Preservation and Celebration
Frederick County Landmarks Foundation Marks its Own Historic Milestone
by Kate Poindexter and photography by Turner Photography Studio
For some members of the Brunner family, visiting historic Schifferstadt is like going to Graceland. Joseph and Cathrina Brunner’s descendants have a special connection to the 1758 house on a tract of land near the intersection of West 2nd Street and Rosemont Avenue. It is a place for them to bask in family history and learn about their roots. Thanks to the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, it is also an architectural museum open to the public for tours and celebrations.
No one can explain the familial connection to Schifferstadt better than Jennie Russell. She is a Brunner by birth and a member of the Landmarks Foundation by choice. “I grew up here,” says Russell, “and so did a lot of my relatives. There are a lot of Brunners still in Frederick County.”
She recalls spending much of her childhood on the property and adjacent land during family get-togethers. As the current president of FCLF’s board of directors, she manages the organization from her office at Schifferstadt, one of three properties it owns and maintains; the other two are the Beatty-Creamer House and Zion Church. In addition, FCLF volunteers administer the program that places plaques on historic homes in the county and attend to dozens of details surrounding raising funds and awareness, all in the name of historic preservation.
Now in its 50th year of operation, the organization is focused on engaging the public with a renewed sense of purpose.
The FCLF was founded in 1972 by Frederick County residents Ann Lebherz, Birch Hotz, Fritsie Kelly and Maggie Kline. They had watched roads, industry and population expand in the county and wanted to ensure that growth was tempered to accommodate preservation. With a small group of volunteers, they began attending local government meetings regarding land use, transportation and historic preservation. Early on, they enlisted help from the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of the Interior and historical trusts and societies. The women set their sights on saving natural and historic landmarks, sites and structures.
An early project was the purchase and preservation of the Schifferstadt property. The Brunners purchased 303 acres in 1736 and first built a log cabin on the site. In 1758, their son Elias and his wife, Albertina, constructed the stone house that remains. The four-bedroom house featured two-foot-thick walls, a kitchen sink that drained outdoors and a barrel-vaulted cellar that served as the home’s refrigerator. Schifferstadt is the oldest house on record in the City of Frederick, and the second-oldest in the county. It is open for weekend tours.
The oldest structure in the county is the Beatty-Cramer House. It is an early 18th-century Dutch Colonial style structure—a rarity in Maryland—built on land purchased by Susanna Beatty in 1732. Beatty, a widow from New York, moved to Maryland with her nine children and was one of the first female landowners in the state. It is believed that the house was built by one of her sons around 1748. The Cramer family built an addition to the original house in 1855. The property on Md. 26 features the house and two outbuildings—a spring house and a smoke house.
“In 1987, I was commuting to Westminster from Frederick and saw the Beatty-Cramer house,” says FCLF board member Joe Lubozynski. “That’s what started everything for me. I found the timber-frame house inside the farmhouse. It was tree-ring dated, a huge step in preserving it.”
Further work on the Beatty-Cramer house will require money. Currently the house is not open for public tours. Lubozynski says the goal is to complete a feasibility study for a new use for the house. He hopes to make it structurally sound and ready for occupancy in its west end and an architectural exhibit on other areas of the property. “Most of its life it was a tenant house. [That] would be a good use now,” he says.
The FCLF counts the historic Zion Church and cemetery in Urbana among its list of restoration success stories. The organization worked with the Kiplinger Foundation and the Zion Church Preservation Committee to bring the badly damaged and neglected property back to life. It was built in 1802 and served as a worship center and social hub for the community for 160 years. In 1961, the building caught fire and the shell that remained went unrepaired.
In 2003, the Zion Church Preservation Committee began reconstruction of the church, replacing a missing wall and adding a new roof, floor, windows and doors. The committee restored the church to its 1802 appearance and worked with the FCLF to restore the adjacent cemetery. The church is now available for meetings, weddings and social events by appointment through the FCLF.
RECOGNIZING HISTORIC HOMES
Many of Frederick County’s historic buildings are places current residents call home. The FCLF’s plaque program encourages property owners to register and acknowledge their building’s historic significance. Buildings that are more than 100 years old, possess historical and/or architectural significance, and retain physical integrity are eligible. More that 400 plaques have been awarded so far. Plaques are black cast iron FCLF logos featuring a brass plate with the property’s unique registry number. Homes, businesses and other buildings that meet the requirements can be registered. Property owners can apply online.
Schifferstadt Architectural Museum was the first building to be recognized by the program and is registered as plaque #001. Property owners can find assistance in researching the history of their buildings at the Maryland Room at the C. Burr Artz Public Library. Plaque program records can be viewed at the FCLF and Heritage Frederick.
The FCLF depends on fundraisers, donations and grants to keep up its work. Last month, it sponsored the 15th annual Barnstormer Tour and Plein Air Paint Out. The fundraiser showcased the barns of Sam’s Creek in a self-guided tour of eight barns in the Libertytown area. It was designed to bring awareness of Frederick County’s strong agricultural heritage and show how barns were built to last. The event also featured craftspeople, musicians and artists capturing barns on canvas.
This month, volunteers will bring back the organization’s popular Octoberfest after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus. The event, co-sponsored with the Rotary Club of Fredericktowne, will include music, period costumes, crafts, woodworking, demonstrations on the use of historic tools and, of course, German food and drink. It is one of FCLF’s biggest fundraisers. People come for the festivities and come away with an education. “It’s more than beer and brats. It’s subliminal historical seduction,” says board vice president Mary Mannix. The event runs Oct. 15 and 16, rain or shine, on the grounds of Schifferstadt.
The FCLF depends on volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to attend to tours and day-to-day operations. Board members say they are gratified by the support they have received for a half century and look forward to the future. “You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” says Lubozynski.
The FCLF’s founding mothers set out to celebrate and preserve historic places. Since 1972, their organization morphed into a historically significant movement of its own. “Things go in cycles. Interest in landmarks is on an upswing,” says Lubozynski.
“Fortunately, there are so many people who care,” says Russell.
Schifferstadt Oktoberfest is one of the most wonderful local events. It is more than just beer and brats, as the artical reads. It is a fun way to engage young and old in learning their town’s history which is significant to its preservation. Never miss it!