April is the month for house and garden tours, and among the first in the region is the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage. It begins with a walking tour in the Bolton Hill section of Baltimore on Saturday and continues for the next four weekends through May 5.
Laid out in 1845, Bolton Hill was one of the earliest districts to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Beyond the marble steps, the interiors of these fine old town houses offer a variety of tastes, decorating styles and floor plans. Many are enhanced by charming gardens.
The next tour will take place in Anne Arundel County on April 20. Holly Hill, one of the state's oldest houses, and Obligation are among the houses included. Obligation was adjacent to property where Lord Baltimore and William Penn met in 1682 to discuss the boundaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The following day the tour moves to St. Mary's County, where Maryland's original settlers landed and established their first colony. Here you will find homes with histories and waterfront views, such as Woodlawn Farm, situated on land granted in 1634 to Leonard Calvert, first governor of the colony, and Mattapany, where the third Lord Baltimore married the widow Jane Sewall.
A walking tour of Woodbrook, located just over the city line in Baltimore County, is scheduled April 26. Woodbrook was once an Indian camping ground. In 1775 it became the site of the Bellona Gunpowder Mill. Most of the homes on the Woodbrook tour were built in the 20th century on grounds that were part of the Hurstleigh estate.
Pilgrims will travel across the Chesapeake Bay to Dorchester County on April 27 and Kent County on April 28. The April 27 tour will be concentrated in the Cambridge area, where many houses have views of the Choptank River or its tributaries. Several of the buildings on the Kent County tour are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A drive to the rolling hills of Carroll County is slated for May 3. Here you'll find houses of brick and stone surrounded by rich farmlands. Pheasant Run Farm, which is being restored by its present owners, served as a country inn for a period prior to the Civil War. On the reverse side, Antrim 1844, a classic Greek revival mansion, has become a bed and breakfast inn.
On May 4 tourgoers will once again cross the bay to Somerset County to find plantation houses that recall 18th century life on the lower shore. Liberty Hall is one such property. Once the center of a small 18th century working plantation, it has been featured in national magazines and on the PBS series "This Old House" and "The Collectors." Another is Beverly, which was situated on the largest and most valuable plantation in the county.
The final day takes pilgrims to Howard County, where architectural styles reflect the old and the new. Several historic buildings in Ellicott City are on the tour as well as Oakland, home to several famous Maryland families and headquarters of one of the state's leading thoroughbred horse farms.
Houses will be open each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for a full tour or $5 for a single house. Proceeds will benefit preservation and restoration projects in Maryland. For information, call 821-6933 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
... Since the Strawberry Hill Race Weekend in Richmond, Va., next Saturday coincides with Thomas Jefferson's birthday, April 13, some of the events will be held at historic sites associated with Jefferson.
The weekend begins with an antique carriage drive on Friday from Iron Bridge Park to Magnolia Grange. The carriages come from all over the East Coast, and the public will have an opportunity to inspect them during lunchtime activities in the Old Chesterfield Courthouse area. Festivities include a lecture at the courthouse at 11 a.m., followed by picnicking on the green and free tours of Magnolia Grange. That evening a prerace dinner-dance, the Bottomley Bal du Barn, will take place at the Old Dominion Building at the state fairgrounds. Guests will be entertained during the cocktail hour with terrier races and a parade of carriages onto the fairgrounds. The dinner will be prepared from recipes used by Jefferson. Tickets cost $60 per person and reservations are required. Call (804) 643-7407.
The 59th Strawberry Hill Race takes place at the fairgrounds on Saturday. The first race at 1:30 p.m. will be preceded by a carriage drive at 10 a.m. from the Jefferson-Sheraton Hotel to the fairgrounds and the annual tailgate picnic contest. Admission is $20, free for children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult. Proceeds will benefit the Historic Richmond Foundation.
Weekend events are open to the public, but some require reservations. For general information, call (804) 228-3200.