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Mysteries unveiled at Woodmont

August 08, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail

Outside Woodmont Rod and Gun Club's lodge, insects sang their dirges to the last days of summer. Inside, Michele Smith paid homage to days gone by.

"There is a lot of history here. I love it," Smith said.

Camera in hand, Smith wandered the lodge, admiring antiques as other people stood captivated by exotic trophies. The lodge's annual open house was Sunday.

According to Sgt. Ben Sanderson, State Forest and Park Service assistant manager of Fort Frederick State Park, the Woodmont club near Hancock retains much of its mystique from the days when the wealthy came there to play.

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"People couldn't get in, so when the state got it, it was like there were all these legends and stories, so we opened it up to ease people's minds about how their money was being spent," he said.

The state picked up the stone-and-wood hunting lodge in 1995 as part of a $3.4-million deal for the club's 3,400 acres of woods, Sanderson said. The building and grounds previously were privately owned, he said.

The lodge was built between 1929 and 1930, according to information provided by State Forest and Park Service rangers.

According to an agreement with the state, the Izaak Walton League, a national conservation group, now leases the lodge six months a year. Members of the Woodmont Rod & Gun Club still pay a hefty price to enjoy the lodge and grounds - $10,000 a year, said Jay Clark, a shooting-sports coordinator for the league.

Club members have exclusive rights to hunt about 1,000 acres of the property, which adjoins Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area, Sanderson said.

The rest of the land is public, Sanderson said.

Keith Jenkins, 52, said he remembers bicycling past the Woodmont grounds as a youth. The club maintained fencing around its property at the time, he said.

"We'd wonder what's back in there. Well, we didn't know," Jenkins said.

Pictures and letters tell the story of some of the lodge's more famous visitors and members. Tarnished nameplates decorate the "president's chair" - a dark wood rocker covered with a U.S. flag. Presidents James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt all visited the club.

Upstairs, members still stay in spartan dorms during hunting season. Bottles of water sit on silver trays on the bureaus, and dark wood and pictures of wildlife trim the white walls.

Curtis Yellow Crow, a Cherokee Indian, said he was impressed by the lodge, but disappointed by one decoration he found - a smoking pipe that once belonged to Lakota Chief Sitting Bull.

"I'm a pipe maker, and I know the value of it, and it's supposed to be passed down to his relatives," the Hagerstown man said.

Joe McSparron, Jodie's father, said he was glad just to have the chance to finally see the lodge.

"It's neat, something you might never have the chance to see again," McSparron said.

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