Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage

April 23, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

see the enlargement by clicking on image

Plumb House

By admiring homes and blooms in Washington County, visitors at the 61st annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage can help preserve a Clear Spring landmark.

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The tour Saturday, May 9, features 15 sites in the Clear Spring, Williamsport and Boonsboro areas. Proceeds will be used to help restore Plumb Grove in Clear Spring, which also is on the tour.

Members of Hagerstown Garden Club are coordinating the tour, with assistance from other local garden clubs. Caroline Wright and Carol Urner of Hagerstown Garden Club are co-chairwomen of the tour.


Visitors can start at any of the locations, Wright says.

The tour never has been done in the western part of the county, Wright says. Factors in choosing the tour sites included historical value of the home and its accessibility to visitors, she says.

The state tour has operated on a revolving schedule for the past 61 years, says Margaret Powell, executive director of Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, headquartered in Towson, Md. Washington County's last tour was in 1994.

The local event is the last of six house and garden tours in Maryland this spring. Others were in Charles, Dorchester, Talbot and Howard counties and Baltimore City.

The pilgrimage aims to showcase different types of architecture and historical treasures, Powell says.

"We try to educate as well as entertain," she says.

Plumb roomPlumb Grove, a rural farmhouse, is being preserved by volunteer members of Clear Spring District Historical Association, which has about 440 members.

David Wiles, president of the association, says tours of the home focus on stories of rural life.

"We specialize in Western Maryland superstitions," Wiles says.

For example, because people of the period believed sickness was caused by dirt, the hallway has a front door to let in clean air and a back door to release the dirty air.

The house also has a witches' globe, a colorful glass ball that hangs from the ceiling and was said to protect against house fires and other mischief caused by witches. Witches were said to be attracted to the pattern and were drawn through the opening, then were trapped inside.

Plumb Grove was built by Ann and Jonathan Nesbitt II in 1831, and their eight children were born there. Jonathan Nesbitt II, a farmer and politician, served in the Maryland House of Delegates in the 1840s.

The Nesbitt family sold the farm to the Warner family in the early 1890s. Washington County Board of Education purchased the farm for a school complex in 1967, and the house was deeded to the association in 1981.

Wiles says the house was in poor shape.

"It was waiting for years for someone to save it," he says.

When Plumb Grove was built, the farm had about 200 acres. Today, less than one acre remains.

Funds raised from the tour will be used to begin construction of a summer kitchen and a museum, Wiles says.

The exterior of the kitchen will look just like the original, while the inside will be a working kitchen that will allow fund-raisers to be held on the property, he says. The 24-by-40-foot museum building will house working items of long ago, such as buggies, tools and a Conestoga wagon owned by the association.

The goal is to make Plumb Grove look just like it did in the 1830s, Wiles says.

The house never has had plumbing or a bathroom, and it never has been altered. There is a fireplace in each of its 11 rooms.

Volunteers have put a picket fence around the house and yard, and an old-time vegetable garden is being planted in front of the house.

They also are removing electricity from the house, which is open to visitors on special occasions. During the May 9 tour there will be volunteers in each room, and visitors will receive a brochure describing each room in detail, Wiles says.

He says Plumb Grove still needs many of the small items that make a house a home. They include 11 hanging candle chandeliers, which cost about $1,200 each, and period rugs for each room, which are about $2,000 apiece.

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