Preserving a family farm Heritage: Orendorff Farm is 'an extremely well-preserved example of mid-19th-century farmhouse architecture,' says a Carroll County planner.

November 09, 1997|By Sunny Kaplan | Sunny Kaplan,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

WESTMINSTER - Farmers on their way to Gettysburg for supplies would ride their horse and buggies past John Orendorff's farmhouse, a grand three-story brick home with 15 rooms, a two-fireplace parlor and four balconies overlooking the rolling terrain.

The road is gone, but the house, built in 1861 with bricks molded and burned on site, still stands.

The Orendorff Farm now shares a common bond with Graceland, San Simeon and 69,000 other historically significant properties in the United States: a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It is an extremely well-preserved example of mid-19th-century farmhouse architecture," said Kenneth Short, a historic planner with the Carroll County Department of Planning. "It also contains a good collection of buildings which help to convey a sense of what a Carroll County farm was like in the period."

The farmhouse is one of the largest in the county and many of the farm's original outbuildings still stand, including a brick outhouse and smokehouse.

A stone plaque inscribed "John Orendorff A.D. 1861" is on a southeast chimney, and except for a few panes, all of the windows contain their original glass.

A slave cemetery also is believed to be on the property, Short said.

The current owners, Buck and Peg Harrison, are working to restore the farmhouse, and expect the task to be a long-term project.

"It is going to be in progress for the next 15 years," Buck Harrison said. "But we can start visualizing what it will be like in five to 10 years. ... There is so much potential."

The 31.6-acre farm begins with the grain silos next to the red frame barn. From around the last bend in the road emerges the elaborate, east side of the 4,000-square-foot farmhouse sitting up on a hill. The plastic sheeting on the second-floor balcony is the lone reminder that the house has made it to the late 20th century.

The formal entrance on the south side, which sits along the edge of the gravel road, is now boarded up, and English boxwoods block what was a brick entryway.

Every room in the house has a fireplace except for two small rooms on the north end, which the Harrison children selected for their bedrooms. Eight-year-old Kristen's room was once part of the slaves' quarters.

An oblong sitting room with two fireplaces once served as the social center of the home.

Wood furniture passed down from Peg Harrison's family is scattered about the house, and a large mahogany bed from the Orendorff family is in the first-floor guest bedroom.

The surrounding farmland was once used for growing corn, barley, wheat, oats, hay, alfalfa and soybeans, Harrison said.

Now, the land is almost bare except for an occasional crop of soybeans and hay, but the state's agricultural preservation program protects it from development.

The original outbuildings are another unique feature of the Orendorff Farm.

The outhouse still has its original three seats cut into a wood box in sizes small, medium and large.

"It is usually a building that is not given much lavish treatment," Short said. "So to construct it in brick with three seats is rather unique."

The smokehouse walls are covered with black soot, and an original wood centerpiece stands in the center of the building with wrought-iron hooks attached to tiers of arms.

The frame barn was rebuilt in the 1920s after being leveled by a fire, and is used today to store hay, farm equipment and cars. Part of it has been converted into a breeding area for dozens of white, brown and multicolored rabbits that live in the wire cages lining the walls.

Behind the barn is a frame hog pen and wagon shed, two poultry houses and a feed house. One of the poultry houses now holds doves, fan-tail pigeons and banty hens and roosters.

John Orendorff, a Pennsylvania farmer, and his wife, Mary, purchased the land in the late 1830s, according to National Register documents. The land had been in the Orendorff family since 1813.

Orendorff's investments put him among the wealthiest 5 percent of Carroll County residents, and he was considered more of a businessman who ran a farm operation than a farmer, Short said.

Carroll County tax records show that in 1841 the property was 217 acres and worth $10,850. Orendorff had $2,233 worth of livestock, and owned three slaves, two males and one female aged 14 to 46, Short said.

The farm was sold out of the Orendorff family in 1914 to Jacob Isanogle for $12,352. He held on to the farm until 1938.

James and Maude Rupp of Philadelphia owned it until it was purchased in 1948 by Paul and MaryAnn Shipley, Peg Harrison's parents.

When the Shipleys bought the house, there was no indoor plumbing, and a cistern fed water to the second floor and the basement.

Paul Shipley was a dairy farmer, but on weekends he whisked his family away on his 180 Cessna for day trips to Ocean City, N.J. The silver building that served as an airplane hanger still stands on the side of the gravel road en route to the farm.

When it was time to take the plane out, a portion of the alfalfa field was cleared as a landing strip, said Mary Ann Shipley.

The Shipleys still live on the farm in a small home built in 1986 that is next to the main house. Their daughter and her husband bought the farm two years ago.

"We came back here to raise our kids on the farm near their grandparents," Buck Harrison said.

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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