Defender House circa 1820-40…
Defender House, named for its association with the now extinct Defender Packing Co, cannery which once operated next door, is the Rural Life Museum’s headquarters and anchor building. Moved to this location in 1922 by Anthony Bennett Adams Sr. [1870-1939] and offered for use as a museum In 2007 by Cynthia Miles, on behalf of Foxhall, Inc., Defender House now houses the Museum’s main display area.
Among the permanent displays one will find many interesting artifacts of rural living from a time long past but not forgotten. There are also special theme displays that change every year..
Defender House Exhibits…
History & Early Pictures of “Defender House”…
The history of Defender House from before 1922 when it is believed to have been moved to its current location is largely unknown. At the time of the move, the original exterior brick chimneys were removed and replaced with brick stove chimneys. Porches were added front, rear, and on the west gable end, probably around the same time. A lean-to kitchen addition was constructed on the west gable end at a later date.Over the years the building has seen many changes and at times has fallen into disrepair. Major renovations were completed circa 1982 by the owner and in 2007-2010 by the Rural Life Museum. The non-original east end brick stove chimney has been replaced with a brick fireplace and chimney. The original partly enclosed winder stair still rises in the northwest corner of the main room giving access to the upstairs sleeping area which houses the museum’s “stored displays”.
The house is an excellent example of a small story-and-a-half hall parlor dwelling, a design that was widely utilized on the Eastern Shore throughout the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. The house could easily have been the home of an early 19th century artisan. The undated photo (above right) is the oldest photo currently available and shows the west end gable before the porch was replaced with the lean-to kitchen.
The Maryland Historic Trust, State Historic Sites Inventory Survey No. T-489 completed by Orlando Ridout V., Historic Sites Survey Coordinator in 1982 lists the house as “circa 1815” on the introductory page but later states that “the house probably dates to circa 1820-40”. It certainly dates to the first third of the nineteenth century. The location where the house was built remains unknown. (The actual move date was not known at the time of the survey but has since been verified as 1922 in research by Maurice Donovan “Donnie” Adams [1928-1985].) The survey contains much additional information about the construction details of this house. Click here to download the complete survey.
(top left) Defender House front c. before 1982 restoration. (top right) Defender House back c. before 1982 restoration.
(middle left & right) Defender House back, east gable end, and front during restoration c. 1982.
(bottom left) Defender House back view c. 2009. (bottom right) Ribbon cutting June 13, 2009 front of Defender House.