Two partners revive the past in Baltimore County

January 03, 1993|By Wayne Hardin | Wayne Hardin,Staff Writer

Marion V. Runkles 3rd and Ed Shaneybrook don't seem like fighters, sitting there in the 1787 log kitchen at the rear of the 1800 brick house, attacking a breakfast of pancakes, sausages and coffee.

Mr. Runkles, 53, in short-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants, thick black hair and heavy mustache, looks a bit like a calm Gene Shalit without the big glasses. Mr. Shaneybrook, 44, in beard, receding hair, blue flannel shirt, jeans and brown lace-up work boots, could be a lumberjack ready to hit the timber.

But despite appearances, they now are in their 15th year of battling to save and authentically restore the historic Weisburg Inn in northern Baltimore County.

A 19th-century black wood-burning stove sends a feel-good warmth through the kitchen from its post near the fireplace. A giant gardenia, brought inside to protect it from freezing, rests in a half-barrel on a cart, dropping yellow leaves on the plank floor. "We're clearing a good spot for it in one of the parlors," Mr. Runkles says.

"We" is the operative word here. He and Mr. Shaneybrook are partners -- in restoration of the inn, where they live, in fighting bureaucracy, and in the rug business.

The inn is a two-and-a-half story, Federal-style brick building with big chimneys at both ends. A hedge, cropped short in front of the house and left tall on both sides, separates the house from York Road. The log kitchen extends from the back. Outbuildings include a barn, a chicken house, a wash-house and some Partners maintain historic inn in northern Baltimore County sheds. The house and kitchen together comprise 13 rooms. The brick house has eight fireplaces. Another structure on the grounds houses Shaneybrook Oriental Rugs, which repairs and restores antique rugs.

Mr. Runkles: "I provide the real estate. Ed runs the business."

"I take care of the rug business," Mr. Shaneybrook agrees. "Marion takes care of everything else."

L The men come to this partnership from different backgrounds.

Mr. Runkles grew up in Frederick County. Mr. Shaneybrook was born and raised on a farm outside Mount Washington where Pikesville High School is today.

Mr. Runkles studied piano at Peabody Prep, graduating in 1957, and has a degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia

Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg. Mr. Shaneybrook is a dropout; he left Sudbrook Junior High School in the ninth grade.

A day after dropping out of school, he got a job repairing electrical motors and small appliances; he started the rug business at age 16.

Mr. Runkles worked 14 years as a mechanical engineer -- and found the Weisburg Inn in the community of Wiseburg, north of Hereford, south of Parkton, at the York and Wiseburg roads T-intersection.

'It's perfect'

"After I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1962, I got a job with AAI in Cockeysville," he says. "I moved in with my parents in Mount Airy and commuted. It was 44 miles one way, an awful commute in those days. I started looking for something closer.

"One day, I got off the expressway at Middletown Road, drove over toward York Road, looked down the hill and saw the house with those big double end-chimneys. I said, 'It's perfect. I've got to have it.' "

And have it he did, buying the house that German immigrant John Weise probably built and 5 1/2 overgrown acres from the Archdiocese of Baltimore for $6,000.

First, he took off the front porch which was "about to fall down" and left it off when he found it wasn't original. Then he set to work making the vandalized house livable.

"I wish I had a dollar for every window pane I replaced," he says.

Research showed that John Beerum (or Byrum) bought 200 acres and built what is now the log kitchen. John Weise, who later dropped the "e" on his name, probably built the house, they say, in front of the cabin. The house became the stage coach stop on the 1808 York Turnpike between Baltimore and York and a centerpiece for social and political activity until it ceased being an inn in 1890. (The community name now is Wiseburg, adding a third spelling of Weise.)

Ed Shaneybrook arrived in 1975, setting up his rug business in a wagon shed. A year later, local historians Shirley and Clarence Clemens found out the interior restoration of the inn was all wrong.

"All anybody knew when I started was the Williamsburg look," Mr. Runkles says. "The whole place was Williamsburg -- Chippendale chairs and Queen Anne tables and all.

"Then the Clemenses came along and said, 'Why don't you let us do some research, and we'll get the inn on the National Register of Historic Places? You just pay our expenses.' We said we'd be glad to."

Working in county, city and state archives, the Clemenses uncovered inventories, including a detailed one of 1835 by Weise's successor, Peter Smyser, that listed almost everything in the building and on the property. The inn was listed on the National Register in 1980.

"In 1977, we started all over again," Mr. Shaneybrook says. "We realized the importance of the place."

True to the past

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