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Evensong

his is the 143rd in a series of articles about the architectural and historic treasures of Washington County.

his is the 143rd in a series of articles about the architectural and historic treasures of Washington County.

July 21, 2002|by PAT SCHOOLEY

An imposing six-bay house sits on a bluff above Burnside Bridge Road on the southern side of Antietam National Battlefield. The cellar opens at ground level, and a porch stretches the full width of the building at its brow. A small stream winds along the floodplain at the foot of the bluff, and the roofless remains of a stone springhouse stand near it. A metal-roofed stone bank barn stands behind the house to the right, and a brick smokehouse with a steeply pitched hip roof and collapsed north wall stands to the left. A small modern garage rests next to the driveway at the foot of the bluff.

The house sports a new coat of cream-colored paint on its random-width clapboards, with the porch rail and steps trimmed in green and brick red. The metal roof, with a gable to the north and hip on the south, is new. Signs of restoration are everywhere. Brent and Julie Stinar have been laboring here since July 2000 and have lived here since last June. They recently purchased the farm from the State of Maryland.

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The fate of this farmstead was often in doubt. The house, built around the middle of the 19th century, is set into the bluff above the stream and its surrounding floodplain. A three-room cellar, built with large stone blocks, has a dirt floor and a large cooking fireplace with a crane still intact. Facing the stream, this cellar opens at ground level with two doors and three windows. Hand-hewn beams can be seen in the ceiling, and the walls are plastered. Two earlier log structures were recycled into a two-story house on top of this massive foundation. Since the logs were already dry and are joined at the corners with posts and braces, no chinking or daubing was used between them.

The north side of the house has a huge brick chimney that serves the large cooking fireplace in the cellar and another in the kitchen above it. This chimney is asymmetrical; its east side rises straight just east of the gable wall's center. The right side starts at the western edge of the foundation and curls up the side of the house to center the top of the chimney in the middle of the gable.

A bake oven with a massive stone foundation/firebox topped with the oval-roofed brick oven rests at the back of this chimney. The oven is sheltered with a gable-roofed frame structure. It opens into the back of the kitchen fireplace, and the smoke from its firebox vents through a slit in front of the oven door, then goes up the large fireplace chimney. The heat in the oven is regulated through a slot above the oven door that can be opened and closed by sliding a squared stone back and forth.

Humble entrance




A porch the full width of the west faade was built above the cellar at the first floor level. A small porch with square posts, a shed roof and scroll cut railing splats shelters the main entrance in the center bay on the south faade. The house is ell shaped. Double porches are fitted into this ell and can be accessed from both the first and second floors.

A simple staircase with slender square balusters and a round handrail rises on the left side of the entry hall. The door to the left leads to a small room filled with light from its three windows. Behind this is the kitchen/dining room with the great cooking fireplace at the far end and another smaller one on the interior wall serving the dining area. This still has its original mantel with fluted pilasters and a large cupboard set back beside it.

The living room is on the right side of the hall with a bath at the north end. Upstairs are five chambers, two on either side of the hall and the fifth over the kitchen. The stairs turn at a landing four steps below the second level, and this landing also accesses the second story porch on the back of the house so that the two short ranks of four steps face each other.

Noah Rohrbach is presumed to have built this house. Noah and his wife Sarah sold the house with 136.5 acres and 12 perches, parts of Mt. Pleasant and Jacobs Land, to Joshua Wyand in 1865. But it is difficult to determine how and when Noah acquired the parcel. Henry Rohrbach's 1851 will names six sons, one being Noah, and it is likely that the land passed down through the family.

For over 30 years, William G. Dorsey owned the farm. In 1984 his heirs sold it to John and Monica Pieper, Robert L. Brooks and Karen Midthun, husband and wife. These couples then rented the farm while the house remained empty.

During the 1990s, the state of Maryland purchased easements on about 6,000 acres of land around Antietam Battlefield in order to protect the viewshed of this Civil War monument. The owners of this farm would not agree to sell an easement, but insisted on selling the farm itself.

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