Prince of Germany

December 04, 1997|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Prince of Germany

The house on Bradbury Avenue, along the fringes of Smithsburg, looks like so many other simple homes in Washington County.

It sits close to the road, covered in cream-painted asbestos shingles, with simple, blue trim.

The main section is a two-story, three-bay block with a story-and-a-half wing to its right. The front windows have two-over-two sashes, and the home's roofs are covered in slate and corrugated tin. This ordinary exterior covers an early 19th-century log structure, a humble home that belies the royal name given to the land on which it was built.

In 1808, Frederic Fishack patented a 229-acre tract near the great cave, which he named "Prince of Germany." An 1859 map shows a large tract on the east side of the road between Smithsburg and Ringgold (now Bradbury Avenue) still held in the name Fishack.

Around 1810, a 22-by-20-foot one-room pen of oak logs was built on Prince of Germany. It had two windows and a central door facing the early road. On the back wall, there were a door and a window, and there were two windows on the south wall to the left. The north wall held a fireplace, but this was removed later and replaced with a chimney to service a stove. There is a small, stone-walled root cellar beneath part of the house, and it is set on stone foundations.


Behind the house, a small, separate frame kitchen was built. The shed-roofed smokehouse attached at its rear may have been original or a later addition.

The brick fireplace in the kitchen has a firebox opening 4 1/2 feet wide and 5 feet high beneath a great, hand-hewn lintel. An iron bar is fixed in the throat of the chimney to carry the trammels that would hold pots and kettles over the fire.

In the rear wall of the fireplace, there is an arched opening into the smokehouse that now has been closed, and, above this opening in the smokehouse, an irregular brick shelf that may have served to deflect the smoke. This opening is the same shape often used as a door into a bake oven. An oven originally may have been behind the kitchen, then removed, leaving the opening to admit smoke into the smokehouse.

At some point, a second floor was added to the log house, and a galleried porch was built across the back.

The floor in this upper room is made of wide oak boards, some more than a foot across. Then, around 1840, a two-room post-and-beam addition was built on the south side of the house.

The east room of this addition is now the dining room, and it has an unusual, small fireplace with an opening about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. This is finished with a simple wood mantel that has a single, raised panel above the firebox and a mantel shelf with dog-ear extensions at either end.

The rear or west room of this addition has no fireplace. There is an opening in the chimney for a stovepipe. Woodwork in these rooms and in the room above has two levels, and the sashes each have two lights.

Doors into these two rooms were made by opening the east window on the south wall of the log pen to become the doorway into the dining room. A new doorway had to be cut in the logs to serve the other room. To do this, the other window on that wall was closed; and the opening was moved a couple of feet west. This change is visible in the exposed logs in the original section of the house, which is now the living room.

The three rooms upstairs are entered by a winder stairs in the corner of the back room of the addition. This stairway is closed with board walls and a batten door. A small batten door closes a closet under the stairs.

From 1844 to 1870, the little house was owned by five families. Two of these owners died, and the property had to be sold to settle their debts.

The 1870 deed describes the land as "being improved by a story and a half weather boarded house, stable and other buildings," and it brought $925 when it was sold to settle the estate of James A. Small, who had a wife and five minor children. The proceeds were not sufficient to pay his debts.

In 1884, Jacob Honodel purchased the property; and it was renovated by his son-in-law, William Fiery, who probably connected the house and the kitchen, giving the house its present configuration.

From 1844 until 1921, this property was owned by 11 families. Only three of these stayed 10 years or more. People moved on from this house, up or down in the social fabric of their time; and many of them changed the house to meet the need of the moment. This was a home with no pretentions, probably built with no thought of lasting; but, through some quirk of fate, this simple home has endured.

The present owners, Carl and Becky Montgomery, bought this home in 1986 because Becky Montgomery loves primitive log houses; and the little place, much cobbled together, was in sore need of their attention.

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