85 – Lantz-Zeigler Farm, circa 1800, near Leitersburg, MD
Along Leitersburg Pike, just east of the bridge over Antietam Creek, a fringe of trees obscures a knot of buildings, and a sign announces: Heimers Old Lantz-Ziegler Farm. In 1952, the road was relocated to cross the creek a little south of the old three-arch stone bridge, which was then removed. Behind the sign, on the other side of the trees, is a scene from another time. A stretch of narrow, old turnpike lies in front of the farmstead, separated from it by a substantial stone retaining wall set well back from the roadway. Stone steps lead up into the yard. The house is built of coursed limestone with five bays and a central entrance sheltered by a new one-story porch. Stone jack arches top most openings, and a rude water table runs across the front façade. An iron pump stands in the yard to the east, serving a hand-dug, brick-lined well, and beyond it is an ample fenced garden. Windows on the first level of the house have twelve-over-twelve pane sashes while those on the second are twelve-over-eight. To the rear, extending north from the main block of the house is a four-bay wing with a stone first level and frame second story. The horizontal boards on the west side of this wing are incised to imitate cut stone. The east side of the wing shelters a double porch and is clad in German siding at the second level.
(click on any image for a larger view)
The Lantz-Ziegler house is remarkable for the amount of original detail that remains and the building techniques that it demonstrates. The floor plan is typical for the time: a center hall with one long room on the right and two on the left. The second floor has two rooms on either side of the hall. Most interior doors have six panels, which are raised on one side and flat on the other. These doors, hung on great wrought-iron strap hinges, are commonly called cross and bible doors because of the pattern the stiles and rails make with the panels. Chair rails are set into the walls of every room; windows are trimmed with a single piece of molding placed along the inside edge of the jambs, and doors have wide woodwork edged with ovolo molding. The rear room on the first floor of the original structure had no ceiling, but the joists and bottoms of the upstairs floorboards were painted black and stenciled or stamped with a simple, yellow, leaflike pattern. A small sample of this is still displayed. The roof is supported by a system of three pairs of principal rafters mortised into purlins that carry the common rafters. Common rafters also lie atop the gables but here they are not attached in any way to the purlins, whose ends are independently supported by the gables. There is no ridge board, so, after nearly 200 years the roof ridge undulates gently.
The house has a number of unusual features. The interior walls are quite thin. They were constructed by framing the doors and setting vertical posts that were connected with a lattice of branches. This was covered with a clay and hair mixture and then plastered–a sort of new world wattle and daub.
The paneled jambs of the main entrance flare decidedly toward the interior of the house so that the two doors, set flush with the interior wall, are several inches wider than the modern storm doors that have been added at the face of the exterior wall. This appears to be a late 19th century remaking of the original entrance. The jack arch over the doorway is the same size as those above the windows, but the substantial wood framing is missing and has been replaced by the narrow jamb panels. Some of the stonework along the interior of the wall seems to have been removed to widen the doorway thereby creating the angled jambs.
The house has six fireplaces. The opening of the one in the living room on the east side of the house is five feet high, six feet wide and three feet deep. The fireplace in the rear room on the west of the main block has an opening four feet high and five feet wide, while the one at the end of the wing is a mammoth eight feet wide and four-and-a-half feet high and still holds its cranes. Each of these fireplaces was fitted with folding doors to close the firebox when it was not being used. Some of these doors still function as they were intended.
In 1775, Christian Lantz, a mason from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, purchased a 476 acre tract from John Reiff for £2,350, a considerable sum of money at that time. This parcel contained parts of lands patented as Tryall, Well Taught, Resurvey on Well Taught, Good and Skipton-on-Craven. Lantz probably built the first mill on the Antietam near Leitersburg, and he served on the Committee of Safety from Upper Antietam Hundred during the Revolutionary War. Lantz died in 1798, and part of his holdings were inherited by his son George who was married to Barbara Ziegler. Herbert C. Bell in his History of Leitersburg District credits George Lantz with building, …the stone mansion along the turnpike.., about the year 1800. Court records show that Lantz died in 1801 at the age of 35 and that his daughter Rose Ann who married Frederick Ziegler inherited his home.
Ziegler trained as a carpenter, became a contractor in partnership with his brother, and then engaged in farming and distilling. He also owned a mill and large tracts of real estate. A pillar of his community, he was, …careful and methodical in his business habits and was noted for close attention to details.., according to Bell who adds, The product of his distillery was sold through commission merchants in the cities and enjoyed a high reputation. (Pun intended?) An old map shows the distillery located at two sites on Lehman’s Mill Road near the farm.
Frederick and Rose Ann Ziegler had twelve children. One of them Frederick K. Ziegler followed his father’s business interests and inherited the farm after his death in 1857. Frederick K. was also involved in building turnpikes and the B&O Railroad as well as farming. He was elected to the House of Delegates and served as sheriff. He and his wife Louisa Swailes had eleven children. This successful, prosperous family was able to invest in their home, and it evolved over the years. The stone first story of the wing was added to the formal main block of the house early in the 19th century. The rear room of this wing would have served as the kitchen with its great fireplace. Toward the end of the century, the roof of the wing was raised, and a second story with double porches was added. This presented the problem of how to create an entrance between the second floors of the two sections of the house. This was solved by adding steep stairs with a “good morning landing” joining the main stairs in the center hall.
To the west of the house is a stone outbuilding with three windows and a west-facing door. The gables have been cut back so that the roof has but a single slope toward the creek. This building is several feet below the level of the yard, which has been raised and is held by the stone retaining wall that runs along the front and the western side of the house. At one time, before this wall was built, the land sloped both south and west away from the house toward the creek and the road. An arch-topped root cellar lies under the wing of the house with an infilled arch at its west end, indicating that its entrance once faced the creek, and probably opened at ground level. The basement under the south half of the main house also displays an infilled arch which would have opened under the main entrance. This year, flood waters have been over a foot deep in the old stone outbuilding. When similar rains fell in 19th century storms, they probably inundated the basement and root cellar of the main house as well. To prevent a recurrence, their entrances were closed and new ones opened on the east side of the building. The retaining wall was then built and the yard filled and leveled behind it. The amount of earth moved to complete this job, without benefit of backhoes and bucket loaders, is mind-boggling.
The Ziegler family sold the farm in 1943, and it was not until 1980 that Midge and Glenn Heimer purchased it. For some years before the Heimers arrived, the old buildings were not upgraded, and routine maintenance was deferred. The house was last lived in by a group of youngsters who painted it vivid colors, then it was not rented at all and stood empty. Over the years, the Heimers have repaired damage, replicated missing pieces of moldings and installed new systems; but theirs has not been an effort to restore, but rather to make a comfortable home for themselves. They have always tried not to destroy any of the original fabric of the house while introducing modern comforts. When they moved the kitchen to the front room of the house, they were careful to cut around all the original moldings so that a later owner could return the room to its original condition. As they continue their effort to be good stewards, the Heimers are beginning the process of nominating their home to the National Register of Historic Places. This remarkable home is yet another example of the ingenuity and talent of our forebears.
Epilogue: In June 1998, Amelie Lavenant-Wink and her husband David Wink purchased the property. Thanks to prior efforts the Heimers put toward its nomination, the Lantz-Ziegler House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, on October 8, 1998. As a result of their home’s new status, the Winks were able to take advantage of the Maryland Rehabilitation Tax Credits now available to them and pursued some interior renovations. These included installing two separate heat pump air handling systems to improve air circulation in the old and newer parts of the house.
They also went forward with underpinning the basement wall of the 1940s addition at the rear of the house, recommended by their structural engineer. In accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as administered by the Maryland Historical Trust, they also did extensive renovating to the second floor ell, in time for the arrival of their first child Adelaide, born in the spring of 1999. They kept essentially the same floor plan.
Over the last decades, the floor on the porch side sagged several inches. They lifted the floorboards and the joists below were reinforced. Damaged boards were also replaced. The floor was returned and sanded, then stained and sealed to a warm golden brown finish. While the floor was up, they were able to extend existing plumbing lines into the renovated space, thereby providing a new full bathroom upstairs, and a powder room directly below. New storm doors were installed on the side porch and the exterior frame and stucco portions of the house welcomed a new coat of paint.
At the same time, conservation was pursued outside the house. Five of the twelve and three-quarters acres still remaining with the house were set aside for use in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a state and federal conservation program dedicated to providing a riparian forest buffer. The mostly native trees, as well as the Winks, are doing well.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, November 3, 1996 as the 85th in the series.