Seeking space, Carroll society selling an 18th-century house

Union Bridge property `just didn't work for us'

March 19, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Historical Society of Carroll County is taking an unusual step to secure more space for displaying its collection of local artifacts: It plans to sell one of the largest artifacts, an 18th-century Union Bridge house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The society's members and guests will be the first to have the chance to buy the 11-room brick dwelling known as Hard Lodging at an open house at the property from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today. The asking price is $550,000, which the society hopes to use to buy property in Westminster.

Douglas P. Velnoskey of Finksburg, the society's president and a vice president at the investment firm Legg Mason Inc, said, "If we could find someone in Carroll County to be the new owner, that would be nice, rather than someone from New York or D. C."

The property includes Hard Lodging, along with a 20th-century rancher built for the caretaker, plus 39 acres of woods and meadows on Little Pipe Creek. Built about 1790, Hard Lodging was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and has twice been on the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, said Jay A. Graybeal, the society's director.

From the front, Hard Lodging looks formidable in its stern high-Federal style -- towering above Ladiesburg Road on a 50-foot cliff.

But entering it from the rear as a breeze bangs the screen door, it is strikingly warm, with sunny rooms of antiques. Hard Lodging's 2 1/2 stories include four bedrooms, three baths, a finished attic and a cellar where bare rock from the outcrop extends inside as part of the floor and boards cut at the old sawmill form a wall.

Solomon Shepherd, the son of Scots-Irish immigrants, built the house in the 1790s for his bride, Susanna Farquhar. It became known as Rock Hall and also as Shepherd's Folly, because it was built on the hill exposed to wind. The house was renamed Hard Lodging in 1941 by its last owner, Thelma Walden Littlefield Shriner, who gave it to the society in 1983.

The society says the house fails to attract enough visitors to justify keeping it.

"House museums as a trend in museum-going is a declining trend," Graybeal said. "The board, in looking at what we offer to the public, decided that Hard Lodging just didn't work for us."

"The thing about house museums is, if it's George Washington's house, there's a continuing interest, but to see a house because its interesting architecturally -- other than seeing it decorated at Christmas -- it doesn't change," Velnoskey said. "When you have real property, there are costs in maintaining the house and grounds, as well. Costs outpace income by far, except where a there's a stream of visitors every day like Mount Vernon."

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