Journey's End in Hagerstown: Pangborn home designed with elegance

October 19, 2012|By PAT SCHOOLEY | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Journey's End in the North End of Hagerstown was built more than 80 years ago by the Pangborn family.
Photo by Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

This is the 195th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

Shrouded by vegetation, settled on a rise, Journey's End stands on over two acres of land among stately trees and elegant, understated gardens. Surrounded on three sides by The Terrace, Park and Forest streets in the North End of Hagerstown, it is protected by tall hedges and stone walls. The house is built of coursed stone, with a steeply pitched slate roof and copper gutters. It stretches more than 60 feet wide and extends more than 110 feet back toward Forest Drive. It is a grand home, with every amenity.

In late 1926, Thomas Pangborn and his wife, Elsa, purchased lot No. 40 in the Oak Hill Addition to Hagerstown, a garden subdivision created by Clara Hamilton when she developed the farm she had inherited from her father, former governor William T. Hamilton. Four years later, they bought the lot next door, No. 41, and began to build the house of their dreams.

The name Pangborn resonates in this community: a boulevard, a park, a memorial auditorium, a hall, a recently closed business. The author of these eponymous entities, Thomas W. Pangborn, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1880. His family later moved to LeRoy, Mich.; but, at 17, Thomas went to New Jersey to become an industrial apprentice at Belleville Copper Rolling Mills because he could not afford to go to college. He attended evening classes at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

While working at the rolling mill, he devised a more efficient method of cleaning castings. In 1904, he developed his first sandblast machine and founded Pangborn Corporation in New York City. The following year, he invited his brother John to join him, and their small plant in Jersey City prospered. The Pangborns moved their plant to Hagerstown in 1912. They broke ground on the Pangborn Boulevard campus in 1915.

Despite the Great Depression, Pangborn was successful. He worked hard, immersed himself in this community, supported charities and employed more than 1,000 workers at one time. He honored his commitment to this community by naming his home Journey's End and hiring architects H.E. and R.B. Yessler to build his home with the finest materials. Lavish attention to detail abounds.Leaded and stained glass windows, oak woodwork and paneling, pegged oak floors on the main level and tongue-and-groove upstairs, elegant crystal chandeliers, and whimsical lighting fixtures are used throughout the house.

The home

An early appraisal of the house carefully measured the spaces in the house, 44 in all, including eight hallways, a 10-foot square closet specifically for linen, a cedar room in the attic, a stair tower, an elevator between the first and second floors, and an inclinator to the basement. Decorative plaster adorns the living and dining room ceilings. One charming lavatory in the basement is fitted with a stained glass skylight that is illuminated by a ground-level window at the back of the house. Another room in the basement is fitted with a steel door and a vault lock, probably first intended to store valuables; it is first listed as a freezer room, then as a wine room in later appraisals. 

The attached garage, 24 feet wide, has eight doors hinged vertically to each other, separating in the center. All have leaded glass windows. These doors fold back beneath a massive oak lintel that is about 24 feet long, a foot wide at its ends, but expanding to 16 inches in the middle. Steps behind, lead to an entrance under the pavement in front of the garage. This opens into a tool storage area that also has a half bath for the use of the men who worked in the yard.

The front door, on the south wall of a small hip-roofed block at the front of the house, opens into a foyer. A long, narrow window, with multiple panes of glass and an arched top that breaks the roofline, lights the area from the right. Steps rise to a stone-paved solarium with a wall-mounted stone water fountain. A morning room with oriental wallpaper and a crystal chandelier leads into a large dining room with a large multi-paned, leaded glass, floor-to-ceiling window that flares from the house.  This large window's frame, apron, scooped sill and mullions are all carved stone.

To the right of the dining room, down several steps, is the living room. Almost 45 feet wide and 24 feet deep, this room has built-in bookcases and cabinets on its southern wall. A large stone fireplace centers on the east wall between double French doors that lead onto the front patio. Similar French doors open on the opposite wall onto another, larger, flagstone patio. The large fireplace mantelpiece is heavily carved marble and was imported from Italy. A huge, blue floral oriental rug dominates the room, which is decorated with period furniture and mementos.

A rathskeller, as large as the living room, fills much of the basement level. It holds another large fireplace and a series of stained glass windows with scenes and sayings on them: a tavern scene with the saying "Here is to the Hound with His Nose to the Ground," a card game, "Play Not for Gain, But Sport," a dance scene, "On with the Dance, Let Joy Be Unconfined." A small bar adjoins this room, complete with a built-in liquor cabinet, glassware storage and three stools.

Two balconies overlook the yard and gardens at the back of the house. Off the master bedroom suite, a small balcony opens beside the tiny prayer room with its round stained glass window. The other, furnished with wicker, is near the guest rooms, a comfortable, quiet space.

Pangborn's legacy lives on

Pangborn did indeed remain in this house for the rest of his life. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his company in 1954, served as president and CEO of Pangborn Corp. for three more years and then became its chairman. His wife Elsie died in 1960. They were childless.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI named him a papal count for all his generosity to his church, the only American to have been so honored. Thomas Pangborn died seven years later, just nine days before his 87th birthday. He summed up his personal philosophy for A. Vernon Davis, who included it in an article in the Cracker Barrel: "It has been my experience that the riches we give away are the only wealth that we shall always retain. After the hard years, good fortune smiled upon me and enabled me to offer some small token of thanksgiving toward such projects as education, medical care, religion and community betterment."

Pangborn's will left many monetary gifts to friends, to churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to priests, to bishops, to cardinals, to charitable organizations and to the children of his brother Warrel. He specified friends to receive his platinum and gold watches as well as other gifts. He gave $10,000 to his secretary, Helen R. Fisher, who was also the secretary and a trustee of the Pangborn Foundation. He also canceled the mortgage he held on her home and gave her a $10,000 annuity. He left her husband his gold stickpins. "My executor is hereby authorized to employ Edward M. McKewen and Mrs. Helen R. Fisher to assist in the disposition...of the chattel and other real and personal property located in Hagerstown, MD, which I may own at the time of my death."

Helen bought Journey's End the following year for $75,000 at a private sale. Most of its furnishings remained in the house. The Fishers had no children. Eighteen years later, Mrs. Fisher, now widowed and with health problems, sold the house to Melvin and Emily Greenwald. The Greenwalds also purchased all the furnishings Mrs. Fisher did not take with her.

The Greenwalds spent many months and more than $600,000 renovating the house, choosing new drapery fabrics, new upholstery and upgrading the kitchen, keeping its original design, but adding a freezer and upgrading the other appliances. Wiring, plumbing, air conditioning were all modernized and an irrigation system added. New furnishings were blended with those Mrs. Fisher left.

When finished, they invited the neighbors in to see Journey's End. Many neighbors had dropped by during the restoration, curious to see the house, and the Greenwalds felt they should share with them.

It has been 26 years. Mrs. Greenwald died last year, and Mel is 88. It is time to downsize, and Journey's End is on the market.

As he goes through his possessions, he has found records, memorabilia and clothing left from the Pangborns in the almost endless closets tucked around the house. In an upper floor closet hang two beautiful beaded dresses from the 1920s that he had never seen before. It is a time of reflection for Mel Greenwald. He has been a good steward to an exceptional house in our community. He hopes to find a buyer who will respect and preserve the house as he has.


  • Apron: the molding beneath the lip of a counter, window stool or other casework.
  • Mullion: a large vertical member separating two casements; the vertical bar between multiple windows or doors.
  • Muntin: one of the thin strips of wood molding used to hold panes of glass within a window.
  • Rathskeller: a restaurant in the style of the cellar of a German city hall that serves beer.

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