Around Maryland, inn crowd can spend a night in the past

April 25, 1993|By Candyce H. Stapen | Candyce H. Stapen,Contributing Writer

n Maryland, between the hundreds of miles of inlets carved into the flat profile of the Eastern Shore, and the craggy peaks of Backbone Mountain on the West Virginia border, you can find history, fine fishing, winding paths for hiking, antique shops for browsing, and many other country pleasures. Lodging at a bed and breakfast inn will only enhance your spring tour of the state.

With your room and morning meal comes the chance to chat with the hosts, who no doubt will happily tell you all about the area, from its lore to the best places for flea markets, dinner or romantic evening walks.

The following bed and breakfast inns offer a country welcome, scenic porch views and an exceptional sense of a Maryland locale.

* Merry Sherwood Plantation. This gracious Victorian bed and breakfast opened in Berlin in June 1992, may have nothing to do with Robin Hood, but after hearing the tale of its origin, you get the feeling Robin and his merry men would have approved.

The Merry Sherwood Plantation takes its name from a 1670 land grant from Lord Baltimore that encompassed the Berlin area. The inn began as a legacy, endured as a trial and ended as a tribute.

It all started when Anna A. Burbage, Kirk Burbage's grandmother, died. The prominent funeral director left $50,000 to be used for the benefit of the town. "She wanted to give something back to the community," says Mr. Burbage, the bed and breakfast's owner who grew up in Berlin.

"We all watched as this beautiful neighborhood house deteriorated year after year," he explains. "So we thought we would use the money to fix up the property, and offer it to the community as a place for special functions, and operate it as a bed and breakfast as a way of bringing in money to maintain it."

But the restoration of the 1859 mansion went many times over budget and took two years to complete. "It was all but the ruination of us," says Mr. Burbage.

Among the problems: The septic system wasn't big enough, the roof leaked, the new sprinkler system required opening the ceilings, then re-doing the ornate plasterwork. The front porch had to be rebuilt, the electrical system rewired and the 19-acre grounds had to be cleaned up.

"Every dead tree that had ever fallen was still on the grounds," recalls Mr. Burbage, "and the old axles, washers, and driers piled up in a heap in the back were so overgrown with weeds that we didn't even know about them. It took 40 dump trucks just to haul the debris from the yard."

But you should see this grande dame now. The Merry Sherwood Plantation, a combination of Greek revival, Gothic and Italianate styles, recalls its elegant past: It was a wedding present from a prominent Philadelphian who fell in love with a local young

woman. The 27-room manor house, crowned with a cupola, features 14-foot ceilings, nine marble fireplaces and loblolly pine floors, and is decorated with a gracious mix of Eastlake, rococo and country Victorian pieces. Just six miles from Ocean City, and four from Assateague National Wildlife Refuge, the inn offers easy access to the beach.

The Merry Sherwood Plantation, 8909 Worcester Highway, Berlin (410) 641-2112. Eight bedrooms, six with private bath. Daily rates beginning May 14: $125; $150 for the honeymoon suite. Price includes a full breakfast.

* The Inn at Antietam. For Civil War buffs, the Inn at Antietam in Sharpsburg is a find. This Victorian farmhouse is surrounded by the rolling hills and the simple stone monuments of Antietam National Battlefield Park, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

To aid in your exploration, hosts Cal and Betty Fairbourn keep books about the battles in each of the four guest suites. Ask to read the letter from a local man who tells relatives how the occupying forces commandeered his home and killed his livestock.

The Fairbourns gladly point out interesting trails to explore in the park, one of the least commercial and most dignified of the preserved Civil War battlefields. Walking along the Snavely Ford Trail near Burnside Bridge, where trees arch over the creek banks and the bush is full of butterflies, it's hard to believe this was the site of a killing field.

After a day of exploring, including taking a look at the nearby Civil War cemetery, go back to the inn for a game of croquet and afternoon tea. Each guest room, tastefully appointed with Victorian pieces, offers a small sitting area plus a bedroom. The first-floor smokehouse features a loft bed, brick fireplace and cathedral ceiling. Other suites feature a sleigh bed, a four-poster or an iron and brass bed. This inn offers a pastoral countryside and a peaceful place from which to contemplate history.

The Inn at Antietam, 220 E. Main St., P.O. Box 119, Sharpsburg 21782. (301) 432-6601. Four suites, each with private bath. Rates are $95 mid-week, $125 weekends, and include a full breakfast and afternoon tea. Children over age 6 are welcome mid-week; extra person $25.

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