About Architectural Treasures

Old houses live again in Pat Schooley's new book

Old houses live again in Pat Schooley's new book

October 07, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

"In an old house there is always listening, and more is hear than is spoken. And what is spoken remains in the room, waiting for the future to hear it."

- T.S. Eliot

"I never wanted to do this book," says Pat Schooley.

But she did the book. The book is done, and it will be ready Tuesday.

Schooley and fellow members of the Washington County Historical Trust will drive to the Phoenix Color printing plant and have the books loaded onto their pickup trucks.

"Architectural & Historic Treasures Of Washington County, Maryland," a tome of 400 pages of text and more than 500 photographs, including 64 colored pictures, features articles about 140 historical properties in Washington County.


The volume, a project of the Washington County Historical Trust, is a compilation of articles published in the Herald-Mail newspaper over more than a decade. Proceeds from its sale will be placed in a revolving fund for the preservation of endangered properties.

Schooley says she never intended to write all the newspaper articles when she and other members of the trust proposed the idea to then Associate Editor Dennis Shaw in 1989. Trust members were looking for a way to raise awareness of the importance of historic preservation.

The Herald-Mail said yes, and Schooley figured trust members would take turns researching and writing the articles.

Things didn't happen that way.

After the first one ran - about the beautifully restored Doub's Mill in Beaver Creek - members of the trust lauded Schooley. "Oh, we could never write that," they told her.

Schooley's done them all.

For years, people asked her if she'd collect the articles in a book. She used to say she'd think about it after 100 articles. The trust thought about it, too. Schooley says the book has been a group effort.

"Everything has happened in Washington County," Schooley says of the making of the book.

"We have walked this baby from concept to seeing it loaded on our trucks," says Sandy Izer, a member of the trust.

"It's hideously expensive to do," Schooley says of having the book published. The project's price tag is about $40,000 and that was achieved with a staff of loyal volunteers.

When the committee looked into layout costs and got quotes of $160 per hour, Izer said, "We can do that."

"If we knew then what we know now . . ." she laughs. Izer, a Washington County native, lives in an 1847 stone house outside Williamsport.

Many new photos were taken, epilogues - many of them written by the owners of the homes - update the original articles.

Maps show where in the county the properties are located. There is a glossary and a 25-page index. Schooley and trust member friends contributed hours and hours, months and months of labor.

"I believe very much in the cause," Izer says.

Architectural historian Paula S. Reed wrote the book's introduction, a historical overview of Washington County. From 1973-78 Reed inventoried the county's 1,400 more-than-100-year-old properties, a survey that served as a resource for Schooley's articles.

"The book is an important contribution toward promoting understanding and appreciation of Washington County's extraordinarily rich architectural heritage," Reed says.

Orlando Ridout V, an architectural historian for the Maryland Historical Trust, agrees that the heritage is extraordinary. "Certainly Washington County has one of the richest and least disturbed collections of historical buildings in Maryland," he says.

He recalls driving to Leitersburg for a meeting a few years ago, noticing old homes on the way from Smithsburg. He looked at a farm and thought, "That's one for the National Register." He drove on and saw another he considered worthy.

"How do you judge significance in a place that's all fabulous?" he asks.

"The value of these old houses is truly remarkable," Schooley says.

Natalie Brown, who lives in a 1760s stone house near Keedysville, loves history. She says she loves the idea of so many people having lived in her house before. She says she's been in places where historical properties have been torn down for development, where there's nothing left. If that's allowed to continue, "every county will look the same," she says.

People who live in old houses are the stewards of our history, Schooley says.

She knows. Schooley doesn't just write about old houses.

She lives old houses.

In 1986 Schooley and her husband David were living in Boston when she began her hunt for a place to retire. They saw the 122-acre Old Forge Farm for the first time Dec. 21, 1986, made an offer the next day and closed the deal Dec. 30.

It seems appropriate that the Schooleys' 1762 stone house is the oldest dated house in the county.

The property was in terrible shape. Schooley has done most of the restoration herself.

"In doing the work, you make it your own," she says.

"If you don't do the work, you can't understand the house. It evolves," she adds.

Schooley will continue to write occasional newspaper articles. There are many, many more "architectural treasures" to be explored, to be honored.

Schooley considers the book an addition to the history of the county.

"It's not just the grand houses," she says. "It's all kinds of houses. It's the fabric of the county."

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