How did Harrison W. Vickers, Sr. pay for the building of Lauretum?
A. Irish Sweepstakes
B. Louisiana Lottery
C. Maryland Lottery
D. None of Above
Answer B. Louisiana Lottery
Harrison Wilson Vickers (1845-1911), a prominent Chestertown Court Street lawyer and son of U.S. Senator George Vickers, paid for his unique new country place, built in 1881, with the ample win of $75,000 from a Louisiana Lottery ticket given to him by a destitute client.
He named the extravagant edifice “Lauretum Place,” meaning Laurel Grove in Latin, as it refers to a location on one of the seven hills in ancient Rome — the Aventine Hill. The splendid new retreat was sited within a tree-topped crown of six acres found at the end of a long winding driveway up a hill just outside of Chestertown.
Vickers hired “internationally renowned” English architect Edmund George Lind (1829-1909) to design his new opportunity to play country gentleman. Lind, a pioneer in the relatively new licensed profession of architecture, had gained great fame in Maryland for his design and building of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University at Mt. Vernon Place in Baltimore. Lauretum was one of the few — if not the only — residences on the Eastern Shore during that period that was designed by a professionally licensed architect.
It has been said that Lind must have given Lauretum “everything he had” as the sum of its parts included almost every architectural detail known at this effusive mid-Victorian period rolled into a silhouette that was unique on every stucco facade.
The interior was traversed by a striped hall of mahogany and oak boards that was discovered about forty years ago by a new owner after removing layers of thick black shellac. The embellishments were lavish. As a country house, it was not occupied consistently and what it lacked in heating and everyday amenities was more than made up for in trimming, and provided a bucolic retreat for the Vickers and their eight children.
Although we do not know the exact date or setting of this rare photo of the Vickers family — Harrison, Jennie, daughter Dorothy and cute dog, Yankee — it would be nice to think of them as happily rocking on their delightful Lauretum Place porch, enjoying a getaway from the hustle and bustle of a forever busy Chestertown.
The property is now home of Benchworks, a national advertising firm.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.
Do you have a Kent County history question? Send it to email@example.com.