Darnall's Chance

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Buck House
Darnall's Chance.jpg
Darnall's Chance in July, 2007
Darnall's Chance is located in Maryland
Darnall's Chance
Darnall's Chance is located in the US
Darnall's Chance
Location 14800 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Coordinates 38°49′09.22″N 76°44′57.51″W / 38.8192278°N 76.7493083°W / 38.8192278; -76.7493083Coordinates: 38°49′09.22″N 76°44′57.51″W / 38.8192278°N 76.7493083°W / 38.8192278; -76.7493083
Built 1742
Architect Unknown
NRHP reference # 78003118[1]
Added to NRHP April 20, 1978

Darnall's Chance, also known as Buck House, Buck-Wardrop House, or James Wardrop House, is a historic home located at 14800 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, in Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. It is named after Colonel Henry Darnall, a wealthy Roman Catholic planter, who was the Proprietary Agent of Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore and who served for a time as Deputy Governor of the Province. The house itself was built c. 1742 by a merchant named James Wardrop, after he bought some of the land from Eleanor Darnall Carroll and her husband. Today, Darnall's Chance houses the Darnall's Chance House Museum, an historic house museum which opened to the public in 1988.


Colonel Henry Darnall (1645–1711)


The tract of land the house sits on was patented in 1704[citation needed] by Col. Henry Darnall (1645–1711),[2] a wealthy Maryland Roman Catholic planter, Proprietary Agent of Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore and, for a time, Deputy Governor of Maryland. However, during the Protestant Revolution of 1689, Darnall's proprietarial army was defeated by the Puritan army of Colonel John Coode, and he was stripped of his numerous offices.

When Col. Darnall died in 1711, he owned 27,000 acres (11,000 ha) in Prince George's County, as well as holdings in four other counties.[3] The property of what became known as Darnall's Chance passed through his family to his granddaughter Eleanor Darnall, who married Daniel Carroll I in 1727. Their family was reared on the large landholding and plantation. Two Carroll sons were prominent members of colonial and early United States society: Daniel Carroll became a politician in the Continental Congress and Maryland Senate, and member of the Constitutional Convention; and John Carroll became the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States, and founder of Georgetown University.

In 1741, the Carrolls sold 6​34 acres of their land to James Wardrop, a Scottish merchant. Wardrop built a 15-room brick dwelling house within a year, originally a ​1 12-story, Flemish bond brick house. It is that house that currently stands on the property. After living at Darnall's Chance as a bachelor for six years, Wardrop married 22-year-old Lettice Lee, whose father Philip was a member of the Lee family of Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Nineteenth Century[edit]

In the mid-19th century, the house was remodeled to two stories, of stuccoed brick, with Italianate and Greek Revival stylistic elements. The major alterations to the property were probably carried out under the ownership of Edward Grafton W. Hall, who owned it between 1857 and 1887.[3][4]

Modern Era[edit]

The house and property were acquired by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1974, for administrative offices, but was later renovated and reopened as a house museum.

Darnall's Chance was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[1] The official name for the house, the Buck House, is for a late-20th-century owner, Harry Buck, Sr. After renovations and opening as a house museum, the property was subsequently renamed Darnall's Chance, after its first owner.

In 1986, the entire second floor and roof were removed, and the house was reconstructed to its 18th-century appearance.[3] Two years later, it opened as Darnall's Chance House Museum.

Darnall's Chance House Museum[edit]

Darnall's Chance House Museum is an historic house museum which opened to the public in 1988. It is operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The tour at Darnall's Chance focuses on the life of Lettice Lee, as she lived in the house for almost thirty years, married three times, and was an unusual 18th-century woman. It also includes more general information on the other women who lived at Darnall's Chance and in Prince George's County at that time.

The house is open for tours on Friday from noon to 4 pm, Sunday from noon to 4 pm, and at other times by appointment. Public programs offered at the Museum include tea lessons for young ladies, a pirate-for-a-day program, and an annual gingerbread house contest and show. The Museum rents its tented patio, which has a capacity of 125, for weddings and other events.

Burial vault[edit]

During 1987, an underground vault was discovered on the property. The vault when discovered, was filled with 8 feet of trash from the 18th and 19th century. There were 9 human remains, found under the trash. The remains consisted of 3 adults and 6 children. It was later determined that 5 of those remains were that of native-born Americans.[5] It was concluded that the remains of the people found, died of various illnesses.[6]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Arnett, Earl; Dr. Robert J Brugger; Edward C. Papenfuse (1999). Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State. Johns Hopkins University Press. 
  3. ^ a b c James T. Wollon, Jr.; John M. Walton, Jr. (January 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: James Waldrop House" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2015-08-01. 
  4. ^ "Darnall's Chance House Museum". Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  5. ^ History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2017, from http://history.pgparks.com/sites_and_museums/Darnall_s_Chance_House_Museum/History.htm
  6. ^ Berg, S. (1999, Mar 10). Grave subjects; unearthing the past at darnall's chance. The Washington Post Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/408460744?accountid=13158

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