Opening History's Doors
Maryland's 62nd House and Garden Pilgrimage follows Calvert's picturesque Mackall Road
by Carol Glover
Dogwood and azalea bloom. The scent of lilacs fills the air. Rural roads beckon. The back roads of Calvert County hide historical gems, lovingly restored and maintained by the county's old families and by new residents, too. Amid the recent developments, new shopping centers and fresh dug construction sites, Calvert County is keeping history alive.
The 62nd Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, which rotates among the counties, each year invites us to peek into historical homes in seven counties. Since 1930 the pilgrimage has helped preserve and restore properties of historical and architectural significance in Maryland.
Calvert County takes its turn on this year's tour, opening doors on the St. Leonard Creek/Patuxent River area of the county. As always, 95 percent of money raised on the tour returns to the county, which chooses the project or non-profit that will benefit. This year's committee, chaired by Ellen Zahniser, will help purchase and install an archival vault to store the treasured documents of county history at Linden, the historic house now being restored as the 21st century home of the Calvert County Historical Society.
"This is a win-win situation. The exceptionally gracious people who live in these houses give their neighbors a chance to tour. When your house is on tour, you get projects you've postponed done. People get to see the houses and money is raised for a good cause," explains Zahniser.
This year's tour features 11 sites. Starting at Linden in Prince Frederick and moving south to Broomes Island Road, the tour continues into one of the most picturesque areas of Calvert: Mackall Road. Surrounded by working farms, this area is home to cattle, horses and a variety of Calvert's cash crops. Every twist and turn of the road opens new vistas of rolling hills and the sparkle of the Patuxent.
Here's a preview of what you'll see:
The Cage: 350 Years in One Family
As the brick entrance of The Cage Farm comes into view, you see a sign proudly proclaiming Cage Stables. Owners Crofton and Kim Briscoe are adding another dimension to their lives. In addition to raising cattle and growing hay, soybeans, wheat and corn, they will open a boarding stable for horses this month.
"I haven't thought about history much," said Crofton Briscoe, musing at his kitchen table. "But I realize how special the history of the house is. It's always been in the family. I have a responsibility to keep it in the family. I don't want to be the one who loses it."
Surveyed in 1652 for William Parrott, The Cage Farm has passed from the Parrotts to the Mackalls to six generations of Parrans and now to Crofton Briscoe from his Parran grandfather. Handed down mostly through the women, it's never been out of the family. How many other homes have that kind of history?
"I've never lived before in an historic home," adds Kim Briscoe. "I have a special appreciation for the craftsmanship."
Walking through his ancestral home, Briscoe is flooded with memories. "See this doorway to the office? I can remember a line of farm laborers waiting for my grandfather to pay them. He's the one who taught me to fish and shoot when I came here on the weekends."
The original part of the house, at the center, is two rooms down and two rooms above. For them, Briscoe recalled going back four generations. "My great grandfather burned the paneling in here for heat," he said, calling up hard times. In better times, in the 1930s, Briscoe said "my grandfather, Benjamin, redid the house. The walnut was cut on the farm and carved by hand. The fireplace was moved from his land at Point Patience. These are the original fireplaces."
Stepping into the two downstairs rooms is like buying a ticket to Williamsburg. The sense of stepping back into old colonial history is strengthened by the furnishings and deep, dark colors.
Older homes need lots of maintenance. Briscoe has been working on the house for the last five years, either side by side with contractors or on his own. He's repaired the roof, added air-conditioning, refinished floors, painted and plastered. He's also added a room to make The Cage more livable for his family.
This lovely brick home overlooking the Patuxent is fronted by a white sandy beach. Somewhere near the shore, Briscoe's ancestor, Dr. Thomas Parran, a Revolutionary War surgeon, is buried. Crofton Briscoe is studying the right place to lay a bronze plaque from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Tynewydd Farm: 20 Rooms, 7 Baths
As the journey along Mackall Road continues, the river becomes wider, spreading almost two miles from Calvert to St. Mary's shoreline. Well-maintained tobacco barns, some converted into stables, and fields - either green or plowed into straight, neat lines - stretch out of sight. Here you come on Tynewydd Farm, with its gate house, main house and studio.
"The farm's situation makes it special," said David Lewis, owner of Tynewydd. "This is very much Calvert County: open fields and pasture land. It's my home."
The Lewis Family has owned Tynewydd, Welch for "little house," since 1987. Lewis' introduction to the county came through Mrs. Jefferson Patterson, who donated her own land to house what is now The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
"A friend of mine was managing a marina in Solomons at the time," explains Lewis, "and I was serving on a community and economic development board for Gov. Harry Hughes. Mrs. Patterson had a board meeting at Point Farm. I drove down. The water at the point was spectacular.
"I'd been looking for a historic house that hadn't been restored, mostly looking on the Eastern Shore. I liked Calvert, the rural atmosphere and river access. So I asked my friend to look around."
The original farm house was built in 1782. History books call it Patuxent Farm. Later bought by a doctor for speculation, it was rented out and then left vacant for seven or eight years until bought by Lewis in 1987. He's been working on it ever since.
"It was a neat, tidy farm. The Gott family has farmed the property for a long time. Timmy Gott farms it now."
Timmy Gott is the one responsible for the straight line of the fields, the clean look to the farm. No trash, no dumping, no farm equipment left around. Picture-perfect farmland. Lewis, whose family are ranchers in Africa, appreciates the thoughtful care for the land.
The house itself sits 80 feet above the Patuxent with a spectacular view of the river. The home is air-conditioned, though cool breezes from the river keep it comfortable most of the time.
With 20 rooms and seven bathrooms, this is not a little county home. A work crew spent three years restoring the house, keeping anything that worked or could be repaired in what Lewis refers to as "an ongoing project."
In 1989, just two years after he purchased the property, Lewis hosted a 50th anniversary party for his parents. Before family from four continents journeyed to Tynewydd, Lewis traveled to England to meet his nephew, who's in the antique business. Driving from one antique warehouse to the next for three days with his notebook full of sketches and dimensions, Lewis purchased English country antiques and had them shipped to the house. It took him three weekends to unpack. The furniture fits into the home's various spaces like fingers in a glove.
In addition to its spectacular river view and unique pieces of furniture, Tynewydd is a place of unusual charm and warmth, with a welcoming atmosphere reflective of its owner. The bedrooms are ready for guests or grandchildren. There are frequent parties, meetings and gatherings.
On the Calvert house tour six years ago, Tynewydd was visited by 400 people. Lewis and Betsy Cooksey have a story about that last tour. At 5 o'clock, the tour hostesses had gone. Lewis and Cooksey were ready to relax on the porch, gaze at the river and watch the sun go down. Walking through the doors to the porch, they were greeted by the sight of a dozen people rocking on the porch chairs, enjoying the sunset.
Tynewydd is the kind of home that invites you stay a while and visit.
Bayscapes at the Academy of Natural Sciences
As Mackall Road continues toward St. Leonard's Creek, scenery changes. Farmland gives way to trees. Tulip poplar, pine and oak are reminders of Calvert's forest land. Through the trees, the turn leads into Jefferson Patterson Farm and Museum. This part of the tour shows off Calvert's high-tech industries side by side with its history. You'll see high-tech at the Maryland Archeological Lab and The Academy of Natural Sciences Estuarine Research Center. You'll find history in Point Farm.
You'll also find a Bayscapes landscape demonstration project on the Academy grounds. "Bayscapes," according to Julie Allinson, development director, "is a made-up word. Billy Mills of the Alliance for Chesapeake Bay came up with the concept." Bayscapes is also a way for home or business owners to landscape their property in an environmentally friendly way, using native plants and helping the Bay.
The Academy, with its extensive and diverse grounds, is the only private Southern Maryland organization to have a Bayscape. Colleges, schools and the naval base are also beginning to replace traditional landscaping with Bayscaping.
These Bayscapes of native trees, shrubs and plants were planted in September, 1994, as the landscaping for the Academy's building. Thirteen stations spread over nine acres. Brochures (available in the building) direct you on a self-guided tour. Volunteer guides will show the way the day of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.
As Allinson walks from station to station she weeds, touches and checks up. "Homeowners can come here to find ways to reduce lawn area and plant gardens to attract butterflies and birds," she said. "The plants also provide cover for wildlife and stop erosion. If people have problem areas on their property, they can come here and see how to deal with them," she explains.
Most of the Bayscapes plants don't bloom until the end of May. But you'll be able to walk the stations and see the examples of shore juniper for erosion control, the wildlife garden with asparagus and berry bushes and the tree shelters covering young trees to keep them safe from deer.
From the Academy, you'll find more guidance in brochures including a plant list; a butterfly checklist containing 354 species - 67 of them sighted here; and a bird checklist of the 200 birds seen on the grounds of The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
Five of the Bayscapes sites line the path to the dock where the Wm. B. Tennison, oldest Coast Guard-licensed passenger vessel on the Chesapeake, leaves every hour on the hour.
Point Farm: 270 Degrees of Water View
Leaving the high-tech world of the Maryland Archaeology Lab and the Academy of Natural Sciences, you bump alongside fields to the point of land bordering the Patuxent River and St. Leonard's Creek. A spectacular vista spreads out below with a 270-degree water view in winter. Point Farm, the home of Mrs. Jefferson Patterson, stands on a hill overlooking this stunning scene.
"All the land as far as the eye can see was donated by Mrs. Patterson to the State of Maryland in 1983: 32 buildings, 544 acres and two and a half miles of shoreline on St. Leonard's Creek and the Patuxent River," Mike Smolek, director of The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, tells me as we enjoy the view.
Most days of the year, Point Farm, a private property, is not open to the public. Explains Smolek: "Mrs. Patterson kept Point Farm as a life-estate for herself. She is a fantastic hostess who surrounds herself with interesting people. She holds meetings, receptions and luncheons here at the house."
The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage is your day to tour the house and the beautiful grounds and garden surrounding it. This farm dates from 1658, when it was called St. Leonard. The original house, burned in 1880, has been rebuilt.
The Honorable Jefferson Patterson, U.S. Foreign Service diplomat, and his wife bought the farm in 1932. The Pattersons used the property as a model farm and a retreat while they traveled the world. Under their ownership, the original house was dismantled and replaced. Architect Gertrude Sawyer designed the house and farm buildings.
Pointing to a spit of land in the Patuxent, Smolek reviews chapters of the property's history. "This point was once an island. The first case of capital punishment took place here when John Dandy was hung. In the War of 1812, the British fleet anchored right here off the point, Commodore Barney's flotilla moved up the creek and the United States gun battery was moved here onto the farm."
Another part of history rises on the lawn in front of the house. The national champion sand hickory tree grows here and a descendent of the Wye oak flourishes nearby. Calvert's first swimming pool lies just beyond a formal brick-walled garden already filled with the blooms of flowers, trees and shrubs.
You'll find these and seven more sites on The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage through Calvert County, each with its own special charm and history. May 8 in Calvert County is, as Zahniser said, "a win-win situation."
Stops on the Tour:
Site 1 Linden: Coffee, muffins and tour information
Site 2-A Christ Episcopal Church
Site 2-B The One-Room School House
Site 3 The Cage
Site 4 Tynewydd Farm
Site 5 Cove Farm
Site 6 Lunch at the Pavilion: 11am-2pm $8.50 @ the Jefferson Patterson Park Pavilion. Large groups rsvp: 410/535-2111.
Site 7 Point Farm
Site 8 Bayscapes Garden at The Academy of Natural Sciences
Site 9 Historic St. Leonard's Creek aboard the Wm. B. Tennison. Every hour on the hour 10am-4pm $3 at boarding or by rsvp: 410/326-2042
Site 10 Maryland Archeological Conservation Laboratory
Site 11 The Brewhouse
Saturday May 8, 1999 10am-5pm rain or shine. Please, no high heels, smoking, pets, food or drink or photos of interiors of houses. Tickets for tour: $20 per person for all day or $5 each site day of tour. Advance tickets: 410/586-1932.
Memories of Life at Linden
The new home of the Calvert Historical Society is aged with memories
by Margo Turner
As Calvert County's population grows - it now tops 72,500 - you hear a lot about olden days and olden ways. Step back in time with me to a house called Linden, where the old ways flourished and faded.
Set back from Church Street in Prince Frederick, Linden is veiled in towering hardwoods, including the lindens from which it took its name. Follow the sandy gravel driveway to the two-story house with white columns, and you seem to have retreated to another century, leaving behind today's strip malls and Wal-Marts.
But - as Calvert County and the County Historical Society have done - you must look behind the peeling paint and desolation
Once upon a time, Linden was home to lawyers and judges. The stately home was built in 1868 by Henry Williams, a lawyer who later headed the Weems steamboat line. Daniel R. Magruder, chief justice of Calvert County, was Linden's first occupant and Maryland's youngest judge. He also served as president of the Annapolis-Elkridge Railroad and the Drum Point Railroad. Magruder lived in Linden until 1881, when he returned to practice law in his native Annapolis.
Next came John Parran Briscoe, a lawyer and later judge who lived at Linden while his own house, Oldfields, was built on Main Street. Oldfields, now a restaurant, remains another reminder of Calvert County's historic past.
In 1889, John Brown Gray, a founding member of the Maryland State Bar Association, bought Linden. Descendants of early Calvert settlers who came from St. Mary's County in the 1630s, the Grays called Linden home for more than a century.
The Good Old Days
The Gray family made Linden come alive. Whether relatives, longtime friends or newcomers, all who came to Linden were welcomed by John Brown Gray; his wife, Kate Laveille Dorsey Gray; and their children, Mary, Sarah (Sadie) Laveille, Ida Marguerite, John Basil, George Brooke and William Dorsey Gray.
"It was an accepted way of life," explained Katherine Clemson Turner of St. Inigoes. Her mother, Mary, was the eldest of the Gray children and the only one to leave Calvert County. Mary married attorney Charles O. Clemson and moved with him to Westminster. But Linden remained her refuge.
The house served as refuge for other Grays, whether they lived nearby or thousands of miles away.
"There was always a lot of company at Linden," recalled Margaret Prouty of Huntingtown, daughter of Dorsey and Mayfield Gray. "Linden was a special house because of the people there," Prouty said. "The children were important, too."
Prouty stayed at Linden when her parents went to a party or traveled. Bedtime was at 10pm, an unwritten rule at the house.
There were other unwritten rules at Linden, all which Gray members followed without argument.
"Every other Sunday after church, we were there for dinner, which started promptly at 1pm," Prouty remembered. "We were expected to be there on time."
In those days, Linden was a 40-acre working farm, complete with barnyard animals, sheds, a detached garage, a chicken coop, a stream, a pond, woods and tennis courts. A white wooded fence lined much of the property.
Grandfather Gray supervised the farm and the farm hands, Prouty remembered. Inside the house, his wife, Kate, a former school teacher, and later his daughter, Marguerite, directed the household staff.
"There were cows for milk, calves for veal, pigs for pork, ham, scrapple and sausage," Prouty said. "And there were sheep, which were sheared and the wool made into blankets."
Sara Gray Barroll of Bloomfield, Conn., especially remembered the sheep. "The sheep not only provided lamb to eat and wool to sell, they also kept the grass cut in the large front lawn," Barroll said. "The yard was entirely fenced in and sheep roamed freely."
Other memories remain vivid, as well.
"The barn had cows on one side; horses in the other," Barroll recalled. "Horses were used for plowing the large garden. Hay was stored in the loft over the barn. Next to the barn was a building where field corn was stored. It had a manual-cranked machine to remove corn from the cobs. Corn was fed to chickens, cows and pigs."
The Grays had a large vegetable garden and their own ice house. Their sugar and flour came in barrels from Baltimore on a Weems steamboat. This was a quicker means of travel than the overland route to Washington, according to Prouty.
Change came in the 1930s. First Gray donated land for the site of the county's first hospital at the corner of Church Street and Route 2-4. After Calvert Memorial Hospital moved to its current location farther north on Route 2-4, the old building was converted into Calvert House, first a nursing home and now an office building.
In the 1950s, land was sold to the state for the widening of Route 2-4 from two to three lanes in each direction.
On the west side of Route 2-4, the Dorsey Gray Ford dealership stands on land once part of the Gray farm. Wal-Mart also occupies former Gray land.
Women of the third and fourth generation since John Brown and Kate Laveille Gray shared many days at Linden: Sue Gray Cordon; Katherine Clemson Turner; Sara Gray Barroll; and, sitting at right, Holly Corton Williams.
The Second Generation
By 1937, John Brown and Kate Laveille Gray had died and four of their six children had married and moved away from Linden. Continuing the family's Southern hospitality, Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite remained at Linden.
Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite, as they were known by family and friends, filled Linden with family and such new friends as teachers or personnel at the Solomons naval base.
For Gray relatives, a summer visit at Linden often included bridge sessions hosted by Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite, both expert players. In their beds upstairs, the children could hardly sleep as their parents played bridge below, laughing and talking into all hours of the night.
Each sister had her own role at Linden.
Standing five feet tall, Aunt Marguerite managed the household staff, from planning and serving meals to cleaning the upstairs and downstairs rooms.
"Aunt Marguerite was a natural manager," Prouty said. "She had a innate sense of how to get along with people," Turner remembered. This despite having lost her hearing to a teen-age infection. She had learned to lip-read, while family and friends learned to speak distinctly to her.
In contrast, Miss Sadie - who served as legal secretary for her father and brother John before he became a judge - had a business-like attitude. She set up visits by family and friends and arranged the sisters' travel.
Little fazed Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite; even mice and snakes didn't bother them.
"There was a resident black snake living in the attic that took care of all such vermin," Helen Gray of Reading, Pa., remembered. "He was healthy from his good diet of mice and squirrels."
At Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, as well as during the summer, Gray relatives made their way to Linden for visits with their aunts. The sisters greeted their nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces at the front door with smiles and hugs.
Each new generation found plenty to do inside and outside Linden. The children would make a bee-line for the basket of toys stored behind the staircase. They would bring the toys into the living room and play with them while the parents caught up on the latest Gray news. Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite would provide refreshments on a table near one of the walls. There would be punch for the children and sherry for the adults, plus crackers and cookies for all to nibble on until dinner was served.
Bob Gray, who practices law in Calvert County, remembers playing the game button, button who has the button with his cousins in the parlor. He enjoyed watching his Aunt Marguerite catch mice by their tails in the kitchen.
During the summer, he and his cousins would compete in croquet games in the side yard. And they would explore the old barn and outbuildings behind the house, noted Gray, who is also a member of the Calvert County Board of Education and special assistant to Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran.
Linden's New Lease on Life
By the time Sadie and Marguerite Gray died in the late 1980s, all that remained of Linden was the house, chicken coop and sheds and a stand of grand lindens on a few acres. The property was purchased by St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where the Gray sisters had been active members.
Linden gained a future when Calvert County Historical Society convinced the county to purchase the estate and its 4.34 remaining acres.
"For its visibility, topography and history, Linden was an absolutely essential purchase," said Hagner Mister, who was president of the Board of Calvert County Commissioners when the $300,000 bond-issue purchase was made. "With the Phillips property across the road given by Mr. Boyd King, it gives us 10 preserved acres right in the middle of the Prince Frederick Town Center."
The State of Maryland contributed $300,000 for restoration. Private citizen Joseph Showalter, a member of the society and the Calvert County Historic District, seeded the local campaign with a gift of $100,000 matched by individual contributors in an ongoing fund-raising campaign. Its historic restoration plan has just been approved.
"Linden will be renovated to look like it was brand new," said Mike Holland, out-going president of the historical society.
Restoration began this year on the grand 1868 home, which will live for another century as the home of The Calvert County Historical Society. In years to come, this home of lively gatherings of Grays and their friends will beckon visitors from near and far to explore the county's rich history.
Editor's Note: Margo Turner is the granddaughter of Mary Gray Clemson and great-niece of Sadie, Marguerite, John Basil, George Brooke and William Dorsey Gray.
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Volume VII Number 17
April 29 - May 5, 1999
New Bay Times
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