Walking into Tudor Hall last weekend was like walking back in time. Gone were modern-day problems, replaced by the chivalry, elegance andsimplicity of a grand Civil War-era ball.
Tudor Hall -- a 150-year-old Gothic Revival two-story, once the home of the Booth family, including John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln's assassin -- seemed the perfect setting as 50 people, dressed in period costumes, danced to the music of the 19th century.
"It's like going back in time, with the gaslight and the candlelight," said Ann Phillips of Fallston, president of the Preservation Association of Tudor Hall, a non-profit group that raises money to restore and maintain the house.
Phillips was wearing a pastel and lacedress with a large hoop skirt and fanning herself to keep cool in the quaint but hot house, located off Route 22 just north of Route 543.
"Back then," she said, "gentlemen were chivalrous, and everyone was courteous."
Still, Phillips said, the proverbial good ol' days may not have been as grand as many assume, considering the high mortality rate and the lack of plumbing.
"But we all tend to romanticize the past. We tend to fantasize about it."
John Obenland of Monrovia looked more like a relic from the 19th century than the lawn mechanic he really is. Obenland said he attended the $45-a-couple ball because of his interest in re-enactments from the era.
"I re-enact the Civil War to give the modern-day person an idea of what it was really like," he said. "But it's more than that. It's a learning experience. I've been doing it for nine years, and I'm still learning (from)the people I talk to and the things I see.
"You can read all you want, but until you've lived it you can't get a realistic outlook."
And no one at the affair probably has a more realistic view than Howard and Dorothy Fox, who own and live in the old Booth home.
Not only did the couple restore much of the house to its original look, but they have made it a home and open it up to the public at least oneday a week.
In the mid-1960s, the house was in total disrepair, Dorothy Fox said.
"I thought it was going to be my Shangri-la," shesaid. She said she had no idea that the house used to belong to the Booth family, including the infamous son.
"Then all these Civil War people and historians started coming up here and we started to crack the history books," she said.
Once they realized the historical significance of the house, the couple decided to help start a restoration group and to open the house to the public.
"We don't mind having people come in and out of here," Fox said. "We're 'people people.'
"Unfortunately, we don't have too many people from Harford County. I think because of the John Wilkes Booth aspect, they'd rather seeus just go away."
Myra-Ann Rutledge of Timonium, spokeswoman for the preservation association, said the group was founded in the mid-1980s, and since its inception more than 500 members from around the world have joined.
Rutledge said many are drawn to the organizationby the Booth family and its theatrical history.
John Wilkes Booth's father, Junius Brutus Booth, was an actor in England who moved to the United States and made a successful career in acting before settling down in the Baltimore area, Rutledge said.
He purchased the Tudor Hall property and began construction but died before it was completed, Rutledge said. His six children, including Edwin and John Wilkes, were both raised in the house, she said, pointing to a carving on one of the original windows that is believed to have been made by John Wilkes.
Now the house is open to the public on Sundays and also serves as a bed-and-breakfast inn.
However, past patrons of the bed and breakfast warn that if you sleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms, you may hear ghosts.
"There's all kinds of wonderful ghost stories," Rutledge said.
"Particularly ghost stories about two men talking to each other."