Historic homestead on market in Carroll

Landmark: The childhood home of Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, is available for $1.3 million.

September 08, 2002|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's not often that a nationally significant historic landmark home comes up for sale. But that's just what has happened. The birthplace and childhood home of the author of our national anthem, Francis Scott Key, is on the market for $1.3 million.

The home, known as Terra Rubra, is situated on 149 acres on Keysville Bruceville Road in northwestern Carroll County. It overlooks beautiful rolling hills as well as the mountains of nearby Frederick County.

"It's hard to find a property or house on the market with such national significance," said Charen Rubin, the listing agent for the property.

Rubin is also the president of Historic Properties Associates Inc., a boutique realty in Frederick that specializes in historic properties.

"This house has everything going for it. Not only is it nationally significant, but ... its site [is] located so central to Maryland history. There's the beautiful architecture of the house, but you also have so many of the important dependencies intact," said Rubin. "You see the full scope of the agricultural history and how it relates to the community, which is very agrarian."

Even when Key went to school at St. John's College in Annapolis and later lived in Frederick and Georgetown, he thought of Terra Rubra as his home, according to Victor Weybright, who wrote the biography Spangled Banner: The Story of Francis Scott Key. And during the summer of 1814, the year Key wrote the poem that became the national anthem, his wife and children stayed at Terra Rubra.

The home is owned by the Terra Rubra Home Trust. Trustee Terri Baker has decided to sell the home after living there for almost 29 years. Baker's father, Lee Brown, bought the property in 1974 and immediately turned ownership over to the family trust. Baker then took over the home and farm. She was only 17.

While most people her age might have opted for a trendy city dwelling or a condominium at the beach, Baker decided to take on the responsibility of owning the birthplace of one of Maryland's most famous sons. "It didn't seem like a huge responsibility at the time," said Baker. "I looked at several other properties, but I really liked this as soon as I saw it. The fact that it was Key's estate was so important. It was also so pretty up here."

The vast property, outbuildings and huge bank barn that went along with the historic home were a bonus for Baker, who through the years raised goats, sheep, cattle and horses there.

"I had never been up here before. I saw the ad in the paper and fell in love with it," said Baker. "I would do it all over again. This for me was always home. And if I was still raising livestock or had [young] kids I would stay."

She and her husband, Alan, are raising two teen-agers, Alan's son Adam Baker and Terri's daughter Tenni Wigle. When the teens graduate from high school, the Bakers will be empty-nesters and have decided to downsize and move on.

"Being an empty-nester coming up soon, we decided to sell," said Terri Baker. "Going down the driveway for the last time will be sad. I've lived here for a long time."

Although the livestock operation is no longer in existence at Terra Rubra, a few animals still grace the farm, including Flash, a basset hound; Rocky, a beagle; and Louie, a pot-bellied pig. About 90 acres of the property are leased and farmed by a local farmer and descendant of a past owner of Terra Rubra.

The original 1770 house was damaged by a storm in 1856. The brick exterior was rebuilt in the vernacular German federal style architecture. Most of the infrastructure, millwork and a section of the flooring remain from the original house. Six fireplaces and mantels are found throughout, three of them in working order.

The original architectural detail can also be found in the beaded boards, hand-forged hardware, molding and doors. Front and back staircases still exist, and the house is of hand-hewn beam construction.

But not everything in the house is old. Over the years it was continually restored, updated and expanded, mixing in many luxury amenities with the original, historic features, all set in a cozy, country decor.

The gourmet kitchen was built four years ago with granite countertops, floor-to-ceiling custom cabinets and a stove with custom copper hood. The original cooking hearth with built-in pine millwork and cabinets remain.

Next to the kitchen are an enclosed back porch with slate floors and a sunroom with cedar walls and a panoramic view of the pond.

In 1900, the old springhouse was moved to the rear of the main house and converted into a bedroom and den.

The two rooms that are most reminiscent of the federal style architecture are the dining room and front parlor or living room. The dining room features a large reproduction chandelier, built-in cupboards and six-panel door. The living room has a mantel, oak pegged floors over the existing old floor, and shoe and ceiling molding.

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