Treasuring history - Schooley to mark milestone article

January 22, 1998

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

click on photos to view larger images


Staff Writer

In 1989, Pat Schooley called The Herald-Mail to propose a series of articles on historic properties in Washington County.

Schooley and other members of Washington County Historical Trust came to see Dennis Shaw, who then was associate editor, and made a case for the articles.

Schooley told him they planned to do it for free, Shaw says.

"Is there enough to write about?" Shaw asked in self-confessed ignorance.

He says Schooley gave him a withering look.


He gave her the go-ahead.

"And the rest is history," Shaw says.

Schooley's 100th article will be published in Lifestyle next Sunday. It will feature Rose Hill, a home near Williamsport that Schooley has been saving for this occasion. She says it is one of the county's grandest and most prominent historic homes.

Shaw says he would have scoffed if anyone had suggested the series would continue this long. But the articles are well-read and enjoyed, and he knows people who have collected almost every one.

Schooley, 61, says writing the articles has broadened her social horizons.

"It's better than having kids in kindergarten for making friends," she says.

People have asked if she plans to gather her articles in a book. Her answer always has been that she'll think about after she's done 100.

She's almost there, and she plans to try to get that done.

Having relied primarily on two Washington County histories - Williams and Scharf - Schooley says she's aware of some errors in the articles. She'd appreciate hearing from readers who may have noted mistakes so they can be corrected.

The idea for the articles came out of a meeting of Washington County Historical Trust, its members looking for a way to raise awareness of the importance of historic preservation and local treasures.

Forging ahead

Although she has a degree in English and a passion for preservation, Schooley says she didn't expect to write all of the articles. She thought other members of the historical society also would write, and she would edit. But the task, like many others she has tackled, has not daunted the granddaughter of South Dakota homesteaders.

"Pat's just completely gutsy. She's not afraid to forge ahead," says Paula S. Reed, a cultural resources specialist who has a consulting business in Hagerstown.

Does Schooley have a favorite among the historic properties she's written about?

"I get involved with every single one," she says.

She says she likes the ones that are surprises - plain on the outside, wonderful inside.

Old houses have personality, Schooley says.

"New houses don't do it for me," she adds.

Old houses do. The first home she and her husband, David, owned and restored was a 1915 tract house, a Dutch colonial in Kensington, Md.

The couple, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary today, had moved east from Indiana for David Schooley's job as a high school physics teacher.

Pat Schooley wanted to be home with her four children - two boys and two girls.

Good with her hands, she worked in her basement workshop 12 hours a day, often until 2 a.m., making pillows, swags, jabots, other window treatments and hand puppets.

"I did whatever I could get paid for," she says.

The Schooleys moved to Boston in 1978 when David to work as a researcher for Gillette.

While living in Boston, Pat Schooley began her quest for an old stone house to restore in retirement. She found Old Forge Farm, 122 acres with a stone barn and a 1762 4,000-square-foot stone farmhouse east of Hagerstown on Antietam Creek.

The Schooleys saw it for the first time Dec. 21, 1986, made an offer the next day and closed the deal Dec. 30. She wrote about the house in May 1990. It was the 13th article in her series.

The place was in terrible shape, Pat Schooley says. The land was full of trenches. It was "a fine stand of thistle," she says.

Living room camp

In the spring of 1987, Pat Schooley started coming down from Boston to work on the house. There was power but no water. She had to carry five-gallon buckets of water from an outside hydrant to flush the toilet. She camped in the living room with the woodstove stoked with difficult-to-split logs she found scattered around the property.

Schooley has done most of the work herself. She stripped, sanded and oiled the floors. She patched and painted. She found all but one of the house's 12 interior doors that had been removed from their hinges. She made the tiles on her kitchen island and fireplace hearth, punched tin for her cupboards, built kitchen cabinets from pine floorboards, stripped, refinished and made furniture.

Where did she learn carpentry?

"Oh, I just thought I could do it," Schooley nonchalantly replies.

She calls herself a great recycler.

"Everything we have is second-hand," she says. That includes dogs, a dozen outside cats, sheep and goats. There are chickens, ducks, peacocks and a friendly, chatty turkey.

Her interest in historic preservation is not restricted to her home or her newspaper articles.

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