By Amy Reinink
Saturday, March 27, 2010; E01
Turn onto the long, narrow driveway to Tulip Hill from Muddy Creek Road, just south of Annapolis in Harwood, Md., and the grand entrance makes it easy to imagine you're one of the pre-Revolutionary War mansion's distinguished guests, which included George Washington.
Trees that look to be as old as the house itself tower over the drive, which is said to follow the original carriage path. The house's vaulted-arch chimneys seem to pierce the clouds.
The house itself, a brick, Georgian-style plantation manor with a columned porch, slate roof and black shutters built by shipping magnate Samuel Galloway about 1756, sits on the highest point on the 52-acre waterfront property, looming over rolling hills and terraced gardens.
Now, the historic estate is up for auction after being acquired by Citibank last summer, according to public records. The estate was originally listed for sale at $7.5 million in June 2007; it has been listed for $2.3 million since January. The property, assessed at $1.742 million in 2009, is being auctioned with reserve on April 10 with a suggested opening bid of $1.65 million.
"This is the showpiece of historical properties in Anne Arundel County and is probably one of the finest Colonial houses in the United States," said Donna Ware, an architectural historian who has written books about Anne Arundel's historic properties.
Galloway bought the property, originally 260 acres known as Poplar Knowle, in 1755, renaming it Tulip Hill for the grove of tulip poplar trees on the property. He set out to build a grand estate for his wife, Anne Chew Galloway, but she died before the house was completed around 1762. Samuel Galloway never remarried, and when he died in 1785 he left Tulip Hill to his son John, who built the two wings and connecting "hyphens" around 1790.
The Galloways were among the earliest Quaker settlers of Anne Arundel in the 1600s, Ware said, and the family's wealth was established long before Samuel Galloway built Tulip Hill.
Samuel Galloway's varied business pursuits included the export of tobacco grown at Tulip Hill and the import and sale of indentured servants, including slaves, Ware said. He also owned more than 30 ships and a shipyard on the West River, according to the book "Architecture and Change in the Chesapeake: A Field Tour on the Eastern and Western Shores," edited by Michael O. Bourne and Orlando Ridout V and published by the Maryland Historical Trust.
Galloway "was a major player in the transatlantic trade network that included bringing in materials from England, Europe, the Caribbean and, of course, the slave trade from West Africa and the Caribbean," Ware said. She noted that, despite the Quakers' strong presence in the abolitionist movement, Samuel Galloway was one of many wealthy Quakers in the region at that time who owned slaves.
He entertained often at Tulip Hill, and the house's lore includes a story about a Confederate officer who rode his horse up the stairs because he was tired after a night of partying. Ware said that although that story is unsubstantiated, George Washington's frequent visits to Tulip Hill are well documented in the first president's journals.
"This is one of the few places where you can say, 'Washington actually did sleep here,' " Ware said.
Tulip Hill stayed with descendants of the Galloway family until Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Flather of Washington bought it in 1918, restoring it after a period of disrepair, Ware said. It has been used as a residence since and was also an active farm growing soybeans as recently as a year ago, said listing agent Gary Gestson of Long & Foster.
Skip Booth, president of the Ann Arrundel County Historical Society (the group uses a variant spelling), said that in addition to being one of the region's most important historical resources, Tulip Hill is "easily one of most attractive Colonial homes in the county, if not the most attractive."
"Between the architectural beauty and the spectacular property it sits on, it is just such a cool-looking home," Booth said.
The first story of the 42-by-52-foot main house bears the most ornate decorations, from an M-shaped arch in the entryway to the carved-walnut stairs, which are embellished with raised-panel wainscoting and a scrolled handrail.
The bedrooms upstairs are also show-worthy, with sweeping views of the West River and details such as purple Delft tiles surrounding the fireplaces.
The wings, which housed the plantation office and servants' quarters, feature smaller, less elaborate rooms, rounding out the seven bedrooms and several bathrooms in the 6,488-square-foot house.
The house has retained almost all of its original features, from the paneling and pine floors downstairs to the marble-faced fireplaces throughout.
"This house is as original as it comes," Gestson said.
The house also boasts a stone basement and an attic that leads to a widow's walk overlooking the West River and what Ware described as "perhaps the most impressive terraced gardens in the United States."
Ware said the sweeping views, intricate design features and lovely grounds speak directly to Galloway's intended effect: awe.
"Samuel Galloway was certainly one of the wealthiest men in Colonial Maryland, and it's so palpable when you see this house that this is a powerful building built by a powerful individual to display his wealth," Ware said. "The entrance, with the ancient tulip poplar trees, and the grand, commanding view of the house itself, is just breathtaking. In the 1700s, that's the exact response Samuel Galloway would have wanted from his visitors."