Vallen Design Studio

Melwood Park, Upper Marlboro MD


Melwood Park holds an important place in the early history of the state of Maryland. It is believed to have been built around 1714 by the Digges family as a one-and-a-half story building, one room deep and three rooms wide, with a T addition at the rear. Significant alterations were made between 1762 and 1767, with the upper level raised to full-height in the front, and the rear of the home pushed out by about six feet. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, but by this time it had fallen into a state of disrepair. A private foundation purchased the property in 2008 and hired Michael Vallen to oversee a thorough historic preservation effort, including a highly meticulous study of the structure and the land around it, to generate a full understanding of the property's complex history. Vallen uncovered myriad clues held for centuries in every corner of the property: foundations with varying thicknesses and construction techniques; layers of paint dating back over two centuries with some very unusual application techniques and rare sources of origin; countless different species and cuts of timber; and many other long-unexplored clues and details. Vallen's research led to a wide range of new insights into construction techniques, as well as day-to-day life, in Colonial Maryland. It broadened and deepened our understanding of the property and its role in Maryland and Colonial American history, and it laid the critical historical, architectural and archeological groundwork for a major restoration of the property. It also brought many previously undiscovered facts to the attention of historic preservation officials in Prince George's County and the State of Maryland, cementing the property's place in history books and helping to ensure its preservation in coming years.