A historic farmstead simplistically stated

Garden Hill

Garden Hill

January 06, 2003|by PAT SCHOOLEY

This is the 145th in a series of articles about the historic and architectural treasures of Washington County.


Tucked between Funkstown and Hagerstown, near Antietam Creek, is a small finger of rural land surrounded by urban neighborhoods. This hilltop parcel is a little more than 5acres, all that is left of a farmstead that once was 71 acres.

Mature trees shield the house from the public way, scattered randomly as if they had grown wild. Several tall old yew trees' boughs wind together forming a thicket overhead. The driveway curves to the left of a stately white-painted brick house. This house faces east and overlooks the National Pike. Common bond brickwork is seen on all elevations, with five rows of stretcher bricks followed by a row of headers. The main entrance opens in the center bay of this two-story, five-bay house and is protected by a one-story porch with square posts. This porch is not original but is probably similar in form to the earlier one. Sidelights and a broad transom surround the door. The roof is slate, and openings are topped with flat arches made of stretcher bricks.


In 1787 Jacob Funk received a 1,420-acre land grant called "The Establishment." Henry Shafer acquired part of this grant after Funk left for Kentucky in 1791. Shafer both farmed and operated a sawmill and gristmill, the Roxbury Mill, which was south of Funkstown on Antietam Creek.

In 1861 a 71-acre piece of this tract along the National Pike, "beginning at the northeast corner of the creek bridge abutment," was sold to Henry Shilling, Frisby Knode, Joseph Kretzer and Robert H. Cushen for $6,248. The 1864 deed for the final sale of this land shows that Knode had withdrawn from the purchase and Kretzer and Cushen had purchased Shilling's interest.

It is likely that Joseph Kretzer conveyed his interest in the property to Cushen soon after, but the record of this transaction has been lost and is only mentioned in a 1901 deed to the property Cushen must have been an enterprising and hard-working man to have acquired such a valuable property by the time he was thirty-one. He began to build his elegant home around 1865.

Marriage records show that Robert Howard Cushen, then 23, married 16-year-old Susan Elizabeth Garver on Jan. 22, 1856.

The house has a rural Georgian plan favored in this area for much of the 19th century. A broad central hall holds a graceful staircase, with two rooms on either side of this hall. The front rooms on either side are somewhat larger than those at the back. The dining room on the left has a fireplace with a simple mantelpiece and a cupboard on its right side. This cupboard once had a full-length door with a simple latch. Behind the dining room, the kitchen still has a large service fireplace. The mantel and cupboards in this room are knotty pine and date from the 1950s. A broad doorway separates double parlors on the right side of the hall. Once each had a fireplace, but the front parlor lost its fireplace and mantel when central heating used that flue for the furnace. Original woodwork and trim has simple ogee molding with plain corner blocks.

Upstairs, four bedrooms are arranged in a similar floor plan with a small room constructed in the forward section of the hall. In 1926, this space became a bathroom. The east rooms have fireplaces with mantels like the one in the dining room. Ceilings are high. Broad, easily rising stairs access the attic above.

The cellar entrance is under the main stairs in the hall. A curious feature is the narrow shelves created by extensions of the upper stairway's step treads, so that each overhead step offers a small storage space in the cellar stairway. A stone wall divides the cellar in half, and a bulkhead offers a second entrance on the south. A brick summer kitchen stands behind the house, and the sturdy stone foundations of a small barn have been roofed to shelter horses.

The census of 1870 lists Robert Cushen as living with his wife Susan and five children ranging in age from ten to one. Cushen's occupation was described as "Farmer" and Susan's as "Keeping home." Mary, the eldest child at age 10, is noted as having no occupation, while that space is blank for the other children.

Cushen's real property was valued at $9,000 and personal property at $1,200. His 26-year-old brother, William, also lived in Funkstown with his wife and two children. He worked as a blacksmith and had real property valued at $650 with personal property worth $350.

Their 71-year-old father, Robert, lived in Brownsville with his wife Eliza. His occupation was blacksmith, but he had neither real nor personal property and was described as blind. These comparisons indicate just how successful Robert H. Cushen was.

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