Berlin beauty Merry Sherwood Plantation has been converted into a bed-and-breakfast

September 13, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Climbing three flights of stairs to the widow's nest of Merry Sherwood Plantation affords a pano ramic view of forest and farms surrounding the pre-Civil War Berlin mansion.

Standing there, one can imagine Capt. Henry Johnson, its first owner, surveying his help picking cotton or tobacco in the fields of what must have been a grand estate.

Or perhaps he peered eastward toward the Trappe Creek waterway and the ocean looking for ships arriving with goods from Philadelphia or Norfolk.

It's a view now blocked by thick forests of towering trees.

Still, Merry Sherwood, recently restored to 19th century splendor as a bed and breakfast, evokes such scenarios of the past.

Billed as a "distinctive country inn," the 27-room classic Italianate style mansion, built in 1859, is the oldest historical home in Worcester County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What is particularly striking about the three-story, 8,500-square-foot home on Route 113 is that during the era it was constructed the average Worcester County home was only 15 feet by 15 feet.

What a sensation Captain Johnson, a wealthy Philadelphian, must have caused when he built the home for his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Henry, who was from a prominent Berlin family.

Elizabeth's father required his future son-in-law to build his daughter a "home of suitable proportions" on a parcel that was part of her dowry.

Built on a portion of property of an early land grant from Lord Baltimore, the home's architecture combines classic Greek revival, Italianate and Gothic influences.

Since Captain Henry's days, the mansion has had eight owners, including several well-known Berlin families.

The owner, Kirk Burbage, a Berlin native who runs the family-owned Burbage Funeral Home, is the man behind the once-abandoned estate's restoration.

The task turned to be quite an undertaking, consuming more time and money than anticipated. The Burbage family declines to divulge how much has been invested in the home.

Opened in June after a two-year remodeling project, the home features eight guest rooms, ranging in price from $95 to $150. All but two second-floor bedrooms have private bathrooms with marble floors and tiles.

Guests entering the mansion from the wraparound veranda step into another era. Red and blue etched Bohemian glass surrounds the front door.

Visitors will immediately notice a running mahogany rail and staircase, loblolly pine flooring, detailed and large-scaled baseboards, and marble fireplaces.

On the north side of the house, guests can step into an elegant ballroom. Former owners had removed partitions between two rooms to make a ballroom, which now contains a boxed piano, one of the home's few original pieces.

On the south side, visitors will find the parlor, formal dining room, a library (formerly the plantation office) and an enclosed porch.

Each room contains intricately carved furniture and antiques collected over the years by the Burbage family.

In the dining room, for example, is a formal table and chairs, made from carved rosewood, and once belonging to the Vanderbilt family.

The formal dining room is the place for guests to mingle over breakfast, which may include English-style scrambled eggs (with tomatoes on the side) or innkeeper Emily Farrand's specialty, "bubble and squeak," a dish of sausage, cabbage and cream sauce.

Guests listen to George Winston or New Age music as Ms. Farrand serves guests, who are seated six at a time. Others may await breakfast on the enclosed porch, where they are served coffee and tea.

The second and third floors contain the guest rooms, each named after a former owner. Vintage clothing has been placed in the closets to make the rooms appear lived in.

Perhaps the most striking room is the Purnell Suite, also known as the bridal suite. It features a small sitting area that steps down to the bedroom, where a wedding dress is draped over a dresser. The suite's bathroom contains a Jacuzzi.

B&B's at the Shore

Annabell's, 1001 Boardwalk, Ocean City; (410) 289-8894.

Chanceford Hall Bed and Breakfast Inn, 209 W. Federal St., Snow Hill; (410) 632-2231.

Conner's Inn Bed and Breakfast, 10th Street, Ocean City; (410) 289-7721.

Falcon Crest Inn, 501 N. Baltimore Ave., Ocean City; (410) 289-2098.

His Honor's Place, 1201 N. Baltimore Ave.; (410) 289-2630.

Holland House, 5 Bay St., Berlin; (410) 641-1956.

Merry Sherwood Plantation, Route 113, Berlin; (410) 641-2112.

The River House Inn, 201 E. Market St., Snow Hill; (410) 632-2722.

Snow Hill Inn and Restaurant, 104 E. Market St., Snow Hill; (410) 632-2102.

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