Woburn Manor

July 13, 2000

Woburn Manor

Editor's note: This is the 129th in a series of articles about the architectural and historical treasures of Washington County.

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Terms to know

Jib window: A window with a door or doors beneath its lower sash, allowing it to be used as a door.

Balustrade: A series of short, upright architectural members supporting a handrail and connecting it with a bottom rail or with steps. Balustrades are used to enclose balconies, porches and staircases.

A large, white house, set well back from a dogleg in Dam No. 4 Road, stood neglected for many years, its boxwood gardens overgrown and wild, its porches slowly disintegrating. Vandals stole the fanlight from above its entrance, and the original hardware from its doors. Window sashes were destroyed, and much of the handrail and balustrade of the staircase was missing. A section of its raised-seam roof, already in poor condition, was peeled back by heavy winds, and rains poured through the house. Demolition by neglect seemed about to claim another of our county's treasures.


Even though the house had become derelict, Todd and Tracey Bowman could see its once elegant lines and potential. They set about rescuing Woburn Manor, repairing the roof even before the purchase was completed to save the interior from further damage. It has been a daunting task, taking more than a year, but it is nearly done. The floors have been refinished; and, much to the Bowmans' relief, the old pine held up under all the rain that washed through the roof. The fanlight and porches were replicated, using old photos as guides for missing elements, and the double front doors were restored. Old sashes were repaired and new ones replicated using the same nine-over-six configuration for the first floor and six-over-six for the second.

Stone and stucco

Woburn ManorWoburn is constructed of stone and has always been covered with stucco struck with lines to imitate large, cut-stone blocks. A driveway circles in front of the house. The central bay of the front facade projects slightly.

It includes the main entrance: two doors beneath a fanlight, flanked by side lights. The square entrance portico has one-story columns to hold its gabled roof. It rests on stuccoed stone piers with open spans that admit light to a cellar window below. The house sits on a man-made rise, with three terraces still visible at the rear. The formal boxwood garden is being replanted here. On the west, the basement opens at grade onto a large, flat area held by stone retaining walls on either side. This entrance is near the kitchen, allowing for easy access at ground level.

The history

KitchenThomas Buchanan was born of English parents in 1768 at the family home in Charles County. He became a lawyer. In 1797, he married Rebecca Maria Anderson, granddaughter of Governor Samuel Ogle. In 1806, they moved to Hagerstown, where Buchanan established a law practice. In 1810, he received a land grant for 1,650 3/8 acres he called Woburn. This was a very large tract for such a late date, probably the last large land patent in the county. Seven years later, Buchanan had the tract resurveyed to include some vacancies that were not part of the original. It was during this period that Woburn Manor was built. In 1815, Buchanan was appointed associate judge of the Fifth Circuit, serving under his younger brother, John, who was chief justice. He held this post until his death in 1847.

Thomas Kennedy, a Scot who emigrated in 1777, published a book of poems. "To Howard" was written to his son the day after his birth and signed, "Wooburn, formerly part of Chews Farm, Washington County, Maryland September 16th, 1808." Another poem written in 1809 was also signed "from Wooburn," indicating that Kennedy was living at Woburn at that time, possibly as a tenant and certainly in a house other than the manor, which had not been built. The name Woburn derives from Wooburn Commons in England, is a corruption of Woodburn, and was apparently assigned to this property before it was patented.

Kennedy went on to greater fame and controversy in 1822, when, as a Washington County legislator, he sponsored a bill to give Jews the right to hold office by deleting the constitutional requirement to swear belief in the Christian religion.

The foxhound connection

Dining RoomAnother tantalizing tidbit of history is the tenuous connection of Woburn to one of the ancestors of foxhounds in this country, an Irish foxhound named Mountain. Governor Ogle owned Mountain at one time, and the dog later became the property of Thomas Buchanan's son James, who was said to be exceedingly fond of fox hunting and had a large number of trained hounds.

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