127 – Good-Hartle Farm, circa 1765-1787, near Leitersburg, MD

Settled in a curve of Little Antietam Creek, just above its juncture with the Antietam, is a small farmstead on the east side of Little Antietam Road. The buildings are set well back from the public way behind pastures that are surrounded by rail fences. To the right is a machine shed with a gambrel-roofed barn on stone foundations behind it. Both are simple buildings, plain, white-painted structures. A gravel lane passes to the north of these outbuildings and loops in front of the two-part, two-story house that is shaded by a grove of tall, old trees and surrounded by lush lawns.

An early road, now overgrown, parallels the eastern edge of the property and seems to lead to a ford across the stream. The house was originally oriented to face this road behind and now presents what was the back of the house to the present road.

The two parts of the house form a single, stuccoed façade with roofs that are nearly the same height and color but one is made of asphalt shingles and the other of corrugated metal. The older section of the house is on the right, to the south, and is built of logs laid in a square nearly 22 feet on a side. This section has two floors, a cellar and an attic under its steeply pitched roof. A single window appears on each floor. A single room with a fireplace on its north wall fills the first floor. Beside this fireplace are floor patches that suggest tight winder stairs once led to the second floor from this spot. A closed cupboard has replaced these stairs and complements the simple mantel.

In the cellar of this log section, close-set logs, flattened on top and bottom, set closely together, can be seen forming the joists of the first floor. Between these logs are small pieces of stone and filler, insulation in this puncheon floor. In the attic, the massive principal rafter roof structure is a stellar example of its type. Three pairs of principal rafters meet at the ridge of the roof and support purlins on which the common rafters are laid. The roof plates rest on top of the floor joists, with the floor laid well below the tops of these plates. The gable walls are finished with very early clapboard, still visible in the attic. These early building methods indicate that this is an extremely rare example of an early settlement period log house reflecting Old World building techniques.

On October 25, 1765, Jacob Good, a Swiss Mennonite from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, purchased three tracts of land totaling 344 acres from Michael Miller. These tracts were called Hamburgh and Luck, both parts of Resurvey on Well Taught, and Good’s Choice, part of Skipton on Craven. The deed to Good’s Choice states, …being the land whereon the said Jacob Good now lives…, but when this tract is drawn to scale and imposed on a modern map, the easternmost boundary is near the intersection of Little Antietam and Antietam Creeks. The present Good-Hartle house is too far east to have been on that tract.

Good sold the property to his son-in-law Joseph Long in 1787. Since this house appears to have been built before then, Good must have built this home for himself or for one of his children on one of the Resurvey on Well Taught tracts.

Long sold the farm, now 366 acres, in 1795 to John Bear. Bear divided the farm between his two sons John and Jacob in 1818. Land records seem to indicate that John Bear resided in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and never moved to Maryland. In 1833, Jacob Bear sold his part of the farm, 174 and 5/8 acres, to George Hartle. Hartle added the four-bay stone addition shortly after that. In order to blend the stone with the log, the whole structure was stuccoed, probably shortly after the stone wing was built.

The bay nearest the log section has a door sheltered by a small shed-roofed porch with chamfered posts. The ground slopes away from this section toward the stream so that the cellar opens at ground level on the east through a wide four-panel door. Inside, a large room with a new flagstone floor holds a cooking fireplace beside a large, four-door cupboard. Three windows with six-over-three sashes fill the room with light. Interior doors open into a bath and into utility rooms under the older section.

The first floor of the stone wing originally was divided into two rooms from north to south, with a hall at its south end, running across the house from the front door to the back. Two doors, side by side, enter the house from the east (then the front of the house.) Both of these doors have two ranks of three narrow panels and stand beneath three-light transoms. The north door once entered directly into the east room, the dining room, but a small entry hall was built at some later time to shelter it. Stairs rise to the second floor just inside the south door, another indication that the original front of the building was the east, facing the old road. The west room is partitioned into a small room on the north and a study in the south part. This study has bookshelves across its north wall. A large cupboard, once part of the dining room many years ago, fills the south wall. On the second floor are two bedrooms in the stone section and two bedrooms in the log block where original six-panel doors hang on hand-forged strap hinges.

A 20th century one-and-one-half story addition covers most of the east side of the original house and holds the present kitchen. This addition has been enlarged several times and is thought to have enclosed a galleried porch that once spanned the log section.

Beyond the house, near the edge of the stream, is a small log springhouse with clapboard siding and a corrugated metal roof. The lower level is filled with water from the springs beneath it. Above this spring level is a small room with a cooking fireplace. The little building has deteriorated and needs to be restored.

The house remained in the Hartle family 116 years until 1949. In 1996, Jim and Lisa Wagner purchased it for their family. They have worked steadily to restore the house and the grounds. They have upgraded the plumbing and wiring, have refinished floors and painted walls. They added the stone floor in the cellar room and converted it to a family room. They have also had the house listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural historian Merry Stinson did the extensive research for this nomination and for this article. Once the house was listed, the Wagners became eligible for the 25 percent Maryland tax credit for historic preservation work as well as the County’s ten percent credit for exterior restoration. Since these credits piggyback, they result in a considerable saving.

The Wagners are happy with their historic home and have decorated it in a comfortable style. They plan to tackle the problem of the frame appendages on the back, hoping to remove the jumble and create a useful and visually pleasing kitchen wing while adding space to the bedrooms upstairs. This will also give them a chance to finally make the two roofs join and to cover the whole with raised-seam metal roofing. Then the little springhouse will be restored. It will be a big job but Lisa and Jim love the house and want to grow old there. A young cousin told them, “I like your house…it’s like I’ve been here before,” and it is that familiar, comfortable feeling of home that makes it so special.

Epilogue: One of the most noticeable improvements is the new standing seam roof. We decided to remove the hodgepodge of additions on the back (original front) of the house and build a Greek Revival addition designed by Matthew Grove of Martinsburg. We removed the two-story front porch that had been enclosed with wood then aluminum siding and during demolition found remains of the original railing. The porch floor was made of the same close-set logs that are in the main house, but these logs were mostly rotten. This new addition fits beautifully with the existing house and holds our kitchen, laundry and bedroom. We made an effort to blend the new with the old house by using refurbished hardware on the doors, traditional interior and exterior trim and double pane windows with true muntins. 

We moved the old built-in cabinet that had been moved to the study back to its original position beside the dining room fireplace. It looks much better there. Several rooms have a fresh coat of paint and we replaced the exterior aluminum storm windows with interior storms. The house looks much crisper from the outside with the windows clearly visible. We removed aluminum cladding from several exterior windows to expose some unique trim work, and we restored the fascia boards on the old house. We would still like to restore the upstairs fireplace. 

We notice the improvements every day. The back covered porch, which was once damp and moldy due to a leaking roof, is now used regularly. We still remark how pretty the six-over-six windows look without the broken exterior storms, and how much warmer the house is without drafts.

James Wagner

This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, May 7, 2000 as the 127th in the series