205 – Well Taught Farm, Leitersburg, MD

Little Antietam Road extends from the fringes of Chewsville to those of Leitersburg. It crosses over Antietam Creek and climbs a hill, passing a new, red-painted saltbox house and brick bungalow on the left. Just beyond, a small sign announces Well Taught Farm; and a gravel drive winds behind its neighbors, meandering south and west, past pasture and cornfield.

On the left stands a red-painted frame barn with an accumulation of neglected farm tools. After nearly a half-mile, a stone-end bank barn with a silo stands opposite a large red-painted wooden storage barn. The lane ends at a vine-covered fence before a large Norway maple enveloped by climbing hydrangea. Beyond, barely visible, stands the house.

This early farmstead stands alone in a natural setting, among native plants and trees, on a bluff above the confluence of Antietam Creek and its tributary, the Little Antietam, once known as Forbush’s Branch, seemingly the natural result of such an appealing place.

The four-bay main section of the house is built of roughly coursed local fieldstone with no decorative masonry. Front windows have narrow frames with a beaded inner edge and louvered shutters. The main entrance is in the second bay from the south.

Above the entrance, the rectangular transom light has three gothic-arched panes of glass with narrow muntins. A Victorian-period porch with turned posts and decorative carving extends the breadth of this wing, with a second-level porch above. A door opens onto this porch over the main door.

Woodwork is simple, molded, with faux marble risers on the stairs. The handrail is simple with square balusters and a finger rail. There are six panel doors throughout, and one has been scraped to reveal faux graining. Other doors have faux painting as well, but have resisted scraping to remove later coats of paint. Woodwork is painted blue, and the walls are white.

The living room has a cupboard built in beside the fireplace, and its lintel is made of soldier bricks, set at an angle, meeting at a “V” in the middle. The mantelpiece is simple, and woodwork in the room has decorative corner blocks. Most rooms have narrow board floors and chair rail. Exterior woodwork is typical of work done during the second quarter of the 19th century.

The north, two-bay wing of the house has a first story built of stone. A frame second story, covered in German siding, was probably added later. The cellar bulkhead opens from the concrete slab floor of the double porch, which is sheltered by the main roof span. The upper porch rail is Victorian scroll-cut splats with decorative brackets supporting the upper level and the roof at its posts. The interior of this wing is simple.

A large cooking fireplace serves the first floor with closed winder stairs rising to the second floor on the north wall.

The 68.98-acre property contains parts of original patents named Well Taught, Hartle’s Lot, Skipton-on-Craven and Resurvey on Well Taught. The entire property is laced with trails so fauna and flora can be observed up close. Wild turkeys, hummingbirds, pileated woodpeckers, orioles, warblers, woodpeckers, bluebirds, martins, racoons, blue and green herons, owls, foxes, coyotes, deer and occasionally a bear have all been seen on Well Taught Farm.

The house appears to have been built in sections over time. The two-bay stone wing might have been first built as a single room with a fireplace and a sleeping loft above. The frame second story was probably added later, and the floor plan extended.

The timber-framed barn, 73 feet by 40 feet, with a date stone of 1806, is attributed to Jacob Barr. George Hartle purchased more than 174 acres from Jacob Bear (Barr) in 1833 and might have built the main four-bay part of the house shortly after. Parts of the property might have been in the Hartle family in the late 18th century, as well. It remained in the Hartle family until 1932.

The farm passed from the Harvey J. Hartle Family to Chester Price in 1939 or 1940, and, three years later was sold to Mary L.S. Osborne Campion.

Campion lived in Clear Spring and owned a number of properties in the county. She rented Well Taught Farm, with its five bedrooms and a sitting room, to a variety of tenants.

Campion’s estate sold the property to Marguerite M. Lohman in 1973. Three years later, Robert H. Riemensnider and his wife, Patricia, acquired it.

Donald Tucker and his wife, Frances, purchased it in 1981, and then sold it to Jean Whitman and her parents three years later. Jean and her family have lived at Well Taught Farm for 30 years.

Jean home-schooled her children while restoring the house and out buildings, putting in state-of-the-art solar facilities. In the basement, 60 tubes provide solar thermal hot water, and solar panels on the barn furnish electricity. The window sashes have been replaced with dual-pane glass, insulation has been blown into the frame of the house, and foam insulation covers the basement ceiling and beneath the attic floor.

The kitchen has been redone, and in 2005, a sunroom was added. Nineteen acres of land have been placed under conservation easement, part of the effort to save the Chesapeake Bay.

The farm is peaceful, considerate of nature and practical, as well as beautiful.

Terms to know:

Bead: A small convex molding that is semicircular or more in cross-section.

Muntin: A thin strip used to hold panes of glass in a window.

Chair rail: A molding running along a wall at chair-back level that acts to protect the surface of the wall from damage.

Finger rail: A molding on the wall of a staircase that follows the level of the handrail on the outside of the steps.

Soldier brick: A brick with its longest, narrowest side facing out.

This is the 205th in a series of articles about the architectural and historic treasures of Washington County.