Maxwell Hall was built in 1768 by George Maxwell, a Benedict merchant. Choosing an elevated site overlooking the Patuxent River and Swanson Creek made the home easily accessible by land or water′ yet a safe distance from the deadly pestilence that plagued the port settlements and plantations of the Chesapeake region.
The house represents an architecture that was comparable to those dwellings occupied by other prominent merchants and planters in this locality during the latter part of the eighteenth century.
● House measures 36’L x 28’w and retains its 18th century floor plan
● Double-Sloped Dutch-Style gambrel roof
● Distinctive matching-end 18-foot-wide chimneys
● Double-tiered chimneys with elongated/stepped lower weathering’s
· Five fireplaces
● Massive peg-fastened beams, including two 36-foot long hand-hewn summer (main) beams
● The stairwell wall is lined with hand-split clapboards and lath fastened with rose-head nails.
●The foundation is made of brick and fieldstone, some of which reportedly came from England’s ′‘white Cliffs of Dover’’
Numerous old barns along the north side of the driveway. The first bam is a tobacco barn with hand-hewn horizontal clapboards along the east wall. It is constructed with pegs and is approximately 200 years old. The second is a very Iarge tobacco barn with attached stripping shed′ built partly with pegs′ but remodeled in the 1920’s. Smaller barns were originally used as stables. The small shed near the house was built in the 1920’s for use as a meat house.
George Maxwell Family
George MaxweII had been living in Benedict as early as 1745, successfully building various business interests in partnership with other prosperous merchant and tobacco planters. He already owned several large tracts of land on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as commercial properties in and around Benedict. He was issued a patent for 487 acres of land from the CaIverton Manor lands of the lord proprietor in 1768. He named this land ′′Maxwell’s seat.’’ In 1763, George Maxwell owned at least one sailing vessel, the Lord Baltimore, and at that time he petitioned the King’s Agent for permission to build a landing for his ship on Swanson Creek.
War of 1812 and Maxwell Hall
Benedict is the first site on which a foreign enemy has landed in force on the United States (the second being Pearl Harbor, WWll).
On August 18, 1814, approximately 4,500 British soldiers under the command of Major GeneraI Robert Ross and Rear Adm. George Cockburn debarked their ships at the Town of Benedict. The soldiers camped here and along two miles of shoreline, including the farm of Maxwell Hall. Upon hearing news of their occupation, James Monroe, then Secretary of State, personally rode (by horseback) from Washington to Benedict. Using a ridge that overlooked the town, he was able to successfully spy on the British movements. Convinced Washington was in trouble, he raced back to the city to raise the alarm, The British troops then marched from Benedict to Washington in a brutal summer heat wave. After capturing and burning the city, the troops returned to Benedict, carrying their wounded and supplies. Two of the British soldiers who died were buried at Old Fields Chapel cemetery in Hughesville. They sailed out of the Patuxent River and into the
Chesapeake Bay with Baltimore as their next target.
A local tale of interest is the role that Maxwell Hall played when the British landed at Benedict and seized the town for 24 hours. It is said that one of the British officers requisitioned the first floor of the house for his headquarters requiring that the family living here make-do with the rooms on the second floor. His occupation was mercifully brief but perhaps saved the house from “torching” which was the fate of many other nearby homes and structures·
Over the years, buttons, cufflinks and belt buckles have been found on the property that is believed to have belonged to British troops.
Restoration & Acquisition
When Edwin and Marion Swann purchased the property in 1980, the house had been abandoned for decades. Vines were growing over the house; the roof was all but gone and the badly sagging frame was miraculously held together by the massive chimneys. Due to water damage and neglect, the house was on the verge of ruin. After extensive and expensive restoration and sweat equity investment, Maxwell Hall again became a livable home.
The Swann′s felt that no one really ever ′‘owns′′ a house of this great age and they believed that it was only theirs to live in and love temporarily. They both had hoped that one day Maxwell Hall would be publicly owned - a place where visitors could appreciate the value of historical preservation and experience a piece of our Southern Maryland heritage.
In 2007, their dream became a reality when Charles County Government had the foresight to acquire the property (using Maryland Program Open Space funding)· This was indeed a rare opportunity to protect and preserve a fully-restored 18th-century dwelling” Maxwell Hall will be an important venue in our efforts to interpret the War of 1812, colonial life along the Patuxent River as well as Benedict′s role in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars”