36 – Brightwood, circa 1802-1829, north Washington County, MD
Marsh Pike runs north from Hagerstown roughly following the path of Marsh Run. Two miles past Paramount Road, on the right side of the pike, Blue Heron Lane leads east through fields and brush. A few feet from its beginning, this narrow road changes to gravel as it pushes into the countryside, passing an isolated home at the left, then two to the right. A half-mile from Marsh Pike is a stately home, facing south, well back from the gravel entrance lane before it. A two-story portico with a gabled pediment set at right angles to the main roofline dominates the front façade. Supported by simple round columns, each porch shelters a central door and two windows. Two bays flank the main entrance on either side and four dormers pierce the roof above them. The windows have twelve-over-eight sashes, most with the original glass. A long wing, one room wide and built of stone, extends to the rear on the right side of the main block. The exterior of the main wing is covered with asbestos brick siding, but this does not mask the elegance of this fine home. Surprisingly, the main section of the house is built of log: two pens and a trot. That is, two similar, nearly square log structures with a space between them (the trot) are joined under a single roof. The logs are covered with beaded clapboard under the siding. Not all log homes are rustic cabins.
The main entrance under the portico opens into a broad hall, (the trot) twelve feet wide, which bisects this section of the house. A delicately carved chair rail and beaded baseboard surround this reception room. To the left, a door opens into the ballroom (a pen). On the wall opposite the door, in the gable wall of the wing, a central fireplace is flanked by two arched alcoves three feet deep, that were originally designed to accommodate the musicians. The chair rail, alcove woodwork and mantel are hand-carved with delicate reeding set at an angle in a narrow band. The musicians’ alcoves were later changed to house a window in one and, in the other, a door that leads to a later one-story addition. The original doors of the house have six hand-planed panels, are made of pine and have been grained to resemble mahogany. The mortise and tenon joints are pegged. The jambs of doors and windows are paneled, and a few doors retain their original massive iron box locks.
To the right of the hall is the dining room with a fireplace on the gable end wall surrounded by a less elaborate mantel. To the north is a long, narrow room. These two rooms occupy the other pen. Beyond the narrow room is the stone wing. The first of the three rooms in this wing is the kitchen with a modern fireplace where the cooking fireplace once stood. It appears that the further two rooms were once a separate building for there are stone walls on all four sides of these rooms. Called slave quarters, these two rooms have simple woodwork and horsehair plaster. The further room has a large cooking fireplace that was used during butchering by recent owners. A square hole in the ceiling is used to enter the loft above by ladder. Both rooms in this section have doors to the outside under a narrow porch roof.
At the inner juncture of the two wings, behind the door at the end of the great hall, is an ample square tower containing the stairs to the second floor. The balusters are square and the rail is repeated against the wall in a finger rail–half the rail and half the newel posts projecting from the plaster in symmetry with the handrail. Stair towers were first developed in the 17th century and are unusual in this time period and this area.
On the second floor, the broad hall above the one on the first floor has a large bedroom and a small narrow room on either side of it. Over the kitchen in the ell, the roof has been raised and another large bedroom is accessible from the stairway. On the west side of the hall is a beautifully paneled enclosure for the attic stairs. A door in the narrow side of this box accesses the space under the stairs, and within this closet, a low door with original woodwork leads into the narrow room. This room can also be accessed through a door of normal height from the master bedroom. Since the woodwork around the low door under the attic step matches the other original woodwork and their backs are beaded, this stairway may have been originally left open only to be boxed in a few years later. Each of the large bedrooms in the main wing have fireplaces and original mantels with reeded trim.
The attic is a large, unfinished space filled with light spilling from seven windows. The dormers have six-over-six sashes with original glass and the fanlight in the portico gable is traced with slender curved muntins. Each gable wall carries the fireplace chimneys. In the center another chimney starts at the attic floor and has a thimble a few feet above. At one time, a stove stood in the grand hall on the first floor and the stovepipe extended through the second floor, the attic floor and finally terminated in the thimble in this central chimney.
Under part of the ballroom is a small basement carved from the bedrock that supports the foundations of the house. One side of this small space is a stone outcrop, and the area is accessed down stone steps covered by a bulkhead beside the stair tower outside.
Behind the house are two smaller stone buildings, a smokehouse and a twelve by eighteen foot structure called “the fort.” Bell’s History of Leitersburg District describes Colonel Cresap as residing at Long Meadow from 1738 to 1741 and erecting a stone building on the east bank of Marsh Run that served as residence, fort and trading post. It is thought that the stones from this building were used to build the present “fort.” This building has a wooden addition on the east end that still carries the superstructure for a windmill. A long crank shaft runs from the windmill almost the whole length of the stone building at ceiling level and is fitted to serve a wide leather belt that would power machinery. It isn’t certain what machinery was run here.
Brightwood is built on land that was part of the original Long Meadow land grant given to Colonel Thomas Cresap in 1739. It has been owned by Daniel Dulaney, Colonel Henry Bouquet, Joseph Sprigg, Samuel Hughes, Thomas Hart and Thomas Hall—all important figures in the early history of Washington County. Then from 1802 to 1829, Otho Holland Williams owned the property and may have been responsible for building the main part of the house. It has had many owners since then, the longest tenancy being that of Frederick B. Wilms from 1829 to 1876.
The present owners J. Allen and Ida Jo Martin have lived in this lovely house for twenty years. They prize its history but, because they are older, they want to find another family to love and care for Brightwood as much as they do and to steward it into the 21st century.
Epilogue: Steve and Guilaine Leonard purchased Brightwood in 1993 and have been working on it ever since. Recently they have had the asbestos brick siding removed and have restored the German siding beneath. Just this year a new shingle roof replaced the old.