107 – Keedy-Machat Farm, circa 1890-1905, Keedysville, MD
Set back from Shepherdstown Pike west of Coffman Road, a gravel farm lane winds through pasture toward a vast metal-roofed frame barn. Unpainted, it hulks on solid, stone foundations, remnant of a spare and simple way of life. Beside the barn stands a corn crib/machine shed of similar vintage. The lane curls through this old building as though it were a gateway, a gateway that opens to a much different scene. Stone retaining walls undulate across the tree-filled lawn, defining gardens that surround the elegant brick home. A broad fieldstone path leads from the parking area to a large patio laid beside the double porches at the back of the house. A small square brick building with a gabled roof stands next to the house, built into the hill that slopes down from the west side of the house. Once a smokehouse with a root cellar on the lower level, this is now a garden storage house.
The house faces south toward Keedysville’s Main Street a short distance away. When Christian Keedy (1827-1905) built here, a lane connected an alley from Main Street to the house. Keedy, who was the first burgess of Keedysville, dealt in lumber, grain and coal as well as farming, and was ticket agent for the B&O Railroad for 25 years. He built Keedysville’s first warehouse specifically for railroad trade; and when he chose a site for his elegant home, it was close to the B&O line, which once ran just east of the house where a row of pines now grow.
The house sits on a rise above the town on a precipice overlooking the original town spring, town springhouse and Little Antietam Creek. The house is five bays wide with a one-story porch sheltering the center entrance and two central windows. A belt course of finely cut stones tops the fieldstone foundation on the front and east façades. Brick is laid in common bond, and openings in the front block have segmental brick arches over them. Most windows have two-over-two sashes. On the east side of the house is a five-sided, one-story bay with a bracketed roof cornice and narrow, single-pane sashes in the windows. Behind this main block is a wing with double porches on the east side under the main roof span. Windows in the wing have flat arches and two-over-two sashes.
The main entrance opens into a center hall. The staircase rises on the right. The substantial walnut newel post is octagonal with turnings. Walnut balusters, similar to the newel, support the handrail. An electrified gas light fixture hangs from the oval plaster medallion on the ten foot ceiling. Woodwork throughout the house is wide and molded with mitered corners.
To the right side of the hall, the ample living room is focused on the bay with its pairs of interior shutters that fold back into the woodwork at the sides of the windows. The north wall of this room has a door leading into the dining room and a floor length, two-sash window looking onto the lower porch that stretches along the side of the back wing.
On the other side of the hall are two rooms; a den and an office. There is a door between these two rooms and doors from the hall to both rooms. The dining room, at the end of the hall, spans the wing. An old mantel decorates the chimney column on its north wall, but there is no fireplace. This room has doors to the hall, the living room, the den, the lower porch and to the kitchen, which is at the back of the wing.
The kitchen has been tastefully renovated with ample white cupboards and beaded wainscot. Doors lead to the back stairs, the dining room and into a small, one-story mudroom that once was a pantry with an exterior door. The layout of the second floor is similar to that of the first.
The basement has one large, finished room under the front block of the house and a utility room and summer kitchen under the wing. The summer kitchen has a service fireplace, the only fireplace in the house, which now has had its firebox reduced in size. This room opens at ground level on the west side of the house.
Christian Keedy had five daughters, three of whom survived him. His will left his wife a life estate in this, the 115 acre family farm where he was born. Ultimately, it passed to his daughter Etta K.Taylor. Etta bought her father’s carriage for $47.50 at the sale following his death and remained on the farm for the rest of her life. Her son Charles and his wife Martha inherited; and, after Charles’ death, Martha sold the property.
In 1975, Sydney and Joy Machat purchased the home with a little less than eight acres. They didn’t even go inside the house before making an offer. It had everything they wanted. It was private, but close to town so that their children would be near friends. It has a barn and a large yard. They were charmed by the waterfall on the Antietam and by the little train that traveled between Brunswick and Hagerstown, stopping near the house each morning so that the crew could go to Lines Grocery for coffee.
The house was structurally sound, but needed general renovation. The Machats removed wallpaper from every wall and repaired the deteriorated plaster beneath. They took down the Venetian blinds and tore carpeting from the rooms, then painted the walls white and sanded the floors. The steam heating system with its ornate cast iron radiators, said to have been the first central heating system in the county, was repaired. Eventually a new boiler replaced the old. The plumbing was repaired and a mudroom and half-bath were built in the small pantry that Etta Taylor had added to the back of the house.
When the house was built, the living room was a formal, seldom-used area with only a single entry from the hall. To make this space more usable, a second doorway was opened from the living room into the dining room. The door from the office to the dining room was removed and the woodwork reused on the new living room door.
Originally short sets of stairs led from both the dining room and the kitchen to a landing from which the back stairway rises to the second floor between the two rooms. The Machats removed the steps into the dining room, giving the area more wall space. Rupe Cuneen, a local contractor, was the moving force throughout the work.
The little train toppled over one day while waiting for its crew to return from the store, a victim of deteriorated tracks. Soon the line was closed. A flood destroyed the dam at the waterfall, diminishing its drop, but Syd and Joy continued to work on the home they loved.
The Machats removed the driveway next to the house and created a parking lot just in back of the barn so vehicles would not spoil the view of the house and its surrounding gardens. Low stone retaining walls were sculpted into the lawns, separating areas and forming backdrops for the floral beds that Joy added. In the lower lawn, raised beds were built from some of the ties that were removed when the B&O line was dismantled. These beds were planted with herbs; a vegetable garden was added somewhat further away. Banks of flowers were planted near the barn, softening the stern look of the old building that had served as a hospital after the Battle of Antietam.
Many years have passed. The gardens are mature. The railroad no longer runs just to the east, but the lovely brick house continues to be a comfortable and serene spot for the Machats.
Epilogue: Joy Machat continues to lavish time on her flower garden. Both she and Syd enjoy the birds and wildlife the gardens bring. They have found a workman to repair the 100-year-old slate roof on the house, and are beginning a project centered on the springhouse. Because it lies in the flood plain, they won’t restore the building but rather will remove the roof and stabilize the walls then clear the grounds to make a natural garden around it. Syd enjoys watching their home evolve.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, September 6, 1998 as the 107th in the series