Eyetrap: 18th-century home rests along Manor Church Road

October 02, 1997|By Pat Schooley

Eyetrap: 18th-century home rests along Manor Church Road

Editor's note: This is the 96th in a series of articles about the historic and architectural treasures of Washington County, an area with more listed sites than any other in Maryland.

On the south side of Manor Church Road, settled well back among fields, is a large stone house with its back turned firmly toward the road.

This is no flaunting of convention. At some earlier time, the road lay in front of the house, but it was moved long ago. Now all traces of this earlier route have been obliterated.


Beside the house is a small stone smokehouse with its square footprint and hipped roof. Farther back is a stone-end bank barn and nearby corncrib.

A tiny stream flows near the house, sometimes disappearing into the ground and traveling among the caves in the limestone karst below.

Eye Trap's 18th-century face is turned toward a wide yard between the house and the barn beyond. The windows of the house have six-over-six sashes set in massive, pegged frames.

Above each opening is a flat arch made with a roughly cut keystone flanked on either side by a long, irregularly dressed stone. There are four bays, with the door in the second bay from the west. The ground slopes east toward the small stream, and the basement opens at ground level on this side of the house. On the left side of the house, there is a small, one-story stone wing with a modern frame addition.

Between 1755 and 1779, Thomas Smith purchased about 343 acres of land from James Smith, who probably was his father. This land included portions of land grants called "Three Springs," "Addition to Three Springs," "Resurvey on Addition to Three Springs" and "Spring Hill."

In 1784, Thomas Smith had land resurveyed under the name "True Establishment." This 470.75 acre tract probably included the earlier purchases.

"True Establishment" later was resurveyed to correct errors and to add vacant land. This property contained 511.25 acres and was renamed "Eye Trap."

Thomas Smith departed for Bourbon County, Ky., in 1794 after selling Eye Trap to Isaac Hershey. It remained in the Hershey family until 1835, when it was purchased by Joseph and Elizabeth Hershey Emmert. The Emmert family then held the property until the end of the century.

The main entrance is sheltered by a small modern porch, and the doorway is wide under a six-light transom. The framing and door of this entrance are not original. Within is a broad hallway that terminates in the kitchen. There is a stairway on the right side of the hall that rises gently to a landing, then reverses its direction and rises to the second floor. The handrail is simple, and the balusters are turned.

Most of the woodwork in the house has two levels and is trimmed with ovolo molding. There are chair rails in most rooms, and many of the doors have six raised panels and are hung on long strap hinges. Some window jambs are paneled; but most are plastered, with trim moldings at the interior edges over wide interior wooden sills.

On the left side of the hall is the parlor, which is dominated by a corner fireplace. The arched fire box is plastered and is decorated with a simple, painted chimney piece.

To the right of the hall is the dining room. There is no fireplace in this room, but there is an original cupboard built into the side of the interior chimney that rises in the gable end from the cooking fireplace in the cellar.

A modern cupboard has been built on the other side of the chimney. There is almost certainly a closed fireplace here. Beyond the dining room is a small den with its original oak floor.

The kitchen, at the end of the entry hall, has a large cooking fireplace with a wooden lintel. Opposite the door from the hall is an exit into a one-story, shed-roofed frame addition at the back.

In the recent frame addition to the west, there is a family room with a massive stone fireplace. The one-story stone wing of the house that leads to this addition probably was original to the house; but it never had a stone wall in its western end, the end that was opened to add the new family room.

Instead, there had been a clapboard wall there. Isaac Hershey's 1811 will mentioned two dwellings. One is described as the "wooden house adjoining the stone one" and also is referred to as the "old buildings." This description would explain why there was no stone wall at the end of the one-story wing. This wing probably was built as a passage joining the "old buildings" with Hershey's "present mansion house." At some later time, the old buildings were torn down.

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