The Circa 1849 Muse-Goldsborough House Cambridge Maryland

December 01, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Residence of Former Prominent Cambridge Maryland Families

Ownership History and Family Heritage

One can tell that even by taking in solely the exterior grandeur of this Greek Revival style house that not only was it built for a person of means but it is also apparent that it has served as a residence for prominent Dorchester County families over the years as well. Referred to as the Muse-Goldsborough House, and to a lesser degree the Webb House, it was built in 1849 for Dr. James A. Muse. Married to Mary S. Sulivane in 1847 Dr. Muse acquired the land for his new house from the family of the late Maryland Governor Charles Goldsborough (1818-1819) who had passed away in 1834. Dr. Muse was the son of Joseph Ennalls Muse, a successful land developer and farmer, as well as a member of a well noted Dorchester County family.

In 1868, the year following the death of Dr. Muse on November 24th 1867, both the house and property was sold to Mary Ellen Goldsborough, daughter-in-law of the previously noted deceased Governor Charles Goldsborough. In 1874 she in turn sold the house to Nettie M. Goldsborough, mother of a future Maryland Governor (1912-1916) and US Senator (1929-1935) Phillips Lee Goldsborough.

A Mr. Barnard Honebach, a Cambridge clothing retailer, purchased the house in 1886 and he later died in 1892. Afterwards other less noted individuals and families owned the house over the years leading up to 1939.

The final noted family to own, as well as reside in, this grand High Street residence was the Webb family. Mildred W. Webb purchased the house in 1939. Mrs. Webb was the wife of Mr. P. Watson Webb, owner and publisher of the Cambridge Daily Banner and Record newspaper. The Webb's were married in June of 1908 and had a daughter, Virginia who was born in 1909. Mrs. Mildred Webb died in January of 1941 and Mr. Webb passed away in 1969. Virginia Webb came in to possession of the house and property. Virginia Webb passed away in October of 1995.

Today the house is owned by the Summers family who acquired it from the estate of Virginia Webb in 1997. It seems hard to believe, at least me anyway, that this stately residence was purchased for $215,000 at that time.

Architectural Influences and Characteristics

The Muse-Goldsborough House is located on one of the original colonial era streets of Cambridge Maryland just a little over a block away from the Choptank River. From an architectural perspective the original or main part of Dr. Muse's house was constructed in what most historical building survey specialists would consider to be the Greek Revival style, although there are others who note Federal design elements on it as well.

From a Greek Revival design standpoint the house features tall yet narrow six over six windows topped by stone caps each one featuring an upper protruding border line. In addition there are brick rectangle panels set back in the front and east exterior walls of the original house that are visible below each second floor window.

Any Federal style influence would have been more apparent when the main section of the house was first built for it has been put forth that the upper dormers and gables of the Muse-Goldsborough House were added later, perhaps when the attic area was expanded. So envisioning the absence of the present day attic, gables and flanking dormers as well as that of the ornate Victorian style front porch perhaps the front exterior of the house would have been more representative of a late Federal style structure.

It is believed that during the construction of the afore mentioned Victorian style front porch and its metal Mansard like roof in 1884 that the expansion of the attic and upper roof area took place. This work was done during the period when Mrs. Nettie Goldsborough owned the house. It is worth examining this journal post's photo show image of the front porch where one can see the ornately detailed millwork of both its brackets as well as cross pieces. Also note the dentil millwork with rounded bottoms beneath the porch's metal roofline. The porch itself is perhaps one of the more interesting architectural aspects of the house although there have been those who dismiss it as the "Victorianization" of its Greek Revival character.

During the ownership of Mr. Barnard Honebach in 1890 the rear extension of the house was built that itself is visible in two of this post's photo show images, from both the east and west sides.

The remaining architectural details on the Muse-Goldsborough House, or the Webb House for that matter, to take note of includes first of all the two story bay window on the west side of the original house. Featuring large four over four windows each framed by elaborate columns composed of layered millwork along with recessed panels beneath the outward facing sections. From the outside these one over one bump outs present the appearance of sun rooms although it is clear from the enlarged photographs of the west side of the house that they were empty at the time.

On both side gable ends the windows are of a Gothic style design, more so the top arch sections, like those found on a church or chapel. The front gable on the other hand features a bullseye window.

Final Thoughts

After having studied closely the architectural details of the Muse-Goldsborough House, its present condition as well as researching its history along with the backgrounds of the families that have owned it over the past 165 years I have found it to be more of an exception to the types of residences owned by prominent Cambridge Maryland families.

The house's presence along one of Cambridge's more historical streets could be perceived as stately what with its architectural details that are made of quality materials while also ornate in their overall appearance. Having undergone two extensive modifications since it was first built in 1849 the Victorian influenced front porch to a purist takes away from the house's original Gothic Revival style however to myself the craftsmanship and elaborate details speak volumes as to its then owners intent of a public projection of their status in society. The addition of the rear extension, while not as stylish as the front section of the house, I'm sure served the more practical needs of its respective owner at the time while also increasing the building's overall livable space.

When I took these photographs of the Muse-Goldsborough House it was apparent to me that the house itself is in need of a fair amount of exterior maintenance, specifically its wooden millwork including windows, porch and dormers. Its brick walls appear straight, level and devoid of any cracks either in its bricks or their mortar joints. Certainly a candidate for the more notable houses of the City of Cambridge Maryland I am hopeful that it will remain so for the next hundred years as well.

I also hope that you have enjoyed this brief visit to Cambridge Maryland today and found the Muse-Goldsborough House interesting as well,


G J Gibson


Images and Article Copyright ©2015 G J Gibson Photography LLC


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