77 – Summit Hall, 1910, Hagerstown, MD

The section of Summit Avenue south of Memorial Drive was once known as Rich Man’s Row, home to judges, doctors and lawyers–the elite of Hagerstown. The most dramatic home along this stretch of street is Number 506. This elegant three-story red brick has a hip roof. Massive Corinthian columns stretch from porch to roof and support a three-part second-floor balcony. Two small balconies crown the bays on either side of the house, adding the decorative touch of their white balustrades. Yet another porch is tucked under the main roof span toward the back of the house. Summit Hall was the last home to be added to the neighborhood, a flamboyant display of bright white trim and red brick walls.

Ordway Garmong was a grocer and an entrepreneur. In 1905 he had a grocery store at the corner of Washington and Madison Streets; in 1908 his store had moved a block away to the corner of Washington and Elizabeth Streets. The following year, at the age of 40, he purchased the empty lot on Summit Avenue for $1,450; and in 1910 he built Summit Hall. He was a man of frugal habit. Land records show that, between 1902 and 1933, he purchased seventeen pieces of property (apparently rentals) and gave 21 mortgages. The 1920 census lists Garmong’s occupation as …merchant–grocery store… and  it shows him living at Summit Hall with his wife and six children. By 1922, Garmong’s Grocery was at the corner of Chestnut Street and Guilford Avenue, close to home. The 1929 City Directory no longer lists the store, but shows Garmong, his wife and four children still living on Summit Avenue.

Garmong built a solid house of the best materials. The soffit panels are cypress to resist rot. The foundations are stone; in the basement there are two long, interior stone walls and several short cross walls that support the interior walls of the upper floors, some of which are made of brick. The original cast iron furnace, proudly labeled Hercules Heater, still labors there. Atop the furnace is an altitude gauge that reports, in beautiful typeface, that it was …made for Ditto & Reichard Hagerstown, Md., by the H. Belfield Co. of Philadelphia. Floors and the simple woodwork throughout the house are varnished chestnut, revealing the rich grain of the wood.

The main entrance, adorned with a simple transom and sidelights, opens into a small vestibule with a patterned floor of small, three-quarter inch-square tiles. Beyond in the entry hall, pairs of French doors fill broad archways on either side of the hallway. These were a 1930s alteration to add privacy and to conserve heat. The chestnut columns that originally sat on low walls on either side of this hall were found in the attic some years ago and are now displayed in the dining room. The staircase fits a square space just beyond the two sets of French doors. It rises to a low landing, turns, rises to another landing and enters the upper hall facing the front of the house. According to his daughter, Ordway Garmong designed and built the staircase, with its delicately turned balusters that cluster on the first step forming a collective newel.

In 1936, Garmong sold his home to Mary Beard Shank, widow of William Frederick Shank, and her two sons, Raymond and Robert. It has passed through the family and is now owned by two of her great-grandsons, brothers John Calvin and Mark Alan Gladhill.

The floor plan follows the stone walls in the basement and is essentially divided, from the front to the back of the house, into three long sections. To the left of the entryway is the parlor with a corner fireplace that backs to a similar one in the adjoining dining room. Both of these fireplaces have simple mantelpieces with plain columns rising from the mantelshelf to support an upper shelf and flank a central mirror. Both have narrow rectangular tiles with mottled, opalescent glazes on the hearths and the firebox surround.

The right third of the house contains the music room with its rectangular rosewood grand piano, built by the Knabe Company of Baltimore. Sliding pocket doors separate this space from the small library behind it. Beyond that is the bath with its original claw-foot tub, tiny corner sink and beautiful patterned floor of small black, white and beige tiles.

The central section of the house, behind the entry and the staircase, is crossed with a short hall that accesses a steep, winding back staircase to the second floor and  similar stairs to the basement. Beyond this hall are the butler’s pantry and the kitchen. This light-filled room also has a lovely tile floor with a diamond pattern worked in shades of blue, white and tan in the same small tiles. The stove has been replaced with an electric reproduction model of a black iron kitchen range, but the rest of the room remains much as it was when the house was built. A tall cupboard has been built in, and a sink with its attached drain board hangs from the wall. There is a single shelf mantel, but it appears to be decorative and not ever to have had a firebox. The original cook stove vented into the chimney behind this mantel through the wall above it.

The dining room fills the left third of the house between the front parlor and the kitchen. It is a long room with a shallow three-window bay that looks into the side yard. The room is furnished with a long formal table with high-backed antique chairs. An early Baltimore sideboard that has come down through the Huyett side of the family also graces the room.

At the head of the main stairs on the second floor, a fancy wooden fretwork decorates the entrance to the hall and the balcony over the front porch. There are five bedrooms on this level, each with mantels similar to the double-shelved ones downstairs, but none with a fireplace. They all appear to have been decoration. Another bath similar to the one on the first floor has different colored tiles on the floor. The back bedroom, built over the kitchen, has windows on three sides and is filled with light. It is accessed both from the master bedroom and from the upper porch off the hall. In one of the bedrooms is a low sea trunk bound and trimmed with iron straps, its top made of three boards gently arched. Inside a penciled inscription reads, Brought to this country from Germany 1740 by Lewis Heist’s great-grandfather.

The attic is filled with light from dormers on three sides of the hip roof and opens onto a balcony on the roof of the entrance portico. The walls are not finished, but the diamond-patterned upper sashes of the windows convey a sense of order. Metal clotheslines cross the space, and an ancient wire, once a radio antenna, loops across the ceiling.

Remarkably, except for the French doors in the entry hall and a few added radiators, Summit Hall has not been changed since Ordway Garmong’s day. The Gladhill brothers lovingly maintain their home as it was built and have filled it with family heirlooms and personal treasures as they steward their treasure on Summit Avenue into the next millennium.

Epilogue: The Gladhills have recently learned that the land beneath Summit Hall was once owned by one of their ancestors, Jacob Rohrer. They continue to maintain the house and recently had to replace the sturdy iron furnace with a new gas unit. They saved the handsome altitude gauge as a memento.

This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, February 18, 1996 as the 77th in the series.BookBanner