In 1746, Postmaster and Commissioner of the Town of Bladensburg Christopher Lowndes built Bostwick House, a glorious Georgian mansion situated on 7.7 acres. One of its historic outbuildings is now used as an apartment. To the east is a rare and important complex of 19th-century agricultural outbuildings.
The house enjoys historical distinction because Lowndes’ son-in-law, Benjamin Stoddert, the first secretary of the U.S. Navy, also lived there. But despite its immense potential, the two-and-a-half-story brick structure is threatened by deterioration. The collapse of the north chimney, main roof, and rear porch roof seems imminent, thanks to the 2011 earthquake.
“Bostwick has been a witness to local and national history and is an outstanding example of Georgian architecture. Bostwick also represents a significant archaeological site covering over 250 years,” says Susan Pearl of the Aman Memorial Trust, who nominated the site to this year’s Endangered Maryland list.
“It is important to save what little remains of this important historic port town. Bostwick is the town’s gem and one of only four remaining 18th-century buildings in present-day Bladensburg.”
Bostwick has been owned by the town since the late 1990s, but the town is a problematic steward because it doesn’t have the economic strength to support the structure. However, a partnership with the University of Maryland College Park’s Historic Preservation Program has made recent renovations to the property possible.
“The town sees Bostwick as both a challenge and a great opportunity. [Our] efforts to pursue ownership was to ensure that it was not sold to a private entity, sequestered from our community and its history,” says Bladensburg Town Clerk Patricia McAuley, noting the partnership with the university has brought Bostwick much-needed technical advice, programs, and studies that will benefit the property.
In fact, preservation expertise is provided by professors like Donald Linebaugh (who also chairs Endangered Maryland) and his students, who devise sustainability strategies and work with the community on long-term development and reuse plans.
Graduate student Rachel Brown has enjoyed her studio class, which is held in Bostwick House, and working with the citizens of Bladensburg to help find a “connection, pride, and a reason for them to visit.” She says Bostwick is a great resource.
“There is an elementary school that abuts the property. I hope kids can come onto the property to use the urban farm as a teaching tool, like a mini field trip to see preservation trades and gain understanding about the history of this house.”
The town has received and continues to pursue grant funding at the federal, state, and local level, but more is needed.
Pearl encourages citizens to support Bostwick by “speaking passionately about this site to elected officials, visiting, and becoming involved with the War of 1812 Bicentennial” planning.