Stoll Detrick Kemp, 97, helped turn New Market into major antiques center

November 22, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Stoll Detrick Kemp, a Frederick County antiques dealer credited with turning the quiet village of New Market into a major antiques center, died Sunday of congestive heart failure in the nursing home of the Frederick Retirement Community. He was 97.

Scion of a Frederick County family that settled there in the 1730s, Mr. Kemp was considered an expert on 18th- and 19th- century American furniture and paintings.

Mr. Kemp began collecting furniture and art objects as a teen-ager while growing up in his native Frederick. He was a 1921 graduate of the Boys' High School there and of Baltimore Business College.

In 1936, he decided to open an antiques shop in a former inn on New Market's Main Street.

He saw possibilities in the quaint town lined with Federal Period and Victorian houses, which dates to 1793. The town was once a convenient stopping-off point for travelers going west by Conestoga wagon from Baltimore over the old National Pike, in the days before the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad put its tracks through the area.

He restored four houses, which attracted other dealers. Today, about two dozen antiques shops line Main Street, attracting shoppers and collectors from up and down the East Coast.

"He was the one who designated the town as `The Antiques Capital of Maryland' and also helped establish New Market Day in the early 1950s, an annual town festival held the last weekend of September," said a daughter, Elizabeth Kemp Roszel of Baltimore.

Dealers, museum curators and collectors went to his shop in the old inn, with its creaking random-width floorboards and the connecting house where his family lived. He filled both with sideboards, tall case clocks, chests of drawers, corner cupboards and portraits.

"He'd sell anything. My mother would come home from vacation and a favorite blanket chest would be gone from her bedroom," his daughter said.

"Museums were aware of him as a very fine dealer of antiques. He was an expert on Western Maryland antiques," said William Voss Elder III, consultant-curator of decorative arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art, who purchased items from Mr. Kemp for its collection.

A reserved, likable man, Mr. Kemp dressed conservatively but had a taste for jaunty tweed caps.

"He had exquisite taste, loved the 18th century and always seemed to have collector's luck," said Mrs. Roszel.

Mr. Kemp enjoyed scouring the countryside in his beige, wood-paneled Ford station wagon, hoping to find superb examples of Brandywine Valley, Pa., Maryland and Delaware cabinetwork and paintings.

His inventory made its way into the hands of private collectors, to George Washington's Mount Vernon home, and to the BMA and other museums.

"He knew who was collecting what and in what hands he could place an object that would be appreciated and preserved. His shop was his home," said Ann W. Lebherz, of Frederick, author of the three-volume Pre-1800 Houses of Frederick County. "He was always very interesting to talk to and had a wonderful dry sense of humor. He had wonderful taste and treasured what he had."

When the kitchen at Mount Vernon was restored, Mr. Kemp's shop supplied dough trays, crocks, bowls and other period kitchen implements.

In 1985, he closed the store and moved to Denton. Later, he returned to Frederick, where he lived until his death.

In 1937, he married Katherine Elizabeth Wright, who died in 1995.

Mr. Kemp was a member of Grace Episcopal Church in New Market for more than 40 years and was a junior warden there.

Services are private.

Mr. Kemp is also survived by another daughter, Ann S. Kemp of Easton; a sister, Harriet K. Fisher of Frederick; and two grandsons.

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