For 30 years, Senator William Brock and his wife, Sandy, have gravitated to Annapolis for its welcoming brand of casual warmth. When they began going there in the mid-1980s, Brock—a Republican who served as both a congressman and senator from Tennessee—was at the height of an important Washington career. The charming waterfront town represented a much-needed escape. “It’s a different kind of place from Washington, quiet and friendly,” he says. “It’s very special.”
Fast-forward to 2013, when the couple—who have owned several boats and five homes in the area over the years—purchased a decrepit property sandwiched between other houses on a narrow lot in Eastport, an historic community on the Chesapeake. The circa-1880 house was literally falling down, but Sandy Brock, an interior designer by trade, could see its potential. “I have roots in Maryland,” says the Silver Spring native. “I loved that it was a waterman’s house. The challenge was exactly what I wanted.”
The couple hired Annapolis architect Scarlett Breeding to overhaul the home. They wanted to retain its sense of history while introducing modern elements: an open plan, lots of light and easy access to the backyard, which overlooks the bay. Breeding, project manager Angela Phelan and Sandy embarked on the project together. “The house is in a historic overlay district, which required that we save 50 percent of the existing structure,” Breeding explains. “We basically took down everything but the front façade and one wall, jacked them up to build a new foundation that would give them a basement level, and started from scratch.”
“We had a great partnership with total trust,” Sandy says. “I knew exactly what I wanted. I sketched designs and Scarlett made them sing.” Modern and historic elements blend seamlessly, inside and out. For example, while the front façade retained its 19th-century appearance—Breeding even recreated a porch, long gone, that had been original to the house—expansive windows in back opened the whole rear façade up to the water.
Inside, hand-hewn, reclaimed-wood beams and stone walls were juxtaposed with refined moldings and a floating staircase that curves up to the top floor. To bring in light, Breeding designed a three-story window wall beside the staircase, with a floor-to-ceiling scrim of fine fabric to conceal the neighboring house, located only 10 feet away. “It creates a light shaft between the two houses,” she explains.
The open plan encompasses living, dining and kitchen areas that spill out onto a porch overlooking a pool, croquet lawn and the river beyond. A paneled core in the center of the home holds storage and an elevator. Upstairs, the master suite faces the water, while a guest room at the front of the house reflects its history with original wood floors. Zoning regulations prohibited the construction of a full third story, so Breeding tucked a half-story into the dormers to house the senator’s home office. With views of passing sailboats, it provides a welcome spot for working. “The only trouble is you get captured by the spectacle,” he comments.
The open floor plan suits Brock and his wife, and works well for entertaining, which is something they do often—for philanthropic and occasionally political purposes, as well as for family and friends. They recently threw a surprise birthday party for their daughter, Julie Cram, who served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison. They also hosted a lunch in honor of former FBI and CIA Director William Webster and his wife, which was attended by Howard Wilkins, Jr., former ambassador to the Netherlands.
Following four terms in the House and one in the Senate and a stint as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Brock served in the Reagan administration, first as U.S. Trade Representative and then as Secretary of Labor. Though he left public office in the late 1980s, Brock, 85, remains active in public affairs, serving on four boards for which he travels extensively. He is a trustee and counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he chairs the international policy round table. “I still care a lot about two primary issue groups,” he says. “One is international trade and the other is education reform. CSIS lets me do some of both.”
After 50 years in politics, he notes a sea change in the way Washington works—and doesn’t. “Instead of challenging people’s ideas, we are challenging their motives and values,” he observes. “In my time, we didn’t put a party label on everything. We listened to each other.”
Still, Brock can’t imagine retiring. “I’d be bored silly,” he says. Yet he and his wife prioritize spending time with their family of six grown children and 17 grandchildren. Luckily, three of their six kids live in the Annapolis area—so when the others visit, there are plenty of places for them to stay.
“The house is perfect for our needs,” Senator Brock comments, reflecting on its transformation. “Sandy was so good and Scarlett was just magic. We know how blessed we are and we’re grateful for it.”
Photographer David Burroughs is based in Annapolis.
ARCHITECTURE: SCARLETT BREEDING, AIA, and ANGELA PHELAN, RA, Alt Breeding Schwarz, Annapolis, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: SANDY BROCK, Sandy Mitchell Designs, Annapolis Maryland. CONTRACTOR: DAVID CARLISLE, Bayview Builders, Annapolis, Maryland. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: KEVIN CAMPION, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.