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May/June 2008
Rural Ramble: MD House & Garden Tour
The Washington County Leg of the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage Tour Highlights Homes with Strong Connections to Our Pastoral Past.

by Jane F. Schmidt + photos by Youngblood Studios

• • •

Whether magnificently restored or lovingly maintained, the historic properties that dot Washington County’s rural roads and rolling hills are fine adornments in the rich tapestry comprising Maryland’s diverse history. And thanks to the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage (MHGP) organization and its annual spring tour, many of these gems will continue gracing the state’s varied landscape for years to come.

Celebrating its 71st year, MHGP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving historically and architecturally significant properties throughout Maryland. The group’s annual spring tour heightens awareness of Maryland’s cultural and architectural heritage and raises funds to preserve and restore historic state properties.

The tour started in 1930 to raise funds to restore the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis. The MHGP organization took over in 1937 and expanded the tour to include properties in several Maryland counties and their preservation projects. Washington County joined the tour in 1962 and has been included every five years since, with the Hagerstown Garden Club coordinating the Washington County tour since the 1980s. Washington County projects benefiting from past tours include the Miller House, Clear Spring’s Plumb Grove, Hagerstown Day Nursery and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. Funds from this year’s county tour on May 17 — which highlights properties epitomizing the area’s extensive rural history, many never before open to the public — are earmarked for the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum and Village, where threatened buildings will be restored to create a small village.

Co-chairs of the 2008 Washington County tour, Beverly McCain and Laura Zimmermann — together with past tour chairs Virginia Hendrickson, Caroline Wright and Carol Urner, and Washington County Historical Society member Jane Hershey — scouted properties for the 2008 tour months in advance. “There is a wealth of homes that are taken care of by dedicated people who want to preserve history in our county,” Laura says. “Every homeowner we visited was very eager to share their property’s story with us.”

Rockland, Fairplay
Rockland’s tale promises to intrigue tour guests. Once the county’s largest slave-owning estate, the three-story stone manse with English Federal styling and Tidewater influences was built in 1803 by Col. Frisby Tilghman, son of Maryland’s first Attorney General. Bondsmen James W.C. Pennington escaped Rockland in 1827, and in 1849 wrote The Fugitive Blacksmith, an important slave narrative. Now owned by Jason Daisey and Michael Moreland, the house includes a Federal-style suspended three-story staircase and original oval skylight. Jason and Michael redecorated the interior with 19th-century American antiques and late-19th and early-20th century American and European artwork. “Rockland is a unique property to the state and its history,” Michael says. “It’s our duty to share it with the public.”

Rose Hill, Williamsport
Jane Hershey also feels an obligation to open the doors to history at Williamsport’s Rose Hill, circa 1800. The stately home features a refinement of the Georgian style, known as Federal or English Adam architecture. The manor house, attributed to Benjamin Henry Latrobe, includes a hanging staircase, carved shutters, edge-grain pine floors, cherry doors, mature boxwood gardens and salmon-colored Flemish bond brick exterior. Jane remembers hosting the MHGP tour of Rose Hill in 1962 and asking its then-owner to call her should he sell. Jane and her late husband, Richard, purchased the property in 1964 — and the home has been on the tour ever since.

Twelve Oaks Farm, Sharpsburg
New to the tour, Twelve Oaks Farm near Antietam National Battlefield exemplifies the old Americana farmhouse — and the labor of love often required to maintain such an historic property. Built in 1850, the house is constructed of locally fabricated handmade bricks and includes brick dentil moldings and four chimneys. Mike and Annette Deener purchased Twelve Oaks in 1976 and have restored and modernized it into a comfortable family home. Mike did the carpentry and dug the foundation for the five rooms and garage added in 1987. “My wife and I, along with our son and daughter, have spent many hours of enjoyment in the old place. It is hard to imagine that what was originally intended as a ‘fixer-upper’ evolved into a life-long labor,” Mike says. “We’re quite honored to be part of this year’s tour.”

Black Walnut Farm, Sharpsburg
Like the Deeners, James and Sharon Quarles preserved their historic home’s integrity while adding space for modern conveniences. Built in the late 19th century, the house at Black Walnut Farm in Sharpsburg is a four-story structure constructed from sycamore logs with horsehair chinking and framed with German siding. James and Sharon added a contemporary great room at the rear of the farmhouse featuring post-and-beam construction, glass walls, exposed logs, a cork floor and interior stone walkway. Once a dairy farm, the property includes a restored log smokehouse, milk house and barn.

Good-Reilly House, Sharpsburg
Another Sharpsburg property, the Good-Reilly House demonstrates combined 18th-century English design with Colonial Maryland architecture. Built around 1780, the one-and-a-half story stone home is one of the earliest houses still standing in Sharpsburg. Painstakingly restored by owners Brien and Chase Poffenberger, it features angled fireplaces, original plaster crown moldings, mantels, doors, hardware and floors. The spacious gardens are influenced by the Colonial Revival movement’s interpretation of 18th-century gardens. “I’ve been interested in old buildings a long time,” says Brien, who earned a master’s degree in architectural history. “I’ve always been around them, studied them, and lived in them. Participating in the tour is a great opportunity to share that interest.”

Antietam Overlook Farm, Keedysville
While Antietam Overlook Farm doesn’t share its tour counterparts’ longevity, the property boasts commanding views of the namesake battlefield and surrounding Cumberland Valley. Mark Srvcek is the current proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast, which was built in the 1970s. The private quarters include a master suite with sweeping southern views and a gourmet kitchen with walk-in stone fireplace.

Seven Gates Farm, Sharpsburg
Seven Gates Farm shares a connection to Antietam, with its original barn serving as a hospital after the famed battle. Originally a two-story log house built in the 1830s, Seven Gates was later faced with brick and includes several additions. Owner James Cramer and the late Dean Johnson completed many renovations. Showcasing primitive American antiques and folk art, the home retains original doors, mantels and hardware and features tranquil green and white landscaping.

Searchwell, Boonsboro
The tour concludes at Searchwell, which represents a typical German 19th-century farmhouse, with original outbuildings and a German four-square garden. Most of the chestnut floors, fireplace mantels, windowpanes, trim and hardware are original. Stone outbuildings include a bake house with beehive oven and baking room, smokehouse, springhouse and a two-story servants’ cottage — which has been converted into a pottery workshop by owners Allison Severance Coles and Rick Henry. “We want to share the lifestyle of a full-time potter and give visitors a glimpse into 19th-century farm life,” Allison says.

Such insight is at the heart of the pilgrimage tour. Its organizers hope guests come away with a sense of the importance of preserving these historical structures. “The tour is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the beautiful farms and homes that are part of our county’s history,” Jane says. Laura echoes the sentiment: “Our county has so many architectural treasures — we are lucky that many have been saved through the hard work and tenacity of their owners.”

Need to Know...
The self-guided 2008 tour will be held from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, May 17, rain or shine. Advance tickets cost $30 and are available by writing the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, 1105-A Providence Road, Towson, MD 21286-1790; calling 410-821-6933, e-mailing MHGP@aol.com, or visiting www.MHGP.org. Tickets also can be purchased at participating homes on tour day for $35 per person. Proceeds benefit the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum and Village.

Boxed lunches will be sold at St. Paul’s Church, 209 W. Main St. in Sharpsburg, from 11:30 a.m.– 2 p.m. for $10 per person. Groups of 10 or more requiring boxed lunches should call ahead.

For more information, visit www.mhgp.org.

----

A Route to Remember
Enjoy the county’s scenic countryside while traveling between tour locations. 
The Washington County portion of the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage Tour begins on Md. 65 south of Hagerstown. From Interstate 70 West, take Exit 29 onto Sharpsburg Pike and follow the road south for 3.2 miles to House No. 1. Then follow the pilgrimage arrows to continue your journey through architectural history.

1. Rockland
9030 Sharpsburg Pike, Fairplay
Owners: Jason R. Daisey and Michael W. Moreland
2. Rose Hill
16001 Spielman Road, Williamsport
Owner: Jane Hershey
3. Twelve Oaks Farm
16215 Woburn Road, Sharpsburg
Owners: Mike and Annette Deener
4. Good-Reilly House
107 E. Main St., Sharpsburg
Owners: Brien and Chase Poffenberger
5. Black Walnut Farm
18865 Burnside Bridge Road, Sharpsburg
Owners: James and Sharon Quarles
6. Antietam Overlook Farm
4812 Porterstown Road, Keedysville
Owner: Mark Svrcek
7. Seven Gates Farm
89 S. Main St., Sharpsburg
Owner: James Cramer
8. Searchwell
18839 Manor Church Road, Boonsboro
Owners: Allison Severance Coles and Rick Henry

No house interior photographs and no high heels or smoking are allowed.

   view more articles from the May/June 2008 issue >>

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   Copyright 2008. Ridge Runner Publishing.