A Place For Family Memories

Dream Home

Chesapeake City House Has Plenty Of History For The Battersbys

April 20, 1997|By Bob Graham | Bob Graham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Charles and Betty Battersby's historic, three-story house is not at all what you would expect looking down from the Route 213 bridge on Chesapeake City, a Cecil County town on the path of the C&D Canal.

Below, nestled among two centuries of canal history in a town that most people see from the bridge rather than up close, is what its owners call "a family home" with beautiful hardwood floors and a growing collection of antiques.

The house is adorned in white birch woodwork, keeping the house true to the town's historic district designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chesapeake City emerged in the early 1800s because a lock for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, connecting ports in Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia with those in Baltimore and Virginia, was located in the town. It now has a population of about 800 people but swells on weekends with tourists.

Most of the Battersbys' antiques have slight imperfections, making them affordable. For instance, as she pointed out, the 1850s walnut headboard in the master bedroom has a nick, covered by some handiwork by a friend. "We could have never afforded it or any of the other stuff any other way," Betty said.

Other antiques they have collected primarily from the Yesteryear Shop in Elkton are an Empire couch in the dining room, and a marble table, an Adams mirror and a Seth Thomas clock in the living room. Throughout the house are brass and glass door knobs, some original to the house and others replaced through diligence at area flea markets.

With change all about town, the Battersbys have always maintained the family feel of the Bohemia Avenue home.

"We had grandiose ideas, things we would have liked to have done to it," Betty said. "But with kids in school, it always cost so much money."

Now the children, two girls and a boy, are grown and have moved out, but they still retain their rooms, each decorated with their own certificates, awards and knickknacks, on the second and third floors. "I don't know what they'd do if they didn't have their rooms," their mother said.

Nevertheless, the Battersbys battle what empty-nesters often face. They are at a crossroads with the house, which needs improvements and requires more work than they want to put into it. Waxing the three levels of hardwood floors alone requires both of them to work for three days. They do it twice a year, in spring and before the winter holidays.

Yet, it's the memories of the home that create the strongest bond. It is steeped in family history, fitting for Charles, who for generations has called Chesapeake City home.

Charles, a bartender at a restaurant two blocks from their house, remembers as a child visiting his aunt in the 10-room house.

He and his wife, who met on a blind date and married in 1965, lived in another of the three homes his aunt rented out. Betty had been in the Bohemia Avenue house several times for women's club activities and socials.

When his aunt's grandchildren declined to buy the house because they thought it was too big, Charles and Betty made her an offer, buying it for $28,000 in 1977.

The biggest change the Battersbys made to the house was to tear down a third-floor wall between two small rooms so each daughter would have her own large bedroom. Their son's room is on the second floor, next to the master bedroom.

Other minor changes have been discussed.

The couple plans to install a shower hed and put a shower curtain around the old-style tub in the second-floor bathroom, painted Colonial blue and white. It will follow one of the first concessions to today's world: the addition of several window air conditioners to the master bedroom, the kitchen and the second-floor den, where the television and about 1,000 books sit on shelves among a matching traditional-style blue-and-white striped sofa and armchair.

"This house used to be the perfect size for the family," Betty said. "But now for the two of us, it's just too big. It's starting to need major improvements, but we don't want to leave it. That's the hardest part of finding and living in your dream house."

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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