On the day before the 2009 Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage opened, co-chair Hilles Whedbee hosted a luncheon for 70 volunteers at her northern Baltimore County home. She has attended most of the tours this month and on Sunday she will open Shawan House, a Georgian brick colonial that overlooks Western Run Valley, to about 400 visitors.
She works full time as a nurse midwife, is planning graduation parties for both of her daughters and is going about sprucing up her home and its spacious grounds without anxiety.
"I am a working mother, who has the great good fortune to live in this lovely home," she said. "I am not stressed about showing it off. Actually, I am thrilled to share the house."
Whedbee has told other homeowners on the tour to expect a steady stream of guests, but not to fret. Fill the home with flowers that will hide a multitude of sins, she advised.
Shawan House maintains much of its 18th-century flavor and is furnished with heirlooms from generations of the family that has owned it since 1909.
"It has a good flow with a center hall that will let pilgrims loop through without backtracking," she said. "Then, they can spill out into the gardens."
Those include a rock garden with water features, which she and her husband, Tom, restored last year, bowers of roses and the landscaped grounds surrounding an elegantly tiled pool, built when Tom was a child.
The home is one of six Baltimore County stops on the last day of the tour that began in Queen Anne's County April 25 and continued on succeeding weekends in St. Mary's, Harford and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore city. Proceeds from each benefit local preservation projects.
As they make their way through Western Run and Worthington valleys, visitors will see remodeled fieldstone homes, a farmhouse restored with Japanese influences, including a lakeside tea house, and an 11,000-square-foot stone-and-timber structure inspired by a mountain lodge design. Bosley Methodist Church, dedicated in 1877, will show off its bell tower and raise funds with $12 boxed lunches for visitors.
Shawan House debuted on the 1966 pilgrimage and is making its second appearance. The event began in 1930 with a 50-cent admission. It now draws about 6,000 visitors. Tickets are $35, available at the door of each site or online at www.mhgp.org.
Whedbee plans to display 1966 photographs that show much of the same furnishings that have been passed down. The hunt board in the photos still adorns the wide entrance hall that runs from the front entry to the back door. An open stairway winds to the second floor, its banister melding into the upper floor's railing.
Walter Tolly Worthington constructed the original home in the mid-1700s. His son John planned to expand with a central hall and east wing, until a disastrous card game dashed his finances, according to local lore. The remaining work on the three-story, nine-bedroom home was completed in the early 20th century by C. Wilbur Miller, Tom Whedbee's grandfather.
"You have to look closely at the entry to see the slight difference in the brick," Hilles Whedbee said.
Contrasts between amenities that date to the home's origins in the 18th century and those of the electronic age are most evident in the family's favorite room, a den just off the kitchen in the oldest wing. A floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace, filled with antique cookware and utensils, takes up most of the far wall. A pellet stove replaced the hearth years ago and a computer and flat screen TV compete for space among the cozy furnishings.
"This is a house to live in and enjoy," Whedbee said. "It does well with people."