MacAlpine, located just outside historic Ellicott City, is a significant historic property as one of the few postbellum country houses remaining in Howard County, Maryland. It was designed by architect Nathan G. Starkwether for Annapolis attorney James MacKubin circa 1868 as a 2 ½ story 3-bay residence, featuring a stair across the front facade, known as the “Annapolis Plan”. Originally, the residence consisted of a hipped roof that was later altered to a mansard, typical of the Second Empire style. Later additions and alterations include a 2-bay hyphen and a 2-bay front gable wing. The house continues to embody its original characteristics of exterior features and interior details despite many interior 20th century alterations. As the house changed ownership, it was divided into separate apartments and altered again for the Decorators’ Showcase in 1985. All of the changes, from the early roof alteration to the non-historic interior reconfigurations and details, had compromised the structural and historic integrity of the interior.
The primary rehabilitation goal for the Owners as they embarked on the journey to restore MacAlpine, was focused on the stabilization and restoration of the main stair from first floor to the attic. The 1870s conversion of the roof and attic to living space had caused the stair to ultimately separate from the wall, compromising its structure, blocking windows, and reducing head clearance. The stair reconstruction incorporates a structural bent steel tube now seamlessly within its body while allowing the stair to wrap around and cantilever as originally intended. The reinforced stair opens up to the attic space, allowing the mansard windows to provide light to the stair as well as views toward Ellicott City from its ridge location. A new front sitting room at the attic suite opens to the stair hall, allowing light, views, and increased flow to this third floor level. Rehabilitation work included reconfiguring a narrow storage room into a new bath at the attic to serve the newly refurbished bedrooms.