Rocky Spring Farm: A site of magnificence

February 24, 2012|By PAT SCHOOLEY | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • The main house at Rocky Spring Farm is centered between a tenant house and a barn. It has two stories with four bays on each level.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

This is the 191st in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

An allee of ancient maples marks the long lane leading north off the National Pike, west of Hagerstown.

Set well back among pastures, Rocky Spring farmstead stands on a slight rise, with wetlands to the west and lawns around the structures.

Rock outcrops abound across the landscape. A tenant house on the west nestles into the earth, standing on early stone foundations above a spring.

Water flows through a trough in the floor where once it cooled milk as it ran. About 20-foot-by-30-foot, this space contains a large stone service fireplace with an arched lintel. An early iron stove fits in the firebox. Two large holes in its flat top would accommodate two great iron kettles and a door on the front of the stove reads:




The main house, centered between the tenant house and a great frame barn, has two stories with four bays on each level. Flat-stone lintels top each window in the main stories of the house. Brick chimneys with corbelled tops rise at either gabled end.

The main entrance, in the second bay from the east, opens into a hallway that exits through the back of the main block. Double parlors fill the east half of the first floor and a large dining room on the west is filled with light from three windows. Behind the dining room is the kitchen.

Stairs to the second floor rise in the hallway and continue to the attic. Originally, these stairs were open to the third level but have been closed to save heat. Balusters are simple, round and slightly tapered. The rail is also round and Newell posts are simple. Windows have six-over-six sashes with paneled jambs. Woodwork has two levels, double-fielded, with turned corner blocks and chair rail.

Ceilings are 14 feet high and the space commodious. Each floor has four rooms in the main block of the house and every room has a fireplace, each with a mantelpiece carved with a different pattern. Floors are original 5-inch wide pine boards.

A new owner

Martin Kershner Sr. acquired parts of land grants "Contentment" and "Bachelor's Delight" from William Spangler in 1774.

His son, Martin Kershner Jr., inherited the property, and it then passed to Andrew Kershner who sold off sections, retaining a parcel of about 145 acres along the Hagerstown and Conococheague Turnpike, now U.S. 40.

It was the Kershner family who built the house sometime between 1810 and 1835, and it was Andrew who conveyed the property to Edward G. W. Stake for $10,920 "for the benefit of his creditors."

Stake also owned several other parcels of land in the Williamsport area, several lots in the town proper and a large 12-room brick house on three lots at the corner of Church and Conococheague streets "known as the 'Stake Home.'"

Stake's property passed to his wife upon his death, and after she died in 1919, their seven children and two other relatives engaged in an equity case (No. 8732). This case was settled by selling all the properties. 

The advertisement for this sale describes "that farm known as the 'Stake Farm,' containing 145 acres of land, more or less, and being situate on the north side of the State road, about 4 miles west of Hagerstown. The land is of good quality limestone. There is a spring of excellent water near house, and an additional stream runs through the farm.

Forty-five acres are well set in blue grass and there are 8 acres of good timber, consisting principally of oak, hickory and walnut. The improvements consist of a large stone house, containing 8 rooms; large frame stable, frame wagon shed with corn cribs; large spring house and frame chicken house. This farm is not only well adapted to general farming but would also make a most excellent stock farm. The location of this property and the large frontage thereof on the State Road adds greatly to its value and desirability."

David H. Anthony purchased 143.5 acres at public auction for $21,490.62 and settled Feb. 18, 1920.

Anthony made major changes in the house. He built the great frame barn that now stands there and several outbuildings to support his cattle business. He also built a large central dormer on the front of the house and added a bath at the end of the upper central hall.

To provide light for this bath, he opened a small square window in the center of the second story façade. On the first floor, he lengthened windows, added transoms above the interior doors and bricked up all the fireplaces. A rectangular two-story addition was attached to the back of the house.

Terms to know

  • Corbell: a decorative course projecting from the body of a structure.
  • Lally column: a tubular steel column filled with concrete used to support a sagging structure.

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