maryland house and garden pilgimage

KENT COUNTY

SATURDAY MAY 31, 2014
10 am to 5 pm
RAIN OR SHINE

Special Project: Over the last 150+ years of its history, Chestertown’s civic center has shifted from the wharves along its riverfront to a village green comprised of one square block in the center of the commercial district. During the ensuing years, the continuous use of this space for a weekly farmers’ and craftsmen’s market, performance venue, and public relaxation has led to soil compaction that has resulted in serious damage to the lovely canopy of trees that provide shade in the summer months, color in the spring and fall, and sculptural interest in the winter. The proposed project would entail working cooperatively with the town of Chestertown to renovate Fountain Park in keeping with its surrounding architectural style and with references to its original design elements of a formal garden.  Specifically this would entail tree work/removal, creation of well defined park entrances, establishment of newly sodded areas, and the construction of walls and fences as well as new plantings and expanded beds. The completion of the project will result in a park that references its historical past, and is aesthetically pleasing, environmentally sound, and functional as a community gathering center in the twenty-first century.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~HISTORY~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Chester River, the second longest river on the Eastern Shore, figures prominently in the history and economic development of Kent County. From Hail Point, the tip of Eastern Neck Island where in Colonial times merchant ships were inspected before being allowed to proceed north 26 miles to Chestertown, the rolling farmland meets the river. Above Eastern Neck Island, the Chester fans out into four branches.  The Langford Creek branch, the heart of Broadneck, provides a public landing. During the early 20th Century, buy boats, one of the Bay’s indigenous working watercraft, would haul seafood and vegetables to market.  The vessels of this maritime trucking industry would pull into the Broadneck public landing to export the harvest of the area farms.  In the summer, it was common to see buy boats loaded high with Kent County watermelons, cantaloupes, and other vegetables running down the Chester bound for the Baltimore marketplace. Chestertown, the Kent County seat, became a notable Colonial port providing access to the Eastern Shore’s upper peninsula for trade and the exportation of tobacco and grain.  By the 1770’s, the town was one of the wealthiest and most prominent in the colony, home to the merchants who built their homes along this vital maritime highway.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ DIRECTIONS ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ROUTES FROM

WILMINGTON AND PHILADELPHIA: 
I-95 South to Rt. 896, Middletown, DE via Rt. 896/301 to Rt. 291 Chestertown, to left on Rt. 213 South.  Turn right at light at Cross Street and right again onto High Street following this main thoroughfare west out of town onto Rt. 20.  Signs will help direct you to site #1. 

BALTIMORE AND THE WESTERN SHORE VIA THE BAY BRIDGE:  Cross the Bay Bridge and stay on Rt. 301 North to Rt. 213 North through Centreville.  After crossing the Chester River Bridge, turn left on Cross Street (the first traffic light, Rt. 289) and then right onto High Street following this main thoroughfare west out of town onto Rt. 20.  Signs will help direct you to site #1.

EASTON, SALISBURY & NORFOLK:  Rt. 50 West to Rt. 213 North through Centreville.  Follow directions above. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ LUNCH ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A delicious luncheon buffet will be served between noon and 2:00 PM in the Parish Hall of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cross Street, Chestertown.  The cost is $12.00 per person.  Reservations are requested by May 17 through the church website http://www.emmanuelchesterparish.org or by calling the church office during business hours, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at 410-778-3477. .

 

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ASH POINT FARM, Broadneck Road.

This 176 acre farm, established by the owners’ family in 1955, is one of the many bucolic estates of a much earlier agrarian society that marketed the harvest via the Chester River.  The view inspires repose best enjoyed on the front porch. The massive columns, representing the gentile lines of a Southern manor house, are one of the many notable details of the property.  Interestingly, the ceiling of this porch, true to Southern tradition, is painted blue.  Tour guides in Charleston, South Carolina, claim that this color keeps the bugs at bay but was originally introduced to deter evil spirits.  Some claim the hue extends the daylight hours.  Others simply like the color, a reminder of the sky.  During the rampage of notorious Hurricane Isabelle, a random water spout destroyed the porch; the current design is one of several changes to the original home.  A two-bedroom wing and a garage featuring an upstairs apartment were added.  The driveway was moved to the rear so as not to undermine the view.

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FISH CAMP AT COOPER’S WHARF, Lovely Lane

The owner’s Thoreau-type shantytown on the shore, resembles a turn-of-the-century wharf community.  Much of the structural lumber, exterior siding and flooring on the porches and entry way, came from pine and oak trees felled and milled on the property. The equipment shed opposite the barn was fashioned from a pair of small barns found in Northeast, Maryland. The best of the hand-hewn beams once held up the White Swan Tavern in Chestertown. The charred metal work on the ceilings and exterior of the chimney were all that remained after fire destroyed the old farm house near St. Paul’s Parish, Kent. The black walnut bar top was found in a pile of rough sawn lumber at an Amish sawmill near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The fancy metal grill-work fastened to the railings was once part of an emu corral at Stillwater Farm on Southeast Creek. The great green doors in the Bunk House came from a stable in Baltimore.  The boats outside were part of the Strong family’s rental fleet at Eastern Neck Narrows. The handsome one protruding from the loft in the main house was built by Master Shipwright John Swain and a crew of Sultana volunteers and bought at a charity auction. The teak bathroom door came out of a British steamer dismantled in the early 1900s.  An amalgam of ingenuity, sustainability, and whimsy is the essence of the project aptly named “fish camp” by its builder.
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 THE REECE’S CORNER HOUSE 

This home was built in at least two stages, with the west (left) three bays constructed with Flemish bond façade.  The two-bay extension is laid in common bond.  Abel J. Reese was taxed on this property in 1852, along with other land and personal property.  “Lands Pt. Fair Meadows” was built by Collin F. Hale, a 19th century plantation owner.
 

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HIGH STREET

Commissioned by Charles H. Baker in 1876 to be built on the foundation of a home destroyed by fire, the building is unlike its Victorian contemporaries.  Its stylistic simplicity, featuring post and beam construction, is reminiscent of an earlier age.  The spacious veranda was an early addition—a quintessential element of Southern architecture that has long been the perfect tool for social networking.  Purchased by Rolf Townsend in 1933, the house remained in the family for sixty years until it was acquired by the current owner in 1993.  In an extensive renovation, a more informal family wing now joins the original living and dining rooms.  An enormous stump, the remains a historic basswood tree, marks the beginning of a meandering red brick path that leads unexpectedly to a formal garden.  Therein the parade continues through boxwood, around pond, towards sundial—the garden restored in 2013.  On its southern face, the home’s double porch draped with an exuberant wisteria looks out over the garden and a small barn, now reincarnated as a work space—a studio for the artist owner.
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WILMER HOUSE, North Water Street

A 1925 Victorian, built by the notable Chestertown mayor and his wife.  The property’s metamorphosis since the first owners’ occupation has been dramatic.  The original woodwork, brought from Thornton Manor, the builder’s family farm located on a 352-acre plot near Chestertown, was installed in the family’s living room.  The fireplace has an extraordinary tabernacle overmantel with reeded pilasters and broken pediment.  The mantel possesses double-crossette trim with three plinth blocks supporting the shelf.  This fine example of Federal period woodwork is lightly decorated with reeding, gouge and drill work and a rope molding in the cornice.  A porch, enclosed by a prior owner, once serviceable for card playing, was transformed into a library.  Gathering places for informal soirees or quiet repose overlooking the garden were added as porch and patio areas on the western face of the property.  The kitchen was modernized and dramatically enlarged but the original pantry was kept intact. 
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THE McHARD/MEETEER/FRISBY HOUSE, North Water Street

A lovely Georgian-era home, probably built by the McHard family in the final third of the eighteenth century, between 1766 and 1771.  The original brick structure features an original living room fireplace and mantel.  A long wing perpendicular to the original structure was built at the back of the house in the nineteenth century; that wing was demolished and replaced by a two-storied new wing in the twentieth century.  During that period, owners of the house also built the Southern-style porch on the west side of the house.  A living-room window was expanded into a door, providing the porch with two entrances from within the house and one from the outside.   The garden features two bemused bronze cranes overlooking their pond.  

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THE SIMON-WICKES HOUSE,  North Water Street 
GARDEN ONLY


A Georgian home built in 1780 for the sum of “222 bushels of good merchantable wheat”.  The house was built into the river bank and is nearly one story higher on the water side than on the street.  Flemish bond was used below the water table on the façade as well as on three other walls.  Glazed headers were used in the bond on the northeast gable, creating an archaic effect in relation to the all header bond on the street façade.  There was a porch on the river side, probably with a stair to the ground level.  There is evidence that the street entrance had a deck with benches flanking the door.  The riverside gardens provides weary pilgrims with an opportunity for quiet repose in a shaded glen comfortably cooled with a constant sea breeze from the Chester.
 

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NORTH WATER STREET 

Two Federal style town houses, sharing a common wall, were built in 1880 by Chestertown builder, Walter Pippin, who also built Lauretum outside of Chestertown.  The first owners, two sisters, lived in 111 and 113 as they wanted to be close, but not share the same home.  Each house consisted of three floors plus a basement, each level containing only one room.  A single fireplace on each first floor was the heat source.  Later additions c. 1905 and 1912 expanded both houses towards the water.  In 1998 and 2000, the properties were renovated.  Inner entries between the houses were created.  Both houses were air-conditioned and provided with new heating units, kitchens, and bathrooms.  A deck and veranda, linking both houses, were added.  Today, the family uses the two houses as one.  Interestingly, history may repeat itself one day when the owners’ two daughters inherit the property.  The sisters will have the opportunity to be close, sharing only parts of the same home.

 

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