54 – Lehman’s Mill Farm House, circa 1800, north Washington County, MD
Lehman’s Mill Road winds east from Marsh Pike near the Pennsylvania border and soon enters Lehman’s Mill Historic District. The earliest structure in this collection of mill buildings is the farmhouse. Located on the north side of the road, across from the mill and a little to the east, this eight-bay, stuccoed stone house with recessed double porches stands newly restored, brought back from the brink by Douglass and Paula Reed, who have made it both their home and their place of business.
Before 1800, Thomas Sprigg patented over 1,500 acres of land that he called Sprigg’s Paradise. Bell’s History of Leitersburg District, published 1898, says, …some time near the close of the last century, General Sprigg built a mill on Marsh run…It was a two-story stone structure about forty feet square. The power was originally derived from a dam a half-mile distant. Sprigg was a brigadier general in the Maryland Militia and a member of the Washington County Committee of Observation in 1777. (During the Revolutionary War, these committees of local leaders were appointed by a convention in Annapolis to maintain order, since the British crown no longer had authority. These committees had powers similar to those of justices of the peace.)
Sprigg, then one of Washington County’s wealthiest citizens, lived in a large brick home on Marsh Pike that was destroyed by fire several decades ago. When he died in 1809, Sprigg left an estate valued at $85,758, which was then divided among his three children. His daughter Mariah and her husband John Reynolds inherited 512 acres of land that included the mill and the buildings around it. In 1832, Joseph Emmert purchased the mill and the surrounding farm of 271 acres for $10,000. Emmert sold the mill farm, then 89 acres, to David Brumbaugh in 1846 for $7,076. Jacob Lehman purchased the mill farm in 1853 but probably never lived there since he owned another farm in the Leitersburg District. When he died in 1866, his eldest son Henry F. Lehman, who lived there at the time, inherited the farm and mill.
The farmhouse was built in three sections over a period of more than half a century. The eastern wing was originally a one-and-a-half story stone house constructed over a vaulted cellar. This small building would have been the miller’s home and was probably built around 1800 when Thomas Sprigg owned the property.
The western four-bay, two-story segment is dated 1837 in the stucco of its western gable and was constructed when Joseph Emmert owned the property. About 1860, Jacob Lehman or his son Henry added the second story and the porches to the eastern wing.
The Lehman family continued to own this property for several generations. They sold other parcels of the mill complex but retained the farm, the house, its adjacent barn and outbuildings until 1990 when the Reeds purchased the two-and-a-half acres of land on which the buildings stand. The house had been unoccupied for many years and was not habitable. This created the first major obstacle in the rehabilitation of the property: banks are unwilling to create mortgages for houses that can’t be occupied. The Reeds are restoration professionals, and still they had problems finding financing for the property.
Once a construction loan had been secured, the accretions of years were stripped away, trash gathered and hauled and original features uncovered. The 1837 west section, with its simple woodwork, has one large room and two small, squarish rooms on each floor with steep, enclosed central stairs. On the first floor, one of the smaller rooms has become a library. Here the woodwork has been carefully grained to resemble rosewood and birds-eye maple, and the floor around the rug will be painted its original burgundy. The most western first floor room was the parlor, and when restoration is completed, it will house part of the business office.
The eastern wing has two rooms on each floor with an enclosed staircase in its northeast corner. Attached to this corner is a smokehouse and frame summer kitchen with brick nogging. The Reeds plan to restore this room as it was in the 1850s and to use it for open hearth cooking and parties. The original kitchen and dining room occupy the first floor of this wing, and the floors in this section are unfinished pine as was the custom during the middle of the 19th century.
In order to accommodate both business and family, Douglass and Paula Reed have added a large, two-story brick wing on the back of the house. Two windows, one on either level, were made into doors to access this new space, one of the few changes that had to be made in the original fabric of the house. Compatible with the original structure, this wing is open and airy with a two-story wall of windows on the east. All the woodwork in this wing was salvaged from the 1860s farmhouse on the airport property that was dismantled a few years ago. The large, central staircase has simple square balusters and a walnut handrail. The mantel surrounding a large fireplace is built into the end of the wing and has been painted to resemble green marble. Molded woodwork, some with turned corner blocks, surrounds the windows and doors. Floors are pine boards cut from beams salvaged from a warehouse that burned in Richmond, Virginia. The spacious modern kitchen has walnut cabinetry and pine counters and opens into a family room and living room on the first floor. Bedrooms are on the second level of this wing. The Reeds have been careful in their restoration and have duplicated the original woodwork colors that they found–roses, teal, dark green and buff–throughout the house. Many things remain to be done, but the house is supremely livable.
Epilogue: The interior is complete now; restoration of the 1855 carriage house is done except for the doors, which are awaiting hand-wrought hinges. The barn has a new roof and has been partially restored as has the 1907 hog barn, putting both back into service.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, February 6, 1994 as the 54th in the series.