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Beauty of mountain home re-emerges

TIPAHATO: This is the 167th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

TIPAHATO: This is the 167th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

November 18, 2007|By PAT SCHOOLEY

CASCADE - Up South Mountain, on the west side of Raven Rock Road, tucked in among a bunch of mature trees stands a massive stone and shingle house on a 9-acre property straddling the Washington/Frederick county line. Great, green-tinged stone foundations grow out of the mountain with massive stone piers supporting the broad, 132-foot-long porch that wraps around the house.

The house faces east and is five bays wide with broad eaves, a standing seam hipped roof and dormers with the same metal hipped roofs. The porch has a view of the valley for miles to the north toward Nicholson Gap. Great wooden brackets with chamfered corners and paired Doric columns support the porch roof of this comfortable outdoor living space. Windows have 16-over-1 sashes throughout the house, and there are semi-hexagonal bays on both its north and south sides.

Western Maryland Railway incorporated in 1853 with the express purpose of running a line from Baltimore to Hagerstown. This railroad took a northern route through what is now Thurmont. According to Western Maryland Railway engineer Edward Killough, the road crossed into Pennsylvania in order to avoid a rock ledge containing copper. The mountainous lands of Western Maryland were considered a liability for the railroad because of the difficulty in laying and maintaining track and because it was sparsely populated, providing little opportunity for commerce. John M. Hood, president of Western Maryland Railroad, instead had the vision to transform the mountain area into a tourist attraction by establishing Pen Mar Park in the 1870s, turning a potential financial problem into a profit-making amusement park. As a result, the area developed seasonal communities, with cottages as well as hotels allowing city dwellers to take advantage of the cooler air and mountain breezes.

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Katherine Taylor was born in 1851 to William W. Taylor, president of the National Union Bank of Maryland, and Augusta Birckhead Taylor. William Taylor's grandfather was a founder of the B&O Railroad Co. and president of the Commercial and Farmers National Bank. Augusta Birckhead's grandfather, Dr. Solomon Birckhead, was one of the incorporators of both the Union Bank and of the B&O Railroad. The family lived on Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore.

Having learned of the Pen Mar area through her family's connection with railroading, Katherine Taylor acquired more than 500 acres of mountain land and in 1902 began construction on a summer house designed by James Woltz, a Waynesboro, Pa., architect. It was completed in 1904. She managed her property as a working farm, going into town to purchase supplies in jeans when other women of her wealthy social set wore only dresses with white gloves and never earned a living. Local legend, so the story goes, says that Taylor had fallen in love with a musician whom her father forbade her to marry, and this was the reason she left her parents' home and moved to the mountain, determined never to marry.

Taylor built a house 2 1/2 stories high, the basement level and first story built of Catoctin Mountain greenstone and the upper levels framed out in wood and covered with cedar shingles. The main entrance has double doors surrounded by sidelights and a transom filled with large diamond-shaped panes. It opens into a large, square hall with a skylight above and stairs rising gently on the right side to a curved landing. The newel post is massive, square in cross section and set at an angle to the steps. A vertical balustrade surrounds the open stairwell on the second floor. Doors open from this hall to the music room, dining room, kitchen, and den or parlor. Each of these rooms has a fireplace. All have cove ceilings, 11 feet high, trimmed with narrow wooden picture rail. Bays extend from the music room and the parlor. The dining room also has a bay as well as jib windows that open onto the porch, allowing food to be easily served during gatherings.

The kitchen was in the basement, and food was brought to the main level with a dumbwaiter in the northwest room from which it was served. A back staircase from this room extended to the second floor and on to the attic, which had several rooms for servants.

In addition to the main house, the property has a small, shingled cottage with a hip roof, a vaulted stone icehouse with an arched face built into the mountain and a stone springhouse. Water was pumped by hand into the cistern in the pump house, from which it flowed to the house by gravity.

The house was fitted with gaslights because Taylor did not trust electricity. It remained gas-lit all of her life.

She made the house her permanent home, naming it Tipahato after the Shoshone word atipihato, meaning "at the top of the hill."

She lived there with her disabled sister, Amelia, entertaining friends from Baltimore with small musical ensembles in which the man her father refused to let her marry was said to have sometimes played.

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