Old tavern coming to life

Renewal: A former Florida resident is restoring a historic Taneytown building.

August 14, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

When Cory Sanford saw the old stone tavern last fall, he knew it was the place he'd been looking for and planned to make it his home. But there was no tavern in Taneytown to have a celebratory drink to his purchase of the city's oldest building.

That's why the 1760 building will again be the Old Stone Tavern, Sanford said last week, standing amid walls and floors stripped to their original beams and stone.

"I had visited German taverns. I loved how they were constructed, and I found this little building in Taneytown. I looked high and low," he said. "I do a lot of traveling. When I saw the Old Stone Tavern, that was it."

Sanford, a 40-year-old transplant from South Florida who has worked as a chef, caterer and singer, now makes his home in Taneytown. Aided by a trust fund from his family, which includes great-grandfather Henry Clay Frick, the Pittsburgh coke and steel industrialist, he now devotes his time to restoring the building.

He originally intended it as a residence and lived in the building for six months. But, Sanford said, he kept hearing people call it the Old Stone Tavern, and he realized what he should do: make it a tavern again on the town square, "which once had a bar on every corner."

Sanford said he found the building with the help of his sister-in-law, who lives in Frederick, and paid $203,000 for it. He expects to spend almost that much on renovations and will decorate with art and family heirlooms.

The building may be gutted now, but things are going well, said Sanford, dodging piles of lumber and holes in the floor to show off what will be the main dining room and bar, and outside courtyard.

A private dining room is planned for upstairs, as well as living space.

He hopes to open for business in late October or early November as "a place to have a really nice meal - taverny foods like prime rib, cobbler - where people can go and really have a nice time without having to go to Westminster or Frederick."

The renewal of the Old Stone Tavern is part of a beautification project downtown, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Taneytown, which last year celebrated its 250th anniversary, recently has seen the renovation of the 1887 Taneytown Bank into a Chamber of Commerce headquarters and history museum. Renovation of the city hall is in the works.

Across from the tavern, a historic marker commemorates George Washington's stay in July 1791 at the Adam Good Inn.

Historical visitors?

Though there is no record of it, Sanford suggested that both Washington and Abraham Lincoln probably stopped in at his tavern as well. Lincoln supposedly signed a brick that he hopes to uncover, Sanford said.

Nancy McCormick, Taneytown's economic development director, said of the tavern renovation: "I just think it's one of the best things that ever happened to downtown. We're looking forward to it."

The fieldstone building at 5 Frederick St. had most recently been a residence and a bookstore, McCormick said.

The building has a stone dated 1760 and it is listed in the city's first property inventory in 1763, Sanford said. Some of the tavern's wooden-pegged beams show black soot from a fire that destroyed the wooden corner section of what was an adjoining hotel, now the site of a coffeehouse at Baltimore and Frederick streets.

"It's a town that really works with you and supports you in your dream," Sanford said of the Taneytown officials and business people. "It's really different from South Florida."

Although he had a catering business in Florida, Sanford said his role at the tavern would be limited to "some cooking - more supervising and running the place, being a goodwill ambassador and probably bartender from time to time."

Making discoveries

Sanford and his 19-year-old nephew, A.J. Kraus, showed an assortment of things found behind the walls and under the floors, which are insulated with pine needles, paper, lambs wool, horsehair, mud and moss - so snug that Sanford wore shorts in the winter while the fireplaces blazed.

They've found part of an old gilded wooden sign, laundry bills, marbles, pipe stems, coins, broken glasses and a child's school book, with state capitals and maxims such as "Time changes; all things change," in faded ink.

"We're re-milling the old floors," he said, showing chestnut boards to be used for paneling in the bar. He points to an attic beam that was more than 200 years old when it was cut.

"There were floors under floors, walls behind walls. ... Now it's a matter of putting her back together," he said. "We're utilizing every space, like you would on a boat."

"We're really restoring history and giving it back to the public. It's Taneytown's building. I just happen to own it," he said. "Everybody has a love for this building. It's really Taneytown."

Now settled in Taneytown, Sanford has begun to serve on its streetscape committee.

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