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Holiday open house celebrates mansion's history

December 19, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - The Clear Spring District Historical Association offered a trip back in time Saturday with Plumb Grove by Candlelight.

Plumb Grove, a mansion built in 1831 by Jonathan Nesbitt, is on Broadfording Road in Clear Spring. The Clear Spring District Historical Association began restoring the property in 1980.

Danny Rohrer, 50, of Boonsboro, a member of the association's board of directors, said the group has offered a holiday open house for the past nine years.

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David Wiles, 48, of Clear Spring, president of the association, said the group has more than 650 members who live throughout the United States. Most of them have roots in Washington County or Clear Spring.

Wiles said the group holds the open house for a few reasons, including celebration of the holiday season, camaraderie with friends and neighbors, and to promote preservation.

"If we can create a spark ... if someone walks in and says, 'Look what you can do with an old house,' and it inspires the preservation of one more old house, that makes it all worthwhile," Wiles said.

From 2 p.m. until midnight, visitors to Plumb Grove drove down a long, narrow gravel path to the red brick structure. Smoke billowed from its chimneys. Beyond the white picket fence, ice pillars containing frozen sprigs and berries served as candleholders that lined the sidewalk leading to the front door.

Inside the bright yellow foyer, a large fresh pineapple - the symbol of hospitality - graced the stairway banister. Local musicians took turns playing Christmas carols on the pump organ throughout the event, while association members dressed in period costume milled about, mingling and answering historical questions.

Carl Yeakle, 75, and his wife Elizabeth, 74, who is a native of Clear Spring and a member of the association, drove from Severna Park, Md., for the event.

"I think it's wonderful," Elizabeth Yeakle said. "I'm very impressed with the house. We came just for this."

Visitors paid $5 at the door to cover the cost of refreshments, and additional donations were accepted. Raymond Divelbiss, 50, of Clear Spring, chairman of the event, said more than 400 visitors were expected to attend.

Divelbiss said association members decorate the rooms of the home with natural and homemade items only. Barbara Clopper of Clear Spring, a member of the board of directors, said some of her favorite finds this year included bittersweet - a flowering vine - and nandina - an evergreen with red berries - while other members found and shared fresh holly and rosemary trees.

"We just try to add a little flavor from 1800s," Clopper said. "We like to use what they would've used."

The dining room mantle was adorned with a hand-strung garland of walnuts, chestnuts and jingle bells, while the open fireplace in the kitchen was decked with cords of cranberries and kumquats. Colleen Cashell, 39, of Clear Spring, treasurer of the association, festooned the massive spruce in the men's living room with thick strands of wool.

Michele Dyer, 41, of Clear Spring, a member of the association, decorated the children's bedroom with red wool blankets, crocheted mittens and stockings and strings of angels hand-cut from homemade paper. Atop a small table sat a miniature tea set, gumdrops, peppermint sticks and gingerbread cookies.

Association member Pat Violet of Clear Spring smiled as she surveyed the room.

"It's nice to think about the way things used to be," Violet said.

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