Union Mills tourist site selling the item


January 20, 1995|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

The Union Mills Homestead, family home of the Shrivers of Maryland, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Carroll County.

Now, visitors can take a memento of the nearly 200-year-old farmhouse and surrounding buildings home with them, thanks to the Union Mills Homestead Foundation's latest fund-raiser.

A 50-inch-by-65-inch cotton woven coverlet features nine Homestead scenes and can be used either as a sofa cover or wall hanging.

"One of our members saw a coverlet from another community and suggested it," said Esther Shriver, the Homestead's executive director. "It was a big undertaking -- we needed a minimum order of 225 to do it -- but the board said to go ahead."

The Homestead took advance orders last year through Nov. 1, sold the required 225 and has ordered another 75. Because the coverlets have been so popular, the Homestead's gift shop will keep them in stock at least through this summer, Mrs. Shriver said. They sell for $50 plus tax.

The coverlet's design was chosen by Mrs. Shriver, who used the Homestead's logo for the center of the piece, surrounded by eight scenes of the farm from old photographs and sketches.

Riddle Manufacturing of North Carolina used the photographs and sketches to create the final design on computer before making the coverlets in three colors -- Williamsburg blue, hunter green and cranberry red.

"I was just so thrilled when they came in -- they sent us a sample coverlet, and all I'd seen was the black and white computer photograph," Mrs. Shriver said. "But they stayed very faithful to the originals."

Depicted on the coverlet are front and back views of both the 1797 farmhouse and 1830 gristmill, the Miller's house, the three-seat privy, the white bridge over the mill race and the sundial on the tannery.

The scenes are bordered by grape vines, with a bunch of grapes in each corner, the legacy of Elizabeth Shriver Kemp, the Homestead's last resident.

"She was great with grapevines," Mrs. Shriver said. "The back yard was just filled with them and she made her own wine. She also painted the grapevines in the breakfast room of the %J farmhouse."

To accommodate the family and farm workers, the farm's privy had three seats -- small, medium and large, Mrs. Shriver noted.

The sundial on the tannery, copied on the new building after a fire destroyed the original tannery a few years ago, "still keeps perfect standard time," she said.

With Homestead members all over the country, the gift shop has sent coverlets as far away as California, New Mexico and Arizona.

One member bought a coverlet for each of her 12 children, Mrs. Shriver said.

Although the Homestead is closed for the winter, orders are still being taken and appointments can be made to pick them up. Orders can be placed by calling the Homestead at 848-2288, and Mrs. Shriver will answer the messages.

The coverlet is one of several specialty items the Homestead Foundation has approved in recent years. Prior to the coverlet, the foundation had ceramic replicas of the gristmill made up by Curtis and Associates of Sykesville.

A faithful recreation of the old gristmill, which is still used, the ceramic building sells for $49.95 and is part of a limited edition collection of old mills, Mrs. Shriver said.

A few of the mills remain in the gift shop, along with the standard souvenir items such as shirts, hats, bags and cards. A video of the history of the Homestead also is for sale.

Money from the specialty items sold through the gift shop and events held at the Homestead is used to preserve the farm buildings and furnishings, as well as depicting the way of life 200 years ago.

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