40 – Greystone Manor, circa 1833-1840, Hagerstown, MD
Near the fairgrounds on the eastern side of Hagerstown, elevated above a stone retaining wall, is a house shrouded by enormous trees and barely visible from the road. An iron gate sits atop the wall, but there are no steps leading from it to the street. The wall diminishes as the hill slopes; as the ground levels, a sign proclaims Greystone Manor and a drive leads to a two-story carriage house. To the left, beyond the broad, deeply shaded lawn, is the stone house. It is three full stories high with the basement entered at ground level on this side. To the right is a wing with double porches extending behind the main block of the structure. A narrow concrete walk ascends the yard to the house.
Between 1815 and 1823, William Figely purchased several parcels which became a 93 acre farm, parts of three land grants: Settled in Time, Locust Bottom and Beall’s Neglect. After Figely’s death in 1825, this land was tied up in disputes over his estate until 1833 when it was purchased by Jacob Mace. It was Mace who is believed to have built the house, smokehouse and carriage house sometime between 1833 and 1840. Mace was 33 years old, married and the father of three when he purchased the farm. He was a prosperous farmer and added to the farm as it provided for him and his family, which grew to eight children. In 1866 he and his wife Sarah sold 123 acres to Charles Wesley and Lucretia Rhodes, who sold the 84 and 1/8 acres with the buildings to Samuel W. Cost in the same year. The land passed to his son John L. Cost in 1902, and he died two years later. In 1944 Alvin C. Doering purchased a sixteen acre parcel containing the buildings from the estate of Cost’s widow. This had been her share of her husband’s estate. It was Doering who named the property Greystone Manor.
The house faces south, toward the street, and has a small fenced yard bisected by a walk that goes toward the iron gate, detouring around an enormous tree that obviously predated the yard plan. The front entrance has a marble sill and a large eight-panel door opening into a central hall. This hall exits onto the lower of the double porches at the back. Originally, there were two rooms on each side of the hall; the front rooms would have been about twice the size of the back rooms and would have been used for gentlemen to gather and discuss the politics of the day. Today, the partitions have been removed, leaving two large, rectangular rooms in place of the four. These rooms have plain woodwork in the back sections and molded woodwork with turned corner blocks and fireplaces in the front sections. The only original mantel is in the east room and has squared pilasters on either side of the fireplace, with a single long panel above and a simple shelf.
On the right side of the central hall is a staircase with an easy rise. The balusters are round and tapered, joined with a graceful round handrail and simple newel posts topped by knobs. A door under the hall steps opens onto a stairway to the basement. The attic is entered through a closed flight of stairs in the hall above. Beyond the west room on the first floor are the two rooms of the ell, a dining room with a large built-in cupboard beside a modernized fireplace and a kitchen which once had a large cooking fireplace with a steep staircase to the second floor curled around it. These stairs were removed when the Doerings renovated. The floors are medium random-width pine. Rather severe settling in the front section of the house was caused by the removal of bearing walls and beams in the basement when a new furnace was installed in 1985.
The second floor is laid out the same as the first, and the partition between the two rooms on the east has been removed as well. The forward end of the hall is now a large bath, and the two rooms on the west remain in their original configuration. The upstairs fireplaces have been reworked and faced with modern brick. The last room of the ell, over the kitchen, retains its simple woodwork and built-in closet beside the chimney, all still covered with the original gray paint.
Greystone Manor is now just one and one-tenth acres but is still zoned agricultural, an anomaly in the City of Hagerstown. It has stood empty for several years and has fallen into disrepair. There are holes in the plaster caused by leaking pipes, as well as leaks in the roof. The stone walls need repointing. Overhanging trees and the still air in the closed house have allowed the dampness to reach the critical point. Fortunately, Ray Snouffer and his fiancée Jackie Price have just purchased the property. They have enlisted the help of their families and are undertaking an enormous restoration project. The roof leaks have been temporarily staunched with “Goop” and strategically placed buckets until a new one can be built. The windows and doors have been opened. The drywall ceiling in the basement has been removed so that things can dry, and the trees have been cut away from the house to admit light and air.
Ray and Jackie have many months of hard, tedious repairs just to make the house safe and livable, but they are sustained by their dream for their home. After the wiring is replaced and the heating and plumbing repaired, they plan to restore all the fireplaces, even the cooking fireplace in the kitchen. They have found the original mantels for both of the front bedrooms. They have also discovered the original shutters for the house where they have been used as part of the floor in the carriage house. They want to replace the roof on the smokehouse and return the partitions between the rooms downstairs. They even plan to remove the closets that have taken corners out of the bedrooms and to use wardrobes as the original owners did. One of the most difficult tasks will be returning the floors to true; but they have been told that, because the damage is so new, the floors can be lifted and held by columns. Eventually, the timber frame carriage house will be restored, and an artist’s loft built on the upper level.
Greystone Manor has a new family and a new lease on life. We are all fortunate that this treasure has not been lost.
Epilogue: Ray and Jackie married soon after buying the house and worked another two years before being able to occupy it. They smile about being in the ninth year of their five-year project. They have connected to city water and sewer, installed all new electric, plumbing and HVAC, and rebuilt the double porches on the east side of the house, duplicating existing chamfered posts, the round handrail and the square balusters of the railings. The concrete porch floor was left in place when a structural engineer said removing it would cause more damage than leaving it. The yard has been cleared of debris and a decaying outbuilding from the 1950s. Six hundred trees and saplings have been removed.
Former owners had added 50 truckloads of fill, raising the ground level on the west side of the house above the cellar joists. The house also had a concrete front porch added in the 1950s, which sloped into the house. Both of these conditions caused the ends of joists to rot and allowed termites to move in. Nineteen of the 36 first-floor joists needed to be replaced; Ray does them one at a time. The concrete front porch was removed and the fill has been regraded to prevent the termites’ return. Ray is also repairing the windows, carefully restoring the sills and frames with epoxy compounds, reglazing the sashes with the old glass, then painting all the elements before adding exterior storm windows to protect them. He is able to finish six to eight windows a year. Chimneys have been rebuilt and a new standing seam metal roof added. In the attic is a swatch of color with the notation, COR – J.R. Enix 1856. This has been interpreted as color of roof followed by the name of the painter and the date. The Snouffers duplicated the blue-green color for the roof paint. The main house and stone smokehouse have been restored and repointed by a fine mason. Ray built a new roof system for the smokehouse duplicating the dovetail joints found in the attic of the main house. He raised the roof timbers by himself, then shingled it with shakes. Ray has jacked up the floors of the house to level them, often finding odd accretions of concrete that had to be removed before timbers would budge.
The house is livable, but the interior has not been redone. Ray and Jackie still plan to restore the floor plan of the house by replacing the walls between front and back rooms on either side of the entry hall. Old wallpaper needs to be removed and plaster repaired then painted. No lead paint has been found in the house, making these tasks easier, and safer for the son the Snouffers now have. Occasionally, when workmen are around, a resident ghost appears. Some have seen a man dressed in early 19th century clothing come up the stairs, check in the west bedroom then disappear. Apparently unhappy with the work, he will turn over baskets or buckets, but he is pleased with Ray and Jackie’s efforts and never disturbs them.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, November 1, 1992 as the 40th in the series.