid panel shutters were installed for security on the first floor. Typically solid panel shutters were only at the first floor windows and not on the upper floors. During the Colonial period, window sills were usually of wood, as at the Robert Long House, but in more elaborate structures, stone sills were utilized. Brick sills were never installed.