48 – Silver Storm Farm, 1858, east of Hagerstown, MD
Trovinger Mill Road loops north from Route 64 pressing into farmland and curling into one of the turns of Antietam Creek. On a bluff, surrounded by fenced meadows, stands a six-bay red brick house, laid in common bond, with coursed fieldstone foundations. A date stone set in the east gable is inscribed, Daniel and Elizabeth Rowland 1858. There are several outbuildings, including a large frame barn, which is slightly west and down the slope from the south-facing house. In the yard, carved into a flat stone outcrop, are the initials DS and the date 1848.
The four-bay section of the house to the east has two front doors, side-by-side, beneath a one-story entrance porch with turned posts. The east door enters a parlor and the west a large living room. The other two-bay section of the house is set back behind a double porch, that is beneath the main roof span. Another two entrances are off the lower porch. The one facing south that enters the kitchen and one facing west, in the side wall of the porch, enters the large living room. Two similar doors appear on the upper porch. Three other entrances into this house make a grand total of nine.
The easternmost front door enters a small parlor, which has the fanciest woodwork in the house. The fireplace mantel has fluted pilasters and is so beautifully marbleized that it seems to be stone rather than wood. The baseboard is also marbleized and the doors wood grained. Behind this parlor is another, smaller room. All the doors on the first floor have six narrow raised panels in two ranks, three abreast. The windows on both levels have six-over-six sashes with many panes of original glass. Ceilings are nine feet high.
The large living room can be entered from the parlor as well as from the other front door, from the porch, from the kitchen on the west and from the closed stairs at the back of the room. These stairs turn at a landing and end in a small hall with doors to four bedrooms.
The kitchen is the westernmost room in the house and sits behind the inset porches. It has a large fireplace with a handsome mantel and wooden doors that close the firebox when it is not in use. At the back of the kitchen is a steep, turned stairway that leads to another bed chamber. This room opens onto the upper porch and has no other entrance from within the house. It can be entered from the other side of the upstairs through this upper porch.
As in most old houses, there are many mysteries here. In 1833, Daniel Rowland and Elizabeth Rinehart married and purchased the farm on which the brick house stands. Why didn’t they build for a quarter of a century? David Rinehart, Elizabeth’s father, died in 1834; perhaps they lived in the family home on his farm at White Hall nearby and farmed both tracts of land. Then why did they build at all, and did they ever plan to live there? That isn’t known, for Daniel Rowland died in 1859, just the year after the brick house was built. Elizabeth died in 1894.
Was there a house on the land when they purchased it? The basement of the brick house offers some clues. There is a two-foot thick stone wall dividing the basement in the middle of the four-bay section of the house. A massive summer beam that supports the joists of the floor above spans this thirteen foot by 26 foot space. Is this basement area, with its closed outside entrance and summer beam, all that remains of a small, earlier home? To the rear, just behind this section stands a stone smokehouse with a batten door and early strap hinges. If this little house had existed it would have been easily accessed from this possible little house, but there is no really convenient exit from the present kitchen to the smokehouse. Interesting conjecture, but there is no way to tell.
The door of the smokehouse is probably older than the brick house, but its rafters and roof are not similarly old. Was the door taken from an older building and reused, or was the roof of the smokehouse replaced?
The basement holds yet another mystery. The foundation beneath the side porch has been extended into the basement to form an empty space under the front part of the living room–a space that has no apparent entrance. Might there have been a trap door from the living room at one time? Probably five feet across and eight to ten feet long, this area can be seen only by looking over the foundation where the building is not tightly fitted. Why was this done?
This house was purchased in November, 1991, by Jack Koll and his wife Polly Schofield. When Jack retired, even though Polly had a few years yet to work, they looked for a farm on which to raise their llamas. The old place on Trovinger Mill Road needed a great deal of work, but a lot of original fabric remained in the house, there were outbuildings which could be put to use immediately, and all these questions to be answered. It has been a year now. The parlor is nearly done, the llamas are happy in their new home and Jack is searching the records for answers about the Rowlands.
Epilogue: “Restoration work on the house continues slowly but steadily. When the bricks were repointed it was discovered that the northwest corner of the house had suffered water damage, and the old mortar had dissolved, as had about 400 bricks. Replacement bricks of the same age were found, and the corner was rebuilt with reinforcing angle iron inside the wall. The stone foundation has also been repointed. Most of the original windowsills were found to be badly rotted. Abatron was used to rebuild those that were salvageable and others were replaced. The rotted floorboards on the second floor balcony were replaced. The balcony was delightful about two weeks of the year, but its southwest exposure meant that it collected rain, snow in winter and served as a heat sink in the summer. After much thought, the balcony was enclosed using German siding. This also eliminated two of the nine exterior doors, which were removed and stored for future owners should they decide to reopen the balcony.
The railings from the second floor balcony were recycled to replace missing railings on the first floor porch. Concrete steps that had been added sometime circa 1930 were removed; wooden steps will eventually replace them – but with five of the seven remaining exterior doors still operable, this is not a high priority.
The thirteen foot by twenty-six foot room in the middle of the first floor has had the old wallpaper and woodwork stripped and the original plaster repaired. We contemplated using the original paint scheme, but decided that the teal blue and dark gray was not in keeping with our personalities, and opted for neutral beiges. The fireplace mantel has been faux-grained to match the mahogany furniture used in this room.
Work is proceeding in the kitchen; the woodwork is slowly being stripped and repainted in the original light gray. All of the windows in the house are original, many with the original glass, and they are being carefully reglazed and painted.
As with most farms, the repair and maintenance of the outbuildings and care of the land and animals takes up a great deal of time, and the work on the house proceeds slowly. But this is good, for it allows much time for thought and planning, and finding appropriate architectural elements to incorporate into the restoration. As an example, the enclosed main stairway is two stories high, but had light only from a small window on the landing. A stained glass window has been set in the wall of the small room above the stairway, bringing in light and providing a focal point, which can be seen in the large mirror hung in the opposite wall on the landing. A pair of cabinets with leaded glass doors and mirrored backs have been built into the office, and hold a collection of porcelain carousel animals.
We often sit on the front porch on quiet summer evenings, enjoying the birds and wildlife, and commenting on our extraordinary good luck in finding such a perfect place to spend our retirement years.”
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, August 1, 1993 as the 48th in the series.