79 – 145-147 West Washington Street, 1903, Hagerstown, MD

The western half of Lot 90 on the original plat of Hagerstown is occupied by a late Gothic Revival structure, the only example of Gothic architecture in the central city. The two-and-one-half-story, four-bay building is laid entirely in Flemish bond with dark-glazed headers and is set on stone foundations. Its façade is divided into two halves separated by a copper downspout, dated 1903, that descends from the double-gabled roof. There are doors beneath Tudor Gothic arches in the outer bays of this building. The eastern entrance is several steps above grade because of the slope of the street, while the west entrance door opens at street level beside a small bay window. Stone mullions divide the windows, and there is a masonry belt course that ends with a small squirrel sculpture on the east and a bird on the west.

At the turn of this century, physicians routinely lived and worked in the same building. The 1903 directory of Hagerstown lists thirteen doctors on West Washington Street; and all of them lived beside, behind or above their offices. The 1892 deed for the western half of Lot 90 describes the property as …improved with a two story dwelling house, Office and other outbuildings…, indicating that the owner at that time was both living and working there.

In 1902, William Preston Miller purchased the property for $4,225. He and his brother Victor Miller were physicians, and they wanted to move their practice from the  Franklin Street offices. Victor Miller had attended the University of Pennsylvania and was impressed with the Gothic architecture there. When the brothers hired the renowned architect R. Brognard Oakie (1875-1945) of Philadelphia, this was the style they wanted. This dual-purpose building and a brick stable at the rear of the property were built in 1903. Oakie supervised the construction and rejected rail car loads of lumber that didn’t meet his standards in order to create the quality he wanted.

The office section of the building is entered through the east door, and beside this entrance is a small metal plate encircling a hole. This is one end of a speaking tube, an early intercom. This particular speaking tube was built to be blown into; and this movement of air would activate a whistle at the other end of the tube, summoning people inside. The whistle was hinged to fold out of the way when speaking.

The office consisted of a waiting room, receptionist’s area, nurses’ area, doctor’s office and a small surgery complete with an operating table and tall built-in cupboards. The woodwork is chestnut. A small corner sink with a pink marble shelf, round bowl and a tall, slender gooseneck faucet hangs in one corner. The ceilings are over eleven feet high.

The west front door enters the home through a paneled vestibule with a built-in umbrella stand and a small, interior bay window above it. Another Tudor arch filled with leaded-glass tops the inner entrance into the great hall. Wainscot of dark oak lines the walls, and heavy beams cross the ceiling. On the east wall, a massive fireplace, with a heavy mantelshelf supported by four Ionic columns, shelters a realistic gas log. On the right, the staircase rises to a landing. The balusters are heavy and turned beneath an ample handrail. To the left of the stairs, beyond the fireplace, a door with a leaded-glass window, picturing a ship in a circle, leads to what was once the library.

On either side of the library fireplace, with its simple, massive mantel, are Tudor arches holding doors that lead to what was once the dining room. This fireplace and four others in the house are finished with Mercer tiles, purchased by Dr. Victor Miller for $79.65 on July 12, 1904. These extraordinary tiles were made by Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer at his Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Mercer traveled widely and copied designs from tiles in Castle Acre Priory, a 14th century ruin near Norfolk, England. The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works still operates in Doylestown.

In 1921, Dr. William D. Campbell, a physician with five sons, purchased the house on Washington Street from the trustees of William Preston Miller’s estate. It was a daring move for the young doctor. Twenty-seven thousand dollars was a daunting commitment, but he was able to meet it. He raised his family in the home. His children hung their stockings on the mantel in the library and slid down the handrail of the stairs into the great hall. Two of Dr. Campbell’s sons became physicians and also practiced medicine in the house on West Washington Street. In 1964, their mother deeded the property to them. The practice expanded into most of the first floor of the house and the carriage house. Dr. Edgar Thrall Campbell was a radiologist, and his office was set up in the open spaces of the carriage house. The wooden clock, used to control a mechanism that would automatically feed the horses, was long gone when Dr. Thrall renovated the building and moved in his X-ray machines. The carriage house was reached both from the alley at the rear of the lot and from the yellow brick driveway that leads from Washington Street.

The present owner Dr. Robert Campbell had examining rooms built within the dining room but was careful to make them freestanding so that they could easily be removed with no damage to the room itself. The great bay window, overlooking the expansive porch, is obscured. It is still there, as are the quartered oak floor and the fireplace with its Mercer tiles. The kitchen, the last room in the house, had been converted into a laboratory; but its original cypress cupboards still hang on the walls.

Upstairs, there is a full second floor. The hall has brown lincrusta covering the dado. Originally there were five bedrooms, but four of these have been made into an apartment. The large bath is now a kitchen and retains its original white octagonal floor tiles. The third floor contains a three-room apartment that is filled with light from its many windows.

The charming garden between the house and the stable is shaded by mature trees, enclosed by stone and brick walls and crossed by a yellow brick walk. Dr. Lawrence Packer, friend and former colleague, still has his office here; but Dr. Robert Campbell no longer practices medicine. He continues to care for the place that has occupied such a large part of his life. He is meticulous about keeping things in good order, and he retains the original fabric of the buildings often by doing repairs himself. He still looks for the speaking tube’s whistle.

Epilogue: Terry and Carolyn Lenny purchased the property in 1997. They have restored the kitchen and the dining room to operate their catering business and offer private dinners in the house. The carriage house is rented as are two apartments and occasionally bed and breakfast suites. Landscaping in the backyard is nearly complete and the Lennys are about to begin restoring the east side of the house


This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, April 7, 1996 as the 79th in the series.