74 – Elysian Fields, late 18th century, north Washington County, MD
Near the Pennsylvania border, a long, low limestone house stretches along Marsh Pike, surrounded by a yard filled with tall old trees. Three small gravestones stand in the farthest corner, cordoned off with an old, rusted chain.
Elysian Fields was first patented by William Douglas in 1788 as a tract of 237 and 1/4 acres, although he may have lived on the land as early as 1765. Six years later in 1794, it was transferred to Major Ignatius Taylor, at one time a member of the House of Delegates and Judge of the Washington County Orphans’ Court. This deed states, …Together with all woods underwoods Houses improvements being–standing or growing,… but it isn’t certain that this refers to any part of the present structure.
What is certain is that this home grew. It just isn’t clear exactly how or when the expansions happened. The first section constructed consists of the northern two bays of the house, which were built sometime around the end of the 18th century. This structure had a single room on the first level with doors in the south and east walls. The southern door is two steps above grade and has the original heavy framing and pegged joints. The large east door was the original front entrance, for the house faced east overlooking Lehman’s Mill Run. The north wall of this room has a large cooking fireplace with a massive wooden lintel partially covered by a simple mantelpiece added later. On the right is an original cupboard with blind doors and spoon slots cut into one of the shelves. To the left of the fireplace are closed stairways to the small basement and to the second floor room. Both stairways are winders with narrow, triangular treads and high risers.
This may have been a simple stone cabin with its second-floor room having been added somewhat later, or it could have been built all at one time. This second-floor space is now the master bedroom and has a small, shallow fireplace built into the right side of the chimney column. Modern skylights have been added to flood the room with light.
A seam between the second and third bays of the western face of the house indicates that the small center hall and the family room were 19th century additions to the original house. The hallway has exterior doors at both ends. The rear batten door hangs on long strap hinges and latches with an old wooden slide. The door exits onto a stone-floored porch, facing the small stream at what is now the back of the house. The family room has a small fireplace with a simple old mantel. Its floor is narrow oak laid over the original random pine boards.
Behind this room is a small dining room that once was the kitchen. Its east gable wall has a large cooking fireplace. A window on the north looks out onto the stone-floored porch, and a window opposite it is now a pass-through from the expansive 1951 kitchen. This kitchen joins the first two sections of the house with the third stone segment, which had been an early 20th century carriage house.
The modern kitchen is a step down from the dining room and has a quarry tile floor that extends out onto an enclosed porch at the rear. The butcher-block counter curls into the room, and light floods in from the glass wall facing the porch. The final stone section, the old carriage house, holds a comfortable office that has a very wide exterior batten door and a large window to the west. The east side of the room is filled with modern built-in cupboards and a steep stairway to a charming paneled room with sloped walls and extensive closets.
The second story of the 19th century section of the house has a bedroom, extensive closets and a full bath with a fireplace built into the chimney of the dining room fireplace. The upstairs is entered by a stairway that doglegs from the center hall near the front door. On the second floor, the balustrades on either side of the stairwell have deeply turned bedposts used as newels at both ends. This upper hall accesses the master bedroom on the left, a modern bath with a skylight in the center and the second bedroom on the right.
The Ledy family purchased Elysian Fields from Ignatius Taylor and held the property until 1850. The graves in the front yard are those of Susan Ledy, who died in 1831 at the age of nine months; her father David who died the following year at 32 years of age; and her mother Anna Barbara who died in 1873, 23 years after the family had sold the property.
The property passed through several owners; and, in 1941, was acquired by Richard and Vera Ward Boutelle. Boutelle was the president of Fairchild Aircraft and used Elysian Fields as a place to entertain guests. He added a helicopter pad behind the house and connected the main house to the carriage house with a large room (currently the kitchen), which was used for entertaining and business functions. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, Vice-President Nixon and various military and ranking members of the Congress were entertained here as part of Boutelle’s work for the government. Camp David was just a five-minute helicopter ride away. Arthur Godfrey was an old-time friend and often visited this retreat.
The helipad is gone now, and the present owners, Wayne and Lona Dahlstrom, have made extensive renovations to the property. They added a new roof over the kitchen that repeats the slope of the original roof; upgraded electrical, plumbing and heating systems; replaced cabinets and installed the U-shaped counter. They have replaced dormers, windows and shutters; and Lona, an interior designer, has filled the home with charming furnishings. It is a beautiful home with a long and rich history.
Epilogue: Elysian Fields has been sold twice since this article was written. Hal and Lorrie Brandenburg recently purchased the property as home for their family. They plan to replace the entire roof, make general repairs, then upgrade the kitchen.