Historic Makepeace for sale to the right buyer

The years have not been kind to Makepeace. How did it happen that the coveted jewel in the architectural crown of Somerset County is struggling to survive?

The brick house is outside of Crisfield, along Johnson Creek Road, a narrow twisting country road  that runs to Johnson’s Creek. It is an ideal setting, off the main road, hiding a bit between the trees and grass, cozy with country solitude. Built about 1727-1747, the former home of the late artist, Kirk Sterling, is now for sale. It is offered at $129,000 by Wilson Realty of Crisfield on behalf of the William Terry Sterling estate. He was the son of the artist.

Framed between naked tree limbs, it rises from the leaf covered yard, bold, powerful, timeless and beautiful.

On its gabled west end is the decorative, eye-catching design of blue-glazed bricks, against the darker reddish-brown background, that holds the power to impress. The diamond design, or diapering pattern, showcases the bricklayer’s art. The decorative, intricate “dog’s teeth” brickwork, marking the second floor level of the house, is equally special. This is not just any “old house.” This is Makepeace.

It is the brick shell of the house that is so coveted.

So much has been lost, changed, robbed from the interior, but all the ghosts of those who once called this place home, remain, mixed with the sunlight and shadows within the brick walls that have stood the test of time.

About 275 years ago many admired the delightful play of design in the east and west ends of the house. They saw that which we see today. And we are still as impressed, still as appreciative of the skills that made it possible then, as now.

The two fireplaces, though much altered, are still there. Here huddled children and adults, winter after winter, flames painting their faces with warm colors, lightening their eyes. Yet much of whatever authentic woodwork that was original to the house, is now almost gone. Some wide pine floorboards remain, but narrow boards are evidence of considerable reworking.

Somerset County Historical Society trustee, Sharon Upton, said the house is big on visual appeal and potential. “I really like the combination of history, stories and architectural components of this house,” she said. “It has context and such appeal.”

Sale of the 8-acre property is being handled by Cynthia Stevens of Wilson Realty in Crisfield on behalf of the estate of Larry Sterling of Annapolis, son of artist Kirk Sterling.

It’s a unique house, a real fixer-upper with town water and sewage. Country seclusion, rural charm, rare luxuries today.

Dr. Randy George, chairman of the Somerset County Historical Trust, said that the house’s architectural significance is even more important today because so many period homes, throughout the county, have been destroyed over the years. The surviving examples of 18th century houses are slowly dwindling in number.

George, a retired neurosurgeon, is the owner of Williams Conquest, near Crisfield, a mid-18th century brick house just a few minutes drive from Makepeace.

He purchased the property in 1986 and has spent decades restoring it.

Over the years George has made restoration work an avocation and is regionally recognized for his expertise. Makepeace, he said, is truly the architectural gem it has long been claimed.

“The Somerset County Historical Trust’s interest in Makepeace is fascination, and an interest in the preservation of its architectural dignity. The place is a remarkable in that it wasn’t destroyed years ago — so many have been — and that it’s such an outstanding example of early brickwork design. Perhaps the finest example of 18th century brickwork in Somerset County is in Makepeace,” he said. “People who buy these kinds of homes I think really want to work with the Trust to save them.”

The Historical Trust has Makepeace and details on other period homes, including those on the market, at its website at schtrust.org. For more on this story see the Jan. 6, 2021 edition of the Crisfield-Somerset County Times.