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Women Helping Their Community

11th Hagerstown Women’s Club House and Garden Tour: Fundraiser Continues Club’s Philanthropy

By Jane Schmidt and photos by Turner Photography Studio

Whether you’re a home decorating or gardening enthusiast or enjoy visiting historic homes to venture back into our area’s rich history, the Hagerstown Women’s Club 11th Hour and Garden Tour to be held Saturday, June 15, offers something for everyone.

The self-guided tour provides an exciting, inspirational journey into nine notable homes and colorful, breathtaking gardens located throughout Washington County.

“This year marks our 11th tour,” shares club member Carol Brashears. “We are excited to have a wide variety of homes and gardens scheduled this year, including properties of club members. Four National Register of Historic Places designated homes are featured, including the Hagerstown Women’s Club building. We have two artists participating. Some homes are newly built and highlight many of today’s technologies, while others played integral roles in local history.”

The tour also features properties with spectacular gardens, from intimate, whimsical patio-villa styles to sweeping backyard vistas and inspiring sculptural gardens.

The Hagerstown Women’s Club House and Garden Tour, held every three years, is a fundraiser for the club’s foundation. The foundation’s earnings support preserving the club’s historic building and its extensive community outreach efforts, including on-site, affordable dormitory-style housing for eligible single women of limited means, the only place of its kind in Hagerstown.

“We are here to assist women by providing affordable, safe housing,” explains club member Sharon Poland. “Some of our older residents have no family and have been with us for years. Our building has since become their home,” adds Carol. The club works with local churches and programs like REACH shelter and CASA to maximize awareness of the housing program to eligible single women. Additionally, members volunteer with several organizations, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army, St. Mark’s Food Bank, and support many local charities.

The Hagerstown Women’s Club was organized in September 1921 and began as The Forward Club. Ann Gans, the group’s first president for eight years, was aunt of renowned chef Julia Child. It was designed to engage women in both civic and philanthropic work, provide informational and educational programs for its members plus women within the community, and host social events, all continuing to this day. “We are home to Crossroads Federated Garden Club and host location for the live taping of ‘Prime Time for Women’ show hosted by Bernadette Wagner. We are honored to be doing this for her and the women in the area she is reaching,” shares Carol.

Four properties on this year’s Women’s Club House and Garden Tour are on the National Register of Historic Places, providing an in-depth look into the vast history of Washington County. 

The Hagerstown Women’s Club, which has 224 active members, moved its headquarters to its current historic location on South Prospect Street in 1924. Adjacent gardens to the circa 1838 Federal-style home are maintained and created by Crossroads Federated Garden Club. “The house was built by Susan Hughes, some-thing highly unusual for the time period,” explains Carol.

The Wroe Family bought it and entertained Gen. Robert E. Lee when he came through Hagerstown from Gettysburg. The Women’s Club building features many original architectural details and period furnishings. It includes a full kitchen; auditorium, where Jean Stapleton and her husband, William Putch, director/producer of the Totem Pole Play-house, performed during the 1960s; formal dining room, and parlors, all available for rent to the community for business and social gatherings. 

Cool Hollow House was built in 1823. Owned by Tom Freeman and Ben Tinsley, it was the only private residence in Maryland this year added to the National Register.

Tom and Ben purchased the home in 2015 and had it completely restored inside and out by seasoned contractors after its lengthy neglect. “Our goal was to keep it as close to period as possible,” shares Tom. “We were able to determine and match the home’s original paint color, cleared the grounds, and restored the 60-foot concrete waterfall and koi pond with fountain near the creek. It’s a peaceful, beautiful setting and we’re having great fun seeing and enjoying the results.”

The land was patented and settled by Thomas Macklefish in 1738 and called “Macklefish’s Ridge.” It was one of the earliest land patents in what is now Washington County, with only 16 of 2,250-plus patents predating it. The property was purchased in 1809 by Benjamin and Anna Maria Emmert, who built the home. 

Legend has it Cool Hollow House had a large hemlock tree in its front lawn which served as a marker to guide escaping slaves along the Antietam Route of the Underground Railroad.

During the Civil War, the home and barns were used as hospitals. Both Union and Confederate troops occupied the home during the war at separate instances. Cavalry skirmishes before and after the Battle of Boonsboro took place on the land; Gen. George Custer and Gen. J.E.B. Stuart visited the property. The David Schindel family, including Benjamin Emmert’s sole surviving daughter, Magdalene, demanded the government pay compensation for grain and livestock taken, amount-ing to nearly $25,000 in today’s economy.

Remnants of a powder mill are evident on the now seven-acre property, which Tom states provided gunpowder to General Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War. The original restored barns still stand as part of the neighboring property.

The two-and-one-half story brick home is built on limestone foundations and depicts vernacular Federal Style and early Greek- Revival embellishments, shares Tom. It features many antique furnishings and items, including a Napoleonic-era European rifle sold to the Confederates at the onset of the Civil War. Dubbed the “Cool Hollow Rifle,” it was dug out of the ground on the property and used at Antietam or Gettysburg and now graces the library mantel.

Other noteworthy items include antiques owned by George Washington’s aunt, George H.W. Bush, and Sen. Edward Kennedy; sideboard by famed cabinetmaker Anthony Quervelle, whose furn-ishings grace the White House East Wing; paintings of noted Maryland families; and furnishings from Maryland’s prominent Claggett and Carroll families.

Tom and Ben plan to finish the last exterior renovations this summer, including renovating the 18th century stone forge. “We’re honored to participate in this tour,” shares Tom. “It’s for a great cause and we’re excited and happy to be part of it.”

Elmwood Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Williamsport, owned by Selena Wilkes, was built circa 1855 as a summer home by wealthy C&O Canal merchant John R. Dall. Selena and her sister Lettie, who operates the inn, are fifth-generation descendants of former owner John Martin Kendle.

The two-story colonial farmhouse features a hand-made brick exterior; Italianate windows; original summer kitchen, pine flooring and light fixtures; plus many Kendle family heirlooms, including rope bed and handcrafted dining furniture with quilts and window treatments by Selena and Lettie’s mother, Cheryl Wilkes.

Elmwood Farm includes a traditional bank barn and smokehouse built in 1853. With help from subcontractors, Selena brought the house back to life through careful restoration and preservation.  The stunning rock garden highlights the property’s natural limestone and offers a beautiful backdrop for the bed-and-breakfast /event center’s celebrations.

Another historical property is Valentia Farm, which earned its moniker from the Valentine’s Day 1815 recording of its vast resurveyed and combined acreage. In 1863, Judge Alexander Armstrong, who lived in Mansion House in what is now Hagerstown City Park, purchased it as a summer residence.

The home was bought by Judge Thomas A. Poffenberger in 1908 and remained in the family. Current owners Mary (Roulette) Flowers, who grew up in the home, and husband Rod began restoration in 2010.

Valentia Farm features many interesting artifacts, photos, antiques, and furnishings from the Roulette/Poffenberger families and showcases artwork by three generations, including Mary, her grandmother Helen, and Mary’s daughter Lauren, among others. The parlor highlights original Currier & Ives prints and Civil War items, including those discovered at Mary’s great-great-grandfather William Roulette’s farm on Antietam Battlefield.

Mary herself restored and re-stained the floors and stairs throughout, and the couple recently updated the 18th century servants’ house to be a guest house/weekend rental.

The tour also includes custom-built homes reflecting old-world historical charm and character, while featuring state-of-the-art amenities and beautiful landscapes.

Patsy and Rick MacInness built their dream retirement home in 2014. The Keedysville custom two-story country farmhouse with wraparound front porch offers a picturesque view of Fox’s Gap on South Mountain. “Rick and I both love Civil War history. We searched many years for the right piece of land. We are only six miles from Antietam Battlefield — our property would have been in the path of troops heading toward Antietam,” shares Patsy.

Amenities include family antiques and Wilson Store memorabilia, reclaimed antique barn wood mantel and ceiling in the family room, built-in bookcases, in-ground pool and stone patio, plus large vegetable garden and exterior car barn where the couple’s 1931 Ford Model A and 1948 Ford 8N tractor reside. While the MacInnesses’ home depicts historical farmhouse charm, it features state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling systems and is solar-powered.

Fred and Wanda Rudman built a traditional custom country home, which they affectionately dubbed “Beyond Harmony,” in 1991. Situated on just under two acres, the Rudmans’ five-bedroom Wolfsville home offers ample room for entertainment, shares Fred.

“Beyond Harmony” features an open-air outdoor brick 20-by-20 room with vaulted cedar ceiling, TV encased in brick and 200-year-old barn wood, fireplace with screen, and custom-made gates by a local blacksmith, reflecting the theme of the surrounding scenic woodlands.

The property also includes a pergola with gas-burning fire pit, small fish pond with waterfall, and multiple gardens with meandering stone walkways featuring extensive flowers, trees, and shrubs, plus a wood shed built from re-claimed barn wood.  The home offers an open kitchen, Italian marble master bath, library, temperature- and humidity-controlled 700-bottle capacity wine cellar, and historic museum-quality artwork.

Maureen and Marc Grenier bought their traditional Colonial Williams- burg-style Hagerstown home three years ago. It was built in 1983 by Donald Risser. The couple are ex-cited to participate in the tour. “This is our first year participating,” shares Maureen. “It’s an honor to be included.”

The Greniers did most of the work themselves to add personal touches. Maureen repainted the rooms, trim, and built-ins, and made new curtains, drapes, and quilts. She redid the floors of the home’s main story. Marc does all the lawn care himself on the 1.33-acre property and maintains the couple’s pool and stone koi pond featuring three fountains. Maureen designs, tends, and plants all the flower gardens, including a stunning front-yard rock garden and spectacular three-sided “Secret Garden” which perimeters the backyard’s in-ground pool, in addition to planting and arranging a multitude of colorful flower pots and hanging baskets.

The Grenier home’s interior features a soothing light gray and blue palette and features colonial beams in the updated kitchen, including a custom, natural wood slab table, counter, and island top created by a local artist.

Additionally, the tour features the residences, studios and gardens of metal artist Mary Ann Moore and prominent sculptor Antonio “Toby” Mendez.

William Ed Holliway and his wife and Mary Ann Moore created a fun, artful, contem-porary vibe in their north-end Hagerstown villa. The home combines Mary Ann’s love of succulent gardening and welding with a collection of repurposed metal she has collected and created. “Our home can be described as the house where whimsy reigns,” laughs Mary Ann, a metal artist originally from Ohio. “My art is designed to make people laugh and smile.”

The couple’s villa abounds with fun art, with many pieces created by Mary Ann while including a sampling of other well-loved pieces culled from 30 years of art collecting. Tour attendees will enjoy meeting Sparky the scrap yard dog, Erica the funky face glass sculpture, newly created Maddie, and a multitude of eclectic projects using repurposed metals and items that are sure to provide plentiful inspiration and ideas.

The couple’s patio garden features many unusual air plants and succulents from the Southwest interspersed within Mary Ann’s whimsical art. As a former participant in Wilmington, Del.’s, Garden Day tour, Mary Ann’s small townhouse lot won the Best Landscape designation one year. “Many people are in wonder when they see my home and gardens,” she shares. “They always ask me how I come up with my ideas.”

Prominent sculptor Antonio Toby Mendez and Dee Dee Johnson are the owners of the en-chanting South Eastern Washington County property “Brigadoon.” The 40-acre land tract, part of the historic Pleasant Valley that was a place of respite for troops after the Battle of Antietam, was purchased in 1971 by Toby’s father, Tony Mendez, known as the Master of Disguise and feature character in the movie “Argo,” as well as noted painter, after his family’s return from Japan.

The Mendez family lived on the bare land and began building a log cabin in 1974, using only a chainsaw, a four-wheel drive Scout, and trees felled on the property, living there until the main house, a Yankee barn featuring flexible post-and-beam construction, was built two years later. The home’s master bedroom and kitchen with living area were added in 1991 and 2002, respectively. “All the buildings were designed by and built by Toby and his father Tony along with other family members and friends,” Dee Dee adds.

“Brigadoon’s” on-site art studios were built in 1981 and 1987 and feature a gallery, painting and sculpture studio, where Toby Mendez created 40-plus commissioned sculpture works, including the Thurgood Marshall Memorial, the Baltimore Orioles baseball legends, and many other significant public sculptures. Toby’s local commissions include the large bronze bas relief “Our Journey Transports Us Through Time” displayed on the exterior wall of the Washing-ton County Free Library, and the large bronze statue of Thomas Kennedy and plaza design for the forthcoming Thomas Kennedy Park on Baltimore Street, adjacent to B’nai Abraham Synagogue in Hagerstown.

The gallery reflects the style of an Asian Pagoda, with direct influence from the time the Mendez family spent in Japan, and showcases Tony and Toby’s art.

The home reflects a truly warm artistic aesthetic, combining Country French and Asian embellishments as evidenced in the décor by Toby’s mother, Karen, who was an interior decorator; his stepmother, Jonna; and Dee Dee. “It’s humble and elegant at the same time,” shares Dee Dee. “Everything within is reclaimed, from old New England barns, homes, and factories. The fireplace stones were found on the property. It was designed to showcase beauty – each window and corner feature eye-pleasing views or vignettes. ‘Brigadoon’ is a true artist’s home,” she reflects. 

In addition to Tony and Toby’s art, “Brigadoon” also includes built-ins designed and created by Tony, the Tower writing studio, sculpture gardens featuring Toby’s works, and many floral gardens with special plantings placed by Jonna and Karen, plus the sculpture and painting studios. “People are enchanted when they visit,” shares Dee Dee. “It’s a truly magical place.”