Where Sleeping Dogs Lie, And Birds Sing


March 21, 1993|By WAYNE HARDIN

The huge red and white St. Bernard dog snuggles up to the sun-warmed pavement on the parking lot of Staub's Country Inn in Beallsville. Another St. Bernard sleeps in an open woodshed in the back of the restaurant. A third stretches out on its side in the grass, sleeping barely a yard from Maryland Route 109.

The day is windy and cold and later it will rain. It's a three-dog day in the historic crossroads village of Beallsville in the upcountry of western Montgomery County.

Beallsville (pronounce that to rhyme with fells, not feels) has remained relatively unchanged in recent years while, 2 1/2 miles down Route 109, Poolesville got public water and sewerage, and then shopping centers, stores, gas stations, a McDonald's. Not all that many years ago, each town had a population of about 300. In the area covered by its post office, Beallsville still does. Now, Poolesville's has grown to 4,000.

"Until we get public water and sewer, we're not going to grow," says Terry Coffren, 46, a clerk at the Beallsville post office and a 16-year resident of the village. "That's why people like it here so much. Poolesville can have the growth."

Ms. Coffren's post office is in the middle front of the cream-colored, shed-roofed Staub's Country Inn restaurant. The 1921-vintage restaurant wraps around the post office on three sides like a squared horseshoe.

There, Ida Leppo bakes her popular homemade pies and Joe Leppo prepares for a luncheon invasion of businessmen, construction workers and others attracted by the $3 special or his fried chicken or hamburgers or her pies. Or their dogs.

You don't have to like St. Bernards to patronize Staub's, but if you do, you'll be delighted with more than the food. The sign on the building depicts a St. Bernard. So do the menu and the napkins and the mugs. Wood, ceramic and plaster figures of St. Bernards line a shelf.

Attach no social significance to the motif, Joe Leppo says.

"I've had St. Bernards all my life," he says. "When I was looking for a logo for the place, it seemed like the natural thing to do. They're great pets."

"Those dogs are something," says Rick Carr, 36, who runs Beallsville Garage, a repair shop just down Route 28 (Darnestown Road) from Staub's. "They walk right in the road. Traffic doesn't bother them."

Mr. Carr, of Dickerson, and his brother Dave have been 18 years in their shop, a low white building shaded by pecan trees.

"We'll fix anything that breaks," Rick Carr says. "We do quite a bit with horse trailers. Lot of horse farms around here."

The intersecting of Routes 28 and 109 (Beallsville Road) forms the town's crossroads. But only Staub's and the post office still function on the four corners at that stoplight. The H. C. Darby general store building is across Route 28 but the store closed in 1974. The other lots are grassy and vacant except for a deteriorating log smokehouse.

The four corners, six nearby homes and Monocacy Cemetery make up the county's Beallsville Historic District. It received that designation in 1989. County historians cited the unincorporated town as "one of the few remaining rural crossroads communities in the county which is in a relatively unaltered state and which . . . accurately reflects the 19th and early 20th century agricultural era."

Mobility provided by the automobile after World War II and the sale of some farms to absentee owners ended Beallsville's importance as a crossroads farm community, county historians say. Still, in its current rural-residential incarnation, the town is picturesque, unhurried and, Ms. Coffren says, "close-knit and comfortable." The exception may be during rush hours, when it becomes clear why this village, 30 miles from Washington and 16 from Rockville, has a traffic light. Route 28 is a commuter route.

"From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., I'm amazed at the number of cars going through here headed to Washington and Rockville," says Howard Bodmer, who lives on Route 109. "They come from Frederick County, from Virginia . . . from West Virginia around Harpers Ferry. In the afternoon, they all come back."

Rush hours eventually end, Terry Coffren says,

"After the traffic is over," she says, "you can go outside and it's lovely and quiet. You can hear the birds sing."

+ And the St. Bernards snore.


LOOK BOTH WAYS: Route 28, dating back to the early 18th century, and Route 109, opened to the public in 1838, were important roads in the history of Montgomery County. The town was once called Beall's Crossroads. It is still named for the 18th-century Beall family.

THE MANY LIVES OF STAUB'S: Originally the site of a store and blacksmith and wheelwright shops. Current Staub Building, put up in 1921, housed the area's first automobile dealership. Also has been a garage, feed store, tack shop, "beer joint" and now restaurant and post office.

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