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Middlekauff-Poffenberger Farm

August 31, 2000

Middlekauff-Poffenberger Farm



Editor's note: This is the 131st in a series of articles about the historic and architectural treasures of Washington County.

By PAT SCHOOLEY
Schooley to speak at Sharpsburg festival


Pat Schooley will speak on "Preserving Sharpsburg" during the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival lecture series Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. at Sharpsburg Area Rescue Service, 110 1/2 W. Chapline St. She will highlight the Middlekauff-Poffenberger Farm and other Sharpsburg properties she has written about.


Terms to know


Bay: A door or window opening in a facade.

Corbel: A stepped portion in a masonry wall.

Flemish bond: Header and stretcher bricks alternate in each course of bricks, with headers being directly above the stretchers below.

Water table: A projection or ledge that protects the foundation from rain running down the wall of a building.



The brow of a low hill hides a collection of well-kept farm buildings, east of Sharpsburg Pike. Protected by a conservation easement, this farmstead is settled among surrounding fields that will never be developed. Bucolic and serene, it represents an enormous investment of time, money, restoration expertise, courage and sweat equity.

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The farm was not always so isolated. At one time, a road ran from Smoketown Road, took a sharp turn between the houses and the barn. This road connected with Sharpsburg Pike after the pike was built around 1825. Over time, this old road was abandoned; its western end became the long lane that leads from the farmstead to the pike.

A great bank barn, with new boards covering its post and beam skeleton, stands on stone foundations. Two houses, a collection of accessory buildings and a spring-fed pond lie beyond the barn. The closer house is small and brick, with a massive, exterior chimney dominating its west gable end. This house has three bays, a center entrance, and faces south. The south and west elevations are laid in Flemish bond with dark glazed header bricks accenting the pattern. A molded brick water table decorates these walls as well. Brick arches top the two front windows.

These arches are repeated in two indented tablets, finished with plaster, that are placed high on the huge chimney. On the east end of this little house is a two-bay stone addition, its roof just inches below that of the brick section. A massive stone chimney inside the east gable is topped with a stone corbel.

This is the earliest structure on the farm, and its builder remains a mystery. The farm was originally part of Kelly's Purchase, a land grant acquired by Thomas Kelly in 1753. Early records note that Kelly had "a plantation at Anti-Eeatem in Frederick County" in 1756.

Kelly's son Samuel sold the 206-acre property to Samuel Beall III in 1770 for 500 pounds. At the time, Kelly's widow and son were living in a house on Kelly's Purchase, but the 2.43 pound/acre price was typical of the cost of open land with insignificant improvements. Beall sold the property to John Clagett, who was married to his sister Ann, in 1783 for a nominal amount, a transaction that might have settled the estate of their father Samuel Beall Jr. Five years later, Clagett sold the property to John Middlekauff for 1,416 pounds, indicating that significant improvements had been made in the 18 years since Beall's purchase. The structure suggests a building date between 1760 and 1780, and current owners Ruff and Susan Fant are exploring a variety of research tools to discover the builder and the exact date.

This small house is a wonderful juxtaposition of the English and the German building styles that prevailed in Maryland during this time. The brick section is typical Tidewater architecture, but most unusual for this area. On the first floor, this small house had three rooms with tall ceilings and aligned front and back doors for cooling air circulation during the summer. The large room on the east has a fireplace, and framing in its ceiling indicates that there was once a staircase to the loft to the left of the fireplace.

Corner fireplaces


The west side of the house is divided into two equal rooms with corner fireplaces backing up to one another on the west gable wall. The great chimney with the plastered tablets serves these fireplaces.

Upstairs, the loft is divided into two rooms with horizontal beaded-board walls and gabled dormers on either side of the east room. The west room, with light only from small windows in the gable wall, had unfinished windows cut into the dividing wall between the rooms at some time. There is no cellar under this wing.

The Middlekauff family added the two-bay stone section to the brick house, probably prior to 1820. The staircase was removed and replaced by a door that leads into the new wing. This stone section is a step below the floor of the brick section and built over a cellar.

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