Buffham’s Brice House, Annapolis
This over-sized (8-1/2″x6-1/2″) card photograph by George Richard Buffham (1846-1915) is much larger than today’s tourist mementos, but the photo of the Brice House on East Street, entitled “Colonial Annapolis,” seems meant for a tourist market.
English-born George Buffham moved to Annapolis from Baltimore and operated a photographic studio at 48 Maryland Avenue there from the 1890s to about 1910. He held an appointment as official photographer to the US Naval Academy between 1890 and 1900; in 1912 he sold his studio and retired with his wife, Ethel, to their home outside the town.
Buffham photographed several well-known graduates of the Naval Academy, including Chester W. Nimitz. Some of Buffham’s portraits can be found in the Maryland State Archives and the Library of Congress.
Buffham also operated a photographic studio at the Bay Ridge Resort, a popular summer hotel and amusement park now an exclusive enclave of homes just south of town that is fiercely protective of its heritage, wildlife, open space and community traditions.
George and Ethel (Hubbard) Buffham’s red-roofed home, built in 1891, still stands at 11 Barry Avenue in Bay Ridge. Unfortunately, a 1915 fire that destroyed Bay Ridge’s hotel also destroyed Buffham’s large collection of photographic plates.
This is the first example of one of Buffham’s tourist-market photographs that I’ve seen come up for sale. It depicts one of the oldest and best-known Georgian homes in Annapolis, the James Brice House on East Street. Begun by Annapolis Mayor James Brice, the Brice House was built of brick on a fieldstone foundation 1767-1774, in a five-part form featuring a central structure flanked by two “hyphens.”
The Library of Congress has digitized 15 of its collection of 17 photographs of Brice House’s interior and exterior. The house is now home to the International Masonry Institute’s headquarters, and apparently is not open to the public.
The house has figured in recent archeological work in the town. 1998 excavations in the east wing uncovered African-American protective Hoodoo caches.
Photographs like this one open a window into the ways that 19th century photographers attempted to expand their products beyond portraiture by capitalizing on Americans’ revived interest in their nation’s origins.
Jane Wilson McWilliams and Caroline Patterson, Bay Ridge on the Chesapeake: An Illustrated History (Annapolis: Brighton Editions, 1986) Available for purchase from the authors.