Saving an Historic Home
Brandywine resident restores Charles S. Early House
by Kevin Harris, Staff Writer of the Clinton Gazette
When Robert Brinckloe set out to purchase a dream home, he had designs on an 1870s house in LaPlata in Charles County. It proved to be unaffordable.”I wanted a 19th-century house – something that was made of wood and brick – not one of those modern houses with aluminum siding or those plastic boxes that look like the others on the same block. I also wanted a house with a story behind it,” he said.
Now Brinckloe’s dream has come to fruition. Not only did he find such a home but one that has been designated historic.Since April 1999, Brinckloe has resided in what was once the Charles S.Early House, a Victorian at Brandywine and Old Indian Head roads in Brandywine.
The house was designated in May 1999 as a historic site by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said Susan Pearl of the agency’s Historic Preservation Commission. “I want to make the house look like it did back in 1870. Something to reflect the period. I’m having everything remodeled except the kitchen,”said Brinckloe, who is restoring the interior and exterior of the house with a projected cost of $60,000.
Brinckloe said he also wants to make the house a pastel gold, which he believes was the house’s original color after seeing gold underneath the paint. He also plans to use burgundy, which he said is the best color to complement gold.
Brinckloe had the house raised 5 feet from its original brick foundation,which was collapsing, in late September. “Upstairs, the second floor was warped. You felt like you were in a funhouse,” said Brinckloe, a Web site analyst who first heard about the Early house through a real estate Web site.
“It just happened by luck that I found the Early house,” Brinckloe said. The Victorian vernacular farmhouse with Italianate decorative detail is named after Charles S. Early, a farmer who inherited 1,000 acres of property, a 90-acre farm and a general store from his father, William H.Early. According to the M-NCPPC, the senior Early owned approximately 3,000 acres of land in the Brandywine area upon his death in 1890 and had operated a store and post office one mile east of Brandywine before the Civil War. On this farm he had built the house with a two-story rear wing that forms a T as a wedding present for his son in 1870.
Extending to the front and forming a T is a two-story gable-roof with German siding painted white. Gray asphalt shingle covers the gable roof. Brinckloe had one of two interior corbelled brick chimneys that rested on the back of the house removed.
“When [the workers] took this chimney down, the [second floor]straightened,” said Brinckloe. He also said the house will be absolutely level when he and the workers have completed the project. Brinckloe is also receiving help from youths, including Charles County resident Adam Swann, who mows the lawn and helps clean up all the debris. Swann, 14, is a former student of Brinckloe, who once taught construction at a technical middle school.
“It was weird. I was upstairs working on the computer and the house felt like it was moving,” said Swann, describing the effects of an unlevel floor.The eight-room house contains four rooms on both levels, with two livingrooms, a dining room and a kitchen on the first floor; and three bedrooms and an office room on the second floor.”
My favorite room is the dining room because it looks like the one in the[LaPlata] house,” he said.According to the M-NCPPC, the front half of the house was built in 1870 by William Early and the rear half was built in 1900 by his son Charles S Early. Then the farm was known as Tiny Oak Farm and remained in the family for another generation.
Thomas H. Early, the third son of Charles S. Early, was the last family member to own the house before his widow sold it out of the family in 1949. Some residents nearby have different ideas about the house, including Lillie Pinckney, a 94-year-old Brandywine resident, who believes the Early property was a plantation house with slave quarters. Brinckloe and Pearl, however,disagree.
“I would be surprised if the Early family didn’t own slaves, but the house was built after the Civil War,” said Pearl. David Belfield, a 20-year Brandywine resident of Old Indian Head Road, said he believed the house was haunted when he visited a tenant who lived therein 1996.”They had a dark cellar inside there, the place was covered in cobwebs. It was really a spooky place inside; it would make a good haunted house for Halloween,” said Belfield.
“It’s just a house. It’s really very quiet at night,” said Brinckloe. “If there are any ghosts at all, they’re very quiet.”Brinckloe said that what he likes most about living in the Early house is”the fact that I actually saved something. If I hadn’t moved here, this house would’ve either gotten torn down or it would’ve gone to vandals.”