Annual Md. House & Garden Pilgrimage to Explore St. Mary's - Southern Maryland Headline News

Annual Md. House & Garden Pilgrimage to Explore St. Mary's

May 2nd Tour Celebrates 375th Anniversary of Maryland’s Founding

ST MARY'S COUNTY, Md. (March 9, 2009) — When tour-goers visit St. Mary’s County for the second leg of the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage this spring, they are in for a very special experience. Not only will they be able to go behind the gates of some of the County’s most beautiful homes, they will also be stepping back in time as they celebrate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Maryland.

In 1634, the first settlers to arrive in what is now St. Mary’s City aboard the Ark and the Dove established Maryland's first permanent colony. With 375 years of history and a location bounded by the famous “Oyster Waters”—the beautiful Patuxent and Potomac Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay—the eleven sites on the St. Mary’s tour will reflect both this rich heritage and the present day beauty of the County.

The Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage (MHGP), now in its 72nd year, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of architecturally significant properties in the State of Maryland. Each year, the staff and volunteers of the MHGP coordinate a multi-county spring tour program that gives visitors an inside look at extraordinary historic and contemporary sites, and at the same time, a fun way to support a worthy cause.

Tours will be held throughout Maryland during four consecutive spring weekends: Queen Anne’s County (April 25), St. Mary’s County (May 2), Harford County (May 3), Baltimore City (May 9), Anne Arundel County (May 16), and Baltimore County (May 17).

The St. Mary’s County Pilgrimage will take place on Saturday, May 2 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and will feature an extraordinary line-up of homes, gardens, and historic landmarks. Many of the tour sites are on tracts that were originally patented in the 1600s and most have outstanding riverside locations. Visitors will see a wide range of architectural styles, interior d'cor, garden design and expert restoration.

Among the tour sites are: Saint Marie’s, a stately Georgian home which overlooks the St. Mary’s River; Tolerance, a classic tidewater “telescope” house which sits on fourteen acres and is filled with Maryland memorabilia; and a newly constructed two-story New England style cottage with spectacular views of the St. Mary’s River.

Visitors will also be able to tour historic Clocker’s Fancy, (c. 1745). This house was closed until 2003 when the current resident curators began a large-scale restoration project to bring the house and grounds back to life according to the historic preservation standards of the Department of the Interior.

Another stop will showcase the exceptional park-like gardens of a private residence on the St. Mary’s River. It features a multi-tiered setting of beautiful mature trees, flowers, herb and vegetable gardens. Magnolias, azaleas, hollies, camellias, peonies and roses abound. The gardens were designed and are maintained according to “Bay-Wise” practices by a master gardener, Linda Williams.

Plus, as a special treat, several historically important and fascinating tour stops are actually on the campus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, including: the St. John’s Site Museum, the Herb Garden, the Garden of Remembrance, and the May Russell Lodge.

Also featured on the tour is the Restored Brick Chapel of 1667, located in Historic St. Mary’s City. The rebuilt brick chapel, which has been undergoing a remarkable multi-year research and restoration process under the leadership of the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation, will give tour-goers a preview of an extraordinary living history site.

A notable team of historians, archeologists, architects, archivists and others worked together to re-create the chapel which is known to be the first brick Catholic church in the English colonies. This site served as the focal point of the Catholic faith in Maryland until 1704 when, as mandated by the royal governor, the building was locked, never again to be used for religious purposes. It was later dismantled.

The Restored Brick Chapel is slated for opening to the public this summer, but Pilgrimage tour-goers will have the opportunity to get an advance look on the May 2 tour.

An optional stop to conclude the tour is the St. Ignatius Catholic Church. Established in 1641, this church has one of the oldest cemeteries in America. The church building also features exceptional stained glass windows and altar.

St. Mary’s tour proceeds will benefit the St. John’s Natural Landscape Project at the St. John’s Site Museum. The Museum, which opened in September 2008, showcases a replica of the St. John’s House, which was originally built in 1638 to serve as Maryland’s first state house. The surrounding museum grounds occupy about one acre of beautiful woodlands. There are at least twenty-five different woody species on the site. However, wild vegetation, most of it extremely invasive, is also present. The goal of this project is to remove these invasive exotic species to emphasize the existing palette of fine native plants, and to add new ones. This is the beginning of a fine modest-scale arboretum of Southern Maryland plants around a very important historic site.


Tickets for each day’s tour are $30.00 if purchased in advance and $35.00 if purchased on the day of the tour. (A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible.) Each tour-goer will receive a Pilgrimage tour book, which provides detailed information on routes, background on properties, lunch reservations/costs, logistics and overall event facts.

For more information, contact Cherie Heely, St. Mary’s Tour Chairman, 301-512-9169 or the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage office, 410-821-6933 in Towson, Md. or visit .

Advance tickets can be ordered through the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage. Contact the Pilgrimage Office by phone (410) 821-6933, fax (410) 821-7620, or email mhgp (at) Tickets can also be purchased on-line through the Pilgrimage website .

Day of tour tickets will be sold at each of the tour sites.

Tour books may be purchased in advance by sending your name, address and $5.00 to Pilgrimage Headquarters at 1105-A Providence Road, Towson, MD 21286-1790. If you prefer to pick up your tour book in person, they become available at Pilgrimage Headquarters starting on March 10, 2009, and the cost is $1.00.

St. Mary’s PILGRIMAGE Itinerary
Saturday, May 2, 2009, 10 am – 5 pm

1. CORNERSTONE. This lot was originally a portion of a 6,000 acre bequethment to Justinian Snow, Gentleman, granted by Lord Baron of Baltimore and patented 27 February 1639/40. A plaque that sits onsite was dedicated to this event in 1995 by The Descendants of the Maryland Manor Lords. The original structure on this lot was a 1950s style brick rambler owned by the Rowe family. Now the residence of a granddaughter and family, the modest house was renovated into an eclectic New England style cottage. This new two story, four bedroom house offers spectacular views of the St. Mary's River and has custom cupolas adorning the roof that illuminate at night. There is a gazebo with a large driftwood chandelier and fish cutouts in the risers of the outdoor stairs. The interior of the house has many clever touches that turn a new house into a cozy home including vintage lighting, refinished and mismatched newel posts, 100+ year old butcher block used daily in the kitchen, custom tile work and a claw footed tub in the master bathroom. Some of the original plantings remain including a row of camellias that explode with blooms each year.

2. PRIVATE GARDEN ON NORTH SNOW HILL MANOR ROAD. In a park-like setting on the St. Mary’s River, visitors will find beauty and repose among mature trees and gorgeous flowers. The landscaping began over fifty years ago with streetside plantings of grandiflora magnolias, Otto Luykens laurels, dogwoods, crape myrtles, nandinas and hollies that shelter the garden from the rural road. Once inside the property, dozens of azaleas, old and new, form an understory of greenery surrounding the front yard. Shade plantings create yet a third tier of interest. Formal foundation plantings of award-winning hollies and camellias surround the house itself. As you move towards the water, dozens of iris, peonies, and viburnums are featured. A heritage rose (perhaps “New Dawn”) from the old family farm in Georgia now cascades over an arbor as you enter the cutting garden. Another climbing rose, “Sombreuil,” graces the courtyard. Herb, flower, and vegetable gardens delight the owners and their guests throughout the spring and summer. Friendship garden ornamentals recall the pleasure of sharing favorite plants. The gardens were designed and are maintained according to “Bay-Wise” practices by amateur landscaper and master gardener, Linda Williams.

3. TOLERANCE. Tolerance sits on fourteen acres that were part of the original Snow Hill Manor tract deeded to Abell Snow in 1639. On the property at the corner of South Snow Hill Manor Road and Route #5 (Point Lookout Road), is a monument to the Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White, who sailed to St. Mary’s in 1634. He founded the first Catholic Church in English North America. The church is currently being rebuilt in Historic Saint Mary’s City about one-half mile to the south. The house at Tolerance was built in the 1930s and later named by Admiral and Mrs. Thurston Clarke, whose heirs sold the property to the current owners in 1994. The long, large chicken coop on the property was the source of “Pine Shadows” eggs that were sold to the navy base where Admiral Clarke served as Commandant. The name Tolerance was selected by the Clarkes to commemorate the Act of Religious Toleration, adopted in 1649 in the State House at St. Mary’s City. The house is built in a classic tidewater Maryland style called a “telescope.” There is a tall central section flanked on either side by shorter wings. The current owners remodeled the house in 1995, removing the asbestos shingles and replacing them with cedar. A master bath and cupola were added, as well as interior and mechanical modernization. The interior of the house contains many of the owners’ collections including Maryland memorabilia, political buttons, army insignia, arrowheads and the art work of local St. Mary’s artists. The shoreline was protected from further erosion with the construction of a wall of stone (“riprap”) and plantings of sea grass. This has created a natural habitat for crabs, fish, and other Bay life. The landscape is enhanced with ancient cedars, crape myrtles and loblolly pines. The surrounding woods and wetlands provide a refuge for deer, red fox, and even coyote. Birds are everywhere, including a resident osprey couple and a visiting bald eagle, as well as blue birds, geese, loons, and hummingbirds.

4. SAINT MARIE’S. Saint Marie’s, which overlooks the St. Mary’s River, is located within a large tract of land patented by Nathaniel Pope in the 1630s and called Pope’s Freehold. After the difficulties of Ingle’s Rebellion, Pope relocated to Westmoreland County in Virginia’s Northern Neck in the area of Pope’s Creek. His daughter married John Washington. Nathaniel Pope was the first American ancestor of George Washington. In Maryland, he participated in the Assembly and served as a colonel in the militia. In 1919, Mr. Wherritt, president of Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, commissioned a local contractor, Benjamin Unkle, to build this large Georgian house. The present owners acquired the property in 1959. Many structural changes were necessary. However, the only additions made were the sun porch, brick patio and brick entrances. The main entrance is under the portico, consisting of three tall columns. Visitors entering the spacious living room enjoy a magnificent vista of the river. The front of the house features large windows and leads out to a sun room. Many family antiques as well as paintings by local artists are displayed throughout the home. A 17th century bonnet secretary as well as an 18th century table are favorites of the owners. A fine collection of Lladro figurines can be seen. The spacious dining room, featuring two built-in corner cabinets and a large table, accommodates the children and grandchildren who have enjoyed this beautiful site on the St. Mary’s River. The house is surrounded by magnolia trees, azaleas, boxwoods, beautiful shrubs, and flowering trees.


5. THE ST. JOHN’S SITE MUSEUM. St. John’s is one of the most important historic sites in Maryland, if not the nation. The home that was built here in 1638 for Maryland’s first provincial secretary was one of the largest enclosed spaces in the colony. It was where colonial legislators met to hammer out policies supporting the Proprietor’s mandate to separate church and state, a full 150 years before the U.S. Constitution guaranteed religious freedom. Of the English colonies, this was the place where a woman first asked for the right to vote and where the first individual of African descent participated in a general assembly. St. John’s Site Museum’s exhibits dramatize the events that shaped Maryland and the nation’s first freedoms. Audio and video installations introduce individuals and colonial ways of life. The preserved foundation of the home that stood here throughout the 17th century and original artwork illustrate the evolution of the house, the surrounding plantation, and Tidewater earthfast architecture. Some of the remarkable artifacts that have been found at the site are on exhibit. Visitors can examine the contents of a trash pit and gain a unique perspective on life in another time. State-of-the-art exhibits guide guests towards understanding the ways scholars use archaeology, historical documents, and oral traditions to decipher the past.

6. THE HERB GARDEN AT ST. MARY’S COLLEGE. The St. Mary’s County Garden Club, in cooperation with St. Mary’s College, planted this garden in 1983 in honor of the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Maryland colony. For its effort, the club was awarded the 1983 Governor’s Cup for Civic Beautification and a Special Achievement Certificate for Outstanding Garden Club Work. Measuring only 20 by 30 feet, and tucked away behind Anne Arundel Hall, the Herb Garden is a refreshing and inviting spot for students, faculty members, and visitors to enjoy. Bright blooms of fragrant herbs such as lavender, bee balm, yarrow, and sage blend with plants of grey, green, silver and white. These combine with flowers of pink, red, yellow, lavender and blue to grace the formal beds that surround the sundial atop a mound of thyme. Garden club members meet monthly from April through October to maintain this special garden for the delight of all who pass through. Hostess: Joyce Savage.

7. GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE. Shaded by a huge, old willow oak, the Garden of Remembrance provides a tranquil retreat from the pressures of daily life. Conceived as a tribute to Maryland’s forefathers who arrived in 1634, Adele France, former principal of St. Mary’s Female Seminary, led the effort to construct the Garden in time for the State’s 300th anniversary of the settlement of Maryland. Although the country was in the grips of the Great Depression, the Alumnae Association raised the funds to construct the garden in two short years and it was dedicated on Sunday, June 10, 1934, just days before the enormous Tercentenary Celebration began at St. Mary’s City. Designed by Mark Shoemaker, a Landscape Specialist with the Maryland Extension Service, the small, quarter-acre garden follows a plan inspired by the Colonial revival movement. Boxwoods, azaleas and crepe myrtles line the grassy walkways, with the centerpiece of the garden being a small pool with a raised fountain. Beautiful cherry, holly and dogwood trees, and a mixture of perennial bulbs and annual bedding plants add their grace to the attractive grounds. Restful benches beckon you to sit quietly, listen to the trickling water, and enjoy the breeze. At the outer edge of the garden, a walk underneath the covered pergola provides a view of the beautiful St. Mary’s River. Hostess: Judy Moe.

8. MAY RUSSELL LODGE. Located on the original portion of The St. Mary’s Female Seminary campus, now St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the May Russell Lodge sits on a bank overlooking the St. Mary’s River, immediately next to the Garden of Remembrance. In 1924, after fire destroyed the campus’s main building, bricks from that building were used to transform an old stable into this red brick cottage. It served many functions over the decades and has been known, at times, as the Old Stable, the Home Economics Cottage, and the Alumnae Lodge. It was also the home of Anna May Russell, St. Mary’s president from 1948 to 1969. In 2006, to honor her many years of service to the school, the building was renamed the May Russell Lodge. Today, the Lodge serves as a charming facility for visiting guests and scholars, and is used for meetings and special presentations. This small dwelling, with its slate roof and inviting screen porch, is situated just uphill from the new waterfront facilities. Hostess: Stu Egeli.

9. RESTORED BRICK CHAPEL OF 1667. The nearly 150 English settlers who arrived at what is now St. Mary’s City aboard the Ark and the Dove established far more than the fourth permanent English colony in North America. They forged what would become known as the birthplace of religious freedom in English America. The monumental Roman Catholic Church would not have been allowed to be built anywhere else in the English-speaking world. It was the focal point of the Catholic faith in Maryland until 1704 when the Calvert family lost control of the colony. Obeying an order from the royal governor, the Jesuits dismantled the building and used its bricks to construct a new manor house at the St. Inigoes mission. The Chapel fields became agricultural fields, and while most above-ground traces of the building were obliterated, they were never forgotten. In 1938, architectural historian H. Chandlee Forman tested the site and found the chapel’s floor plan to be in the shape of a Latin cross. After his work, the remains of the building were reburied and no further archeological work took place until the state of Maryland purchased the land for the Historic St. Mary’s City Museum in 1981. Interest in the site was once again revived, and local citizens raised funds to partially demarcate the site and erect signs for visitors for the 350th anniversary of Maryland’s founding in 1984. Major research again began four years later, and intensive investigation and excavation retrieved the information essential to accurately recreate the chapel. In 1997, the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation began raising funds to rebuild, and the re-creation on the original foundation started in the autumn of 2002. It is slated for opening to the public in the summer of 2009, the 375th anniversary of Maryland’s founding. Although in active use for only about thirty years, the brick chapel’s legacy of religious freedom remains a vitally important reminder of faith, perseverance, and enduring American values.

10. CLOCKER’S FANCY. Clocker’s Fancy was once described by Henry Chandlee Forman as the oldest house in Maryland. While subsequent reports dispute Forman’s initial findings, the house stands as an example of the success of a little known middling plantation owner by the name of Daniel Clocker. Beginning in 1636, Clocker was an indentured servant to Captain Thomas Cornwaleys. After his indenture ended in 1640, Clocker may have worked as a tenant farmer. Around 1645 or 1646, Daniel married the widow of James Courtney, Mary Lawne Courtney. Mary had formerly been an indentured servant to Margaret Brent. Daniel Clocker prospered and became one of several justices of the peace for St. Mary’s County. He accumulated some 200 acres of land before his death in 1675. The land remained in the family line until the third quarter of the 19th century. According to architectural historians Ranzetta, O’Rourke, and Kiorpes, the house today called Clocker’s Fancy was not built by the original Daniel Clocker, but several generations later by Benjamin Clocker, sometime between 1790 and 1810. Archaeologists Kate and Dan Ingersoll think it may have been built as early as 1745 by Daniel Clocker III, given the evidence that was compiled during the restoration of the house. The segment of the house between the two brick chimneys is the “Clocker” segment. The two hyphens were added by the Thomas family, owners between about 1915 and 1935, while a new addition on the east end was built around 1947. During the 1930s the Thomas family (related to the owners of Deep Falls) added many Colonial Revival features to the central portion of the house, including the pump porch on the west end. The state of Maryland purchased the house at auction in 1993 from the Heagy estate and the house was closed up until 2003, when the current resident curators negotiated with Historic St. Mary’s City to begin a large-scale restoration project to bring the house and grounds back to life according to the historic preservation standards of the Department of the Interior.

11. 17881 ROSECROFT ROAD. Situated next to the house at the end of the peninsula named Rose Croft (also family property with an original foundation dating to 1642), this beautiful house is located in the former orchard of the “croft,” meaning “farm” in Old English. Where the house now stands were once rows of apple, peach, and persimmon trees. Built in 2000, and designed by Richard Dayton of Wilmington DE, the structure echoes the roof line of the original croft house next door. The house was constructed of Hardy Plank, and reflects a contemporary style. Each room offers a grand view of the St. Mary’s River. The large dining room is perfect for entertaining, and the intimate living room next to it lends itself to cozy conversations after dinner. All of the artworks are originals done by local artists. Red cedars, all fifty to one hundred years old, line the entrance to the house. English boxwoods propagated from the 375 year old boxwoods on the adjoining original property next door now enhance the surrounding garden. A hedge of crepe myrtles provides privacy around the inviting pool. The house faces west for magnificent sunset views and south for cool summer breezes.

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