Couple giving up dream home for battlefield inn

June 10, 1994|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Sun Staff Writer

When Regina Clark and her husband, Louis, moved into their cedar home overlooking the Magothy River eight years ago, she thought she'd found her dream home.

"I told my husband, 'I don't know if I could ever leave here,' with the beautiful surroundings and the way the sun rises over the water," she said, looking down the river. "But now I am ready to move on."

The Clarks are moving to a place of history: The Piper house, headquarters of Confederate generals during the Civil War battle at Antietam.

They bought the house, along with its slave quarters, wash house and root cellar, last week and will continue to run it as a bed-and-breakfast. The house, located on slightly more than a ,, half-acre near Sharpsburg, may be the only bed-and-breakfast inn operating in the middle of a Civil War battlefield.

The Clarks learned about the house while reading a newspaper story that said it would close if no one took over the operation from the current owner, Douglas Reed. They drove out to the Western Maryland battlefield, strolled the historic area and pressed their noses against window panes to see the inside of the house.

"It's sad to see a historic home decay and fall into despair," said Mr. Clark, 56. "The Piper House needed to be saved. It needed someone to continue caring for it."

Though he received offers from across the country, Mr. Reed said he decided the Clarks were the best people to keep the house going.

"We formed an instant friendship with Mr. Reed," said Mr. Clark, a retired police officer from Oakland, Calif. "Our interest in taking care of the Piper House, combined with Mr. Reed's care in leaving the house in good hands, made for a perfect match."

Mr. Reed bought the house from the National Park Service in 1985, renovated it and turned it into an inn. It has four bedrooms -- each with its own bath -- and a wood exterior covering the original log frame.

The Clarks will move into the Piper House July 5 and greet their first guests July 8. Rooms will cost about $85 a night.

"Living in the inn will make a distinct difference because it will change the whole atmosphere of the inn," said Mrs. Clark, a registered nurse, who enjoys telling how the barn served as a medical aid station during the 1862 battle.

Confederate Gens. James Longstreet and D.H. Hill used the house as their headquarters during the Sept. 17, 1862, battle in which the Union stopped an invasion at a terrible cost to both sides. It was the bloodiest day of combat in the War. The dead and wounded numbered more than 22,000.

Park Superintendent Susan Moore said having innkeepers will be an improvement to the Piper house.

"The philosophy of a bed-and-breakfast inn is for the innkeepers to be there and have breakfast with the guests so they can learn about the inn and the Antietam battlefield," she said. Although the Clarks have never run a bed-and-breakfast inn, they said their stays at inns in Ireland and Berlin have given them ideas.

"We will have a chance to share our home and surroundings and history with people on a daily basis," said Mr. Clark, glancing at memoirs written by his great, great grandfather, a Union captain wounded near Richmond, Va.

Mrs. Clark, 53, said she plans to tell her guests how General Longstreet, wearing a bedroom slipper to ease the pain of a blistered heel and chewing an unlit cigar, ordered his officers to man the guns of wounded soldiers.

"You can just imagine the action that was going on there . . . with messengers coming in and out and riders everywhere," she said. "I'd like to think there's a ghost in the house . . . but there's not."

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