Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Carroll Barrister House

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Institution Name: St. John's College (MD)
Original/Historic Place Name: Carroll Barrister House
Location on Campus: facing King George St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1724original construction
1746reconstruction of side elevations of main block
1955renovation and relocation to present location Burch, James W.
Designer: James W. Burch (1955 renovation)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: American colonial (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history, landscape
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: brick
Walls: clapboard
Roof: slate
ca. 1724-1746private residence (of Charles Carroll, the Barrister)
ca. 1746-1831private residence (of Carroll-Maccubbin family)
ca. 1955-present (2006)admissions office (and Advancement Office)

During the Revolution there were at least four Charles Carrolls who were active on the side of the patriots. Charles Carroll, the Barrister, as he became known, was born March 22, 1724, in the house which now stands on the St. John's campus. "There are so many of my name in this town that some particular description is necessary to prevent mistakes. Please, therefore, to direct to me Councellor Barrister at Law; when you write to my correspondents, be pleased to mention me with that addition," he wrote when ordering 126 gallons of Madeira wine from Europe in December 1766.
Carroll served as president of the Maryland convention, which met in May 1776, and relieved Sir Robert Eden, Maryland's last British governor, of his office. Carroll became a member of a number of patriotic bodies, including the Councils of Safety, which exercised powers for government in the intervals between conventions, the Committee of Safety, the Committee of Observation, and the Committee of Correspondence.
Charles Carroll, the Barrister, was the principal writer for the Declaration of Delegates of Maryland, originally scheduled for action on July 3, 1776, but adopted on July 6, 1776, two days after the Continental Congress agreed on the Declaration of Independence. The text now makes up the first 45 articles of the Maryland Constitution, which he also helped write.
The house in which he was born was constructed in 1722-23 at the corner of what is now Main and Conduit streets, by his father, Dr. Charles Carroll, "Chirurgeon," the old name for surgeon. A native of Ireland, Dr. Carroll came to Annapolis in 1715 and built up a substantial practice, but eventually he expanded his interests to include commerce, agriculture, iron manufacturing, and shipbuilding, becoming one of the most affluent men in Maryland. This wealth, which his son the barrister inherited at 31, enabled the younger Carroll to build Mt. Clare, the Baltimore estate where he lived following his marriage.
Besides law, civic, and business matters, Carroll's interests included horseracing and art. With others he helped make up a purse of 83 pounds to send Charles Wilson Peale to London to study painting for a year. He urged Peale to remain, when he became discouraged, and to paint portraits rather than miniatures.
The house in which Carroll was born is now located on the King George Street side of the St. John's campus. Its architect and builder are unknown. With two full stories and a low attic, its style stands between the gambrel-roofed houses of one-and-a-half stories, dating back to the 17th century, and the larger and finer examples of Georgian architecture in Annapolis such as the Chase-Lloyd House. The rooms maintain Jacobean features in their paneling, mantels, doors, floorboards, cornices, fireplaces, and stairway, and with a few exceptions, the windows.
In 1955 the house was moved up Main Street, around Church Circle, and down College Avenue to King George Street. Historic Annapolis had raised $20,000 to save the house from demolition and to finance the move. Crews had trouble breaking up the oyster shell mortar used in the foundation, so the 6 a.m. start for the move was delayed. Split at the T, the house was moved on rollers and hauled to the campus in two sections.
Renovations included building a false wall on all three levels of the stair hall to allow vertical heating and air conditioning ducts to be installed, constructing a new brick foundation, and digging a basement. A cellar originally had housed the kitchen. The house, which had been painted a sallow yellow, was repainted to match the mortar. Hand-made bricks were used to cover the side of the house that had adjoined a building on Main Street.
The chimney tops and some pine boards of old flooring were replaced. James W. Burch, the Annapolis architect who served as the renovation consultant, used an old hand-carved trundle bed post found in the house as a pattern to make posts for the east stoop.
The house contains a portrait of Carroll, done in the manner of Peale and given to the college by Carroll's great-great-great-niece, Florence Mackubin. In the reception room is an 18th century mahogany secretary with large oval inlaid satin wood circles. The piece is attributed to "Shaw of Annapolis." The breakfront formerly contained a collection of books given to the college by Dr. Douglas G. Carroll, Jr., of Brooklandville, Md., and believed to have belonged to the barrister, his father, and his cousin. Among the books are an 18th century volume of bomb construction, The French Bombardier or the New Method of Throwing Bombs with Precision; the first American edition of Charles Dickens' Watkins Tottle; and an 1813 edition of William Wirt's The Letters of a British Spy. The collection is now housed in the college archives.
The St. John's College offices of Admissions and Advancement are now located in the Carroll Barrister House.


Dunbar, Florence T., and O. Ridout. Davis House, King George Street [St. John's College]. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1964.

Tilghman, Tench Francis. The Early History of St. John's College in Annapolis. Annapolis, MD: St. John's College Press, 1984.

Trieschmann, Laura, and Kim Williams. Charles Carroll the Barrister, St. John's College. Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties report. Crownsville, MD; Maryland Historical Trust, 2000.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


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