Mountain retreats opened to visitors

October 24, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - When Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee withdrew through Monterey Pass after the Battle of Gettysburg, he praised the climate and beauty of the Blue Ridge Summit region.

Several years after the Civil War, when the Western Maryland Railroad was completed through Thurmont, Md., travel to the area was made easier. Wishing to escape the heat of the cities for the healthful mountain air, many wealthy families from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., built summer "cottages" on top of the mountain in the early 1880s. The homes have magnificent views of South Mountain and the Cumberland and Gettysburg valleys.

Sunday, these homes and an historic church were part of the Waynesboro Historical Society's Historic House Tour: Blue Ridge Mountain Retreats.


Mr. and Mrs. Martin Hawley of Baltimore were among the first to build a mountain getaway, naming their home Monte Vista. Martin Hawley, an architect, designed the home with elements of Colonial Revival, Prairie School and Queen Anne architecture.

Because there was no house of worship in the area, the Hawleys held religious services in their dining room for other summer residents.

Later, Martin Hawley designed a chapel, a replica of one in the Czech Republic, and had it built of local stone and wood beside their home. He died in 1888, before the church was completed.

Now known as the Hawley Memorial Presbyterian Church on Charmian Road, it is a house of worship with stained glass windows and a high-beamed ceiling.

Robert Parisien and Ray Eckhart own the Hawley's home and have turned it into Monte Vista Bed & Breakfast. They live in the north wing, the former sleeping quarters for the household help, with their nephews, Zach Engel, 12, and Tyler Meyer, 14.

The home's 10 1/2-foot ceilings, common in summer homes, helped to catch cooling breezes, Eckhart said. Two fireplaces have unusual arched, nearly circular openings. Much of the house, which sits on 30 acres, is furnished with family pieces.

Zach showed visitors around the upstairs guest rooms, furnished with mementos from Parisien's and Eckhart's travels; a sitting room is the Hollywood room, decorated with photos of movie stars and memorabilia from "The Wizard of Oz;" the four bedrooms are the European room, the Mediterranean room, the Native American room and the Asian room,

"This is my favorite room," Zach said of the Asian room, "because of the shower and the balcony."

Parisien showed visitors his favorite room, the large, screened sun porch.

"We eat, sleep and play games here," he said.

Parisien and Eckhart moved to the home in 1997 and started renovating.

"The roof, water, electric, you name it and we've either done it or it's on our list," Parisien said.

At the home of Philip and Faith Ulzheimer on Hilltop Road in Cascade, built around 1910, an old Victrola played a scratchy record while visitors toured. The Ulzheimers bought the house in 2002 as a retirement home, Philip Ulzheimer said. A restoration architect, he describes the home as "a hybrid between a rustic Adirondack-style cottage and an Arts and Crafts bungalow.

"A week and a half ago, this bathroom had a dirt floor," Ulzheimer said. He restored a wooden toilet tank with push-button flush from the maids' quarters upstairs and installed it in the first-floor bathroom. Parts of the upstairs are still unfinished.

"He's going to have to live to be 105 in good health," Faith Ulzheimer joked.

Across the road, the 1930 Tudor revival home of Barrett and Bridget Brown has an arched entry of Catoctin greenstone. Huge pots of impatiens sit on the outside stonework. Several cozy rooms offer comfortable living downstairs; the upstairs has a seating area with a balcony, and another small balcony off the master bedroom.

Touring the homes Sunday was Harriette Matthews of Carroll Valley, Pa., who said the homeowners were all "so nice and generous about sharing information."

Accompanying Matthews was Gary Jagow, who said that the tour was an opportunity to "get into homes you've gone by all your life and wondered, 'What's in there?'"

At the Summit Springs Inn, an old stone springhouse on Summit Farms Drive, more than 200 fish live in the basement trough where spring water runs through. Before refrigeration was available, area farmers cooled and stored their dairy herds' milk in large cans in the spring.

Owners Alice Humphrey and her son, Randy, purchased the rundown property in 2002 and spent three years restoring it. She opened it as a bed and breakfast in June 2005.

"There's no sign," she noted. "It's private and unique and I want to keep it that way."

The small home is tastefully and comfortably furnished, with an efficiency kitchen and two beds.

Dick Gladhill, co-host of the bed and breakfast, said that more than 400 tickets were sold for the tour.

"I think most of them came through here," he said. "It was more than I expected."

Randy Humphrey, the main contractor for the renovation, said the biggest challenge was the mud. The home sits at the bottom of a slope, and "to make it livable we had to make it so the mud wouldn't keep rushing through," he said. "It was a landscaping problem," which he solved with a stone retaining wall and a patio.

More information about the inn is available at

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