Rose of Sharon-Haven dates to late 1700s

August 01, 1997|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Editor's note: This is the 94th in a series of articles about the historic and architectural treasures of Washington County.

Around 1750 a trading settlement was established at the confluence of Conococheague Creek and the Potomac River at the point where a prominent 18th-century highway ferried the river.

In 1787, the town of Williamsport was formally created by Revolutionary War General Otho Holland Williams, who platted more than 200 lots and incorporated the town with an eye to "the great prospect of navigation of the said river being extended to tide-water."

The main streets were to be no less than 80 feet wide and the cross streets not less that 60 feet, most generous even by today's standards. General Willliams lived in Baltimore, and his Washington County interests were promoted by his brother Elie (pronounced Ee'lee, according to a descendant) Williams. Lots were not sold but were leased for 99 years, with the right to renew the leases forever.


In 1790, Elie Williams leased lots 17, 18, 19 and 20 for 20 pounds. The terms of the leases required that "within the term of two years from the date of these presents, (he will) enclose the said lots of ground with good post and rail or pale fence, and that the said Elie Williams, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns shall and will before the first day of May 1799, erect and build on the said lot or portion of ground a House of Brick or Stone, frame and hewed logs at the least 20 feet by 26 feet in the base with a good chimney of Brick or Stone, And... if not done, Otho Holland Williams may re-enter and take possession of the said lot." The lease also provided an annual rent of "three bushels of good merchantable wheat or an equivalent for the same in current money" for each lot.

Williams sold his interest in lots 19 and 20 in 1794 for 60 pounds, and the next year he parted with lot 18 for the same five pounds it had cost him. In 1798, Williams sold the lease of lot 17 to Amos Davis for 550 pounds, "250 pounds before the 1st day of April next; 50 pounds annually each April 1..."

At some time between 1790 and 1798, Williams must have fulfilled the terms of the agreement, building a dwelling on this lot.

The two-story, five-bay brick home that stands on the western half of lot 17 has a number of 18th-century features: There is a molded brick watertable across the front facade; the transom above the main entrance is made of two pieces of old glass butted together and held in a simple rectangular sash; there are several six-panel interior doors with the high profile typical of 18th-century carpentry; and most of the architraves surrounding the first-floor doors are decorated with crossettes.

Amos Davis sold his interest later in 1798, and the lease was resold four years later. In 1815, it was purchased for $3,000 by Matthew Van Lear, who owned considerable property in the area. The house was to remain in the Van Lear family for 50 years.

In 1865, Charles and Theodore Emrey purchased the property from Van Lear heirs for $1,200. The Embreys, father and son, were invested heavily in Williamsport real estate, and this property became the home of Theodore. He was superintendent of the Williamsport division of the C&O Canal, then joined his father as a merchant and shipper and later became a canal forwarder, according to T.C. Williams' history of the county.

Embrey died in 1887. His house was advertised as the west part of lot No. 17, a "Two Story Dwelling with stone back building containing 10 rooms and cellar, also carriage house, stable, corn crib, cistern, etc. The lot has choice grapes and fruit trees" - quite a bit to put on a lot that is 49 feet, 9 inches by 192 feet. Sarah Embrey, his daughter, bought the eastern 16 feet 3 inches of lot No. 17 with its attached brick house for $860, while the main dwelling sold for $1,600. The interior door between the two houses was sealed.

The stone back building is no longer there, but there is a summer kitchen with its overhanging porch roof that has been gutted and transformed into an apartment. The basement has had its interior entrance removed in order to shore up the joists under the main section of the house, and is now entered from a bulkhead beside the back door. A modern brick stoop with two flights of stairs leads to the elevated main entrance in the central bay of the front facade. Within, there is an ample entry hall with a staircase on the right that rises gently into the attic. The balusters are slender and square, and the handrail is round.

Much of the woodwork in the house is original. Recently the property was a doctor's office with an apartment upstairs as well as the efficiency in the old summer kitchen.

The Herald-Mail Articles