The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage -- celebrating its 55th year -- has long been a favorite of daytrippers. It sponsors tours in seven counties and Baltimore City. The pilgrimage opened yesterday in Wicomico County. It will continue weekends through May 16.
Today, houses will be open in Worcester County, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year. Houses range from a 1859 bed and breakfast plantation to a modern steel and glass structure built on a salt marsh. The first is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the best examples of Italianate architecture on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore. The modern structure boasts a two-story atrium and a roof deck that overlooks Trappe and Ayer creeks. Some of the houses have views of the Sinepuxent Bay, and one is built just a few feet from the Atlantic Ocean.
The pilgrimage skips Easter weekend. It resumes April 25 with tours in Talbot County, featuring 600 miles of shoreline and houses with magnificent views. In Easton you can visit the Third Haven Friends Meeting House on South Washington Street. There are actually three buildings on this 7-acre site, one of which is authenticated as the oldest building in the state. It's frame structure was started in 1682, and the first worship service was held in 1684. It is still used in warm weather. Cove Cottage is noted in the pilgrimage guide book as "one of the most charming houses" in Talbot County. It will be open along with two historic homes: the Wilderness, owned by a governor of Maryland, and Jamaica Point, an exceptional example of late Federal-style architecture. Also listed on the tour is the one-time home of actor Robert Mitchum, an early Victorian house that contains one of the few free-standing staircases in Talbot County.
The following day, pilgrims head for neighboring Queen Anne's County, named for Queen Anne of England. One of the highlights of the tour is a family compound located on a spit of land that is bordered by Eastern Bay and the Miles and Wye rivers. The grounds include two miniature lighthouses, a swimming pool, putting green and fresh water lakes. Another interesting house was built by its owner of hand-hewn pine logs.
The Anne Arundel County tour May 2 finds pilgrims visiting homes in the Annapolis area. It begins out side the Historic District in the planned community of Wardour and then moves to the Naval Academy, where tour stops include the homes of the academy's commandant and superintendent. The tour winds up in the Historic District, where pretty town gardens can be seen, along with some of the town's treasured 18th century mansions.
On May 3 homes in two of Baltimore's waterfront communities will be on view. Fells Point was laid out in the early 1760s by Edward Fell, and includes some of the city's finest 18th and 19th century residential and commercial buildings. Federal Hill also boasts a number of fine houses of similar vintage, some with views of the harbor and others with charming urban gardens.
Charles County, once the land of prosperous tobacco farms and beautiful 18th century manor houses, is now becoming urbanized. Included on the May 9th tour is the tobacco plantation farmhouse of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. It was Dr. Mudd who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg after he assassinated President Lincoln; Dr. Mudd was later charged in the conspiracy.
The pilgrimage concludes May 16 in Montgomery County with a tour of Chevy Chase. In the late 1890s, the Chevy Chase Land Company bought up vast acreages outside the District of Columbia to create planned neighborhoods, then built a trolley line to connect them with the district. Homes here range from 18th century mansions to modest bungalows and contemporary split levels, reflecting the area's steady change.
Houses are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Tickets cost $15 for a full tour or $5 for an individual home. Proceeds benefit preservation and restoration projects in Maryland. Tour books may be purchased by sending $2 to Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, 1105A Providence Road, Baltimore, Md. 21204. For information, call (410) 821-6933 weekdays, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Easter weekend sets off a round of activities in the region. For the second year Winterthur Museum and Gardens near Wilmington plans festivities for the whole family from noon to 3 p.m. on Easter Day. While parents tour the museum or enjoy the garden blooms, there will be activities for children in the garden, including traditional Easter games, face painting, and a performance by children's entertainer Ken Kaplan. Children can learn to build a bird feeder or hear Mother Goose stories. At 2 p.m. there will be a hunt for candy eggs among the evergreens in the Pinetum, where there will also be a giant bird's nest, constructed of grass and twigs, for children to climb into.